Milwaukee Film Festival’s Opening Night Party at Discovery World
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It seems like a dream a Milwaukeean would have about a Hollywood party: Photographers ask to take red carpet photos of you on your entrance; you’re given complimentary drinks, including, if you choose, High Life bottles wrapped in napkins; a woman undresses beneath a suspended 19th century schooner; cheesecurds are served with toothpicks and wasabi dip; and a French band from Milwaukee tells the audience its next song will make some babies.
Indeed, it was a surreal time at the Milwaukee Film Festival’s Opening Night Party at Discovery World. Milwaukee seemed like the big time, and not because producers and filmmakers from all over the world were there, but because Milwaukee was so present. The Brew City Bombshells performed from a stairway in the Great Lakes Room. In the Pilot Room, WMSE’s Dori Zori spun movie soundtracks and ran a film trivia contest. In the 88Nine Sound Travels Tent, Marcus Doucette kicked things off with a DJ set, and was followed by Sex & Cigarettes, a group of Milwaukee musicians playing French musicians. It was an appropriately suave act in honor of the festival film Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life, about the life of French bohemian singer Serge Gainsbourg. “Yes, I’m a Frenchman, and it’s very difficult,” crooned former Decibully singer B.J. Siedel. He wore a European-cut suit and sunglasses, held a glass of wine in his hand, and an unlit cigarette in his lips. Between songs, in a French accent, he muttered to the audience, “I want to fuck you.” It was a performance, but no one laughed knowingly or over-danced facetiously. It was, for the night, the real deal to everyone, especially to those on stage.
By midnight, most everyone had pooled into 88Nine’s tent, or was smoking just outside of it. Prompted by DJ Rekha, people loosened their ties and threw their jackets on chairs, and danced and sang along to “Fantasy” by Mariah Carey. Photographers ditched their gear and joined in on the dance floor. Rekha soon switched to Indian music, in correlation to the festival’s “Passport: India” selection of films.
Those who weren’t dancing were talking about the future: what they wanted their next movie or career to be, and how they could help each other. A feature film producer gave advice to the head of the UWM Production Club, which just received a state fund of $8,000 to produce a short film. People were interested in each other. Some of it may have been alcohol-enhanced enthusiasm, but they were all thinking about tomorrow. With 10 days left in the festival, and only one of over 170 programmed movies screened so far, everything’s in front of them.