A quick wrap up of the films I saw:
Last minute decision to go see this, and I'm glad I did, thanks to a recommendation. Turned out to be one of my favorite documentaries of the festival. The marketing still for it was all wrong. It made it look like an ambient environmental documentary, but while it had some embedded "green" lessons it was really all about this amazing human experience. This film will renew your faith in the importance of the power of Art to create jarring social change. Plus, everything about it is simple beautiful.
Mark My Words
As I previously mentioned, I try and get out to support the local films. This being a film about a local movement (spoken word poetry) it sparked my interest to learn about something I'm not entirely familiar with. While the movie was interesting, I think it had the potential to be so much more. The subjects were the poets themselves, but all these juicy bits were waiting in the wings looking to be focused on to create something really powerful.
The footage was there and I think the film could've been re-edited to show why and how this poetry is a tool for social change. (Maybe I just had that on the brain after Waste Land). Without giving too much away, there was a scene with two of the poets going into a MPS classroom and doing a poetry exercise with the students. The teenager's poem that is highlighted was so gutwrenching, I felt it would've been the absolutely perfect closing scene to make you remember this film for a long, long time. Instead it was buried.
I also wish the audience for the film had been more diverse. The theatre was sold out, but it was mostly friends of the poets or those already in this "scene." Apparently it screened at one of the suburban theatres too, and I'd be curious to see how the attendance was. I wish this would be shown to snot-nosed suburban kids, who are unaware of the real problems facing their peers just a few miles away. I wish this would be shown to the a-hole commenters on JSOnline. People need some perspective.
A conversation I did end up having with folks at the party after the film, didn't need to be explicit in the documentary, but it would've been helpful in this segregated city. Even as an open-minded person, I guess that while my interest was sparked about this subject, I was not sure if I would be able to participate by going to a reading, since it seemed portrayed as culturally-exclusive. When I asked around later I was told I would be absolutely welcome, but I guess the lingering question I was left with, as with most issues on the Milwaukee segregation topic was -- how do we break that barrier?
A Somewhat Gentle Man
My favorite feature of the festival, this film was billed as a "dark comedy," but I think the majority of the people that went really thought it was going to be more dark than comedy. The still and description made it sound much more dramatic. Then how pleasantly surprised was I that it was a dark comedy, and actually one of the best I've seen. Seriously, this Norwegian film was HILARIOUS. I actually really want to go to Scandinavia now because those people have a pretty sick sense of humor. My top flick last year was the memorable Danish Terribly Happy, also in the same vein. I guess when the sun is hidden half the year, you come up with some fairly strange stuff. Stellan Skarsgård was absolutely fantastic in this movie and its worth seeing just for his subtle comedic acting. Hopefully you'll be like me, actually guffawing a couple of times during the screening.
The Red Chapel
I'm glad I laughed heartily at SWGM, because the "comedic" documentary I saw following ended up being much, much more disturbing. I mean, we all hear about how damn creepy North Korea is, but to see it captured on film...it just sends shivers. The premise of the documentary was a troupe of Danish comedians (again that sick humor) gained access to North Korea on a cultural exchange and decided to stealthily capture its evils while innocuously documenting their trip. The evils, however, turned out to be so pervasive that even in just a short filming cycle, they began breaking down the participants in ways unanticipated. They also break down the audience. While the director definitely took some Herzogian cues, and there were undeniably hilarious moments, there were certainly more WTF squirmy scenes, that make me wonder if I could watch it again. However, I highly recommend this film, as it does a better job at explaining the scariness of this "rogue nation," than any American argument I've heard. This may be the most frightening film of the festival.
Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil
I expected this one to be awesome. And it BLEW my mind on the excellent scale. Hilarious and surprisingly heartwarming. And did I mention, hilarious? If you like the funny and can handle buckets of fake blood, see Tucker & Dale.
The Milwaukee Show
I love this screening, as it highlights such a diversity of filmmaking in Milwaukee and Wisconsin. From the experimental (Kids In Trees), to the artsy (Mickey Burgermeister), to the short features (The Funeral, Honey-Colored Boy) , to the documentaries (The Death of Triforce, A King in Milwaukee) -- there's something for everybody.
Admittedly, my two favorites of the screening were not eligible for competition. The beautiful Spare Change, created thanks to the incredible Collaborative Cinema Project, and the quirktastic This is Umberto. from the strange mind of Milwaukee Film Shorts Programmer and Development Coordinator, Anna Krutzik.
Congrats are in order, however, to Tate Bunker, director of Mickey Burgermeister, who won the Milwaukee Show Jury Award and a massive prize package to go toward a future project. The audience was treated to a trailer of the forthcoming The Wheel, directed by last year's winner, John Roberts.
Locally made horror film. I went in with minimal expectations, only to have them massacred by the sheer kickassedness of this movie. It lives up its low budget to the max. I can't even begin to describe how completely bitchin' this flick is. It makes me want to have a slumber party, just to put it on at 3 a.m. Obviously the folks at Troma, which picked it up feel the same way. Easily now my second most favorite cheeseball horror movie after the untouchable Student Bodies.
A Brand New Life
Decided to see this on Sunday morning instead of About Elly, mainly so I could get coffee and place a birthday call to my Grandma, thanks to a later start time. I'm glad I did because it ended up winning the Best Feature Jury Award. While it wasn't my favorite film of the festival, this moving story about a Korean girl's experience in an orphanage was extremely engaging. Knowing a few Korean adoptees growing up, it was interesting to see what life was like on "the other side." I guess I never thought about it before that those kids came from somewhere, even if they came to the U.S. very young.
My Way Home (preceded by Wagah)
This excellent local documentary about a Hmong woman traveling to Laos to uncover her roots was absolutely fantastic. It emphasized what a treasure docUWM is to the community. I went into it hoping to learn a little more about the Hmong culture in Wisconsin, but instead watched an incredibly emotional journey of a woman's search for family and home. I think they need to put a little Kleenex box icon next to films in the program next year.
The short preceding the feature explored the Indian/Pakistani conflict through an annual ritual performed at a checkpoint between the two countries. It underscored the ridiculousness of borders and the fluidity of nations with shared cultural traditions.
Once again, it was just an incredible year. Attendance skyrocketed, as did the volunteering. Thanks to everyone that gave donating their time a shot this year. It truly is such a fun experience. Also a fun experience this year? The awesome parties that popped up during the course of the fest. The reopening of Alterra Prospect and the Blood Junkie party at Y-NOT III were two memorable evenings for me.
Of course there were plenty of films I missed that will be added to my Netflix queue or caught in the theater. My friend Mandi has some great reviews over at her blog (warning: they may make you mad for missing the films). I also suggest subscribing to the Milwaukee Film Blog, as they often highlight when these films will screen again in Milwaukee.
So even though the film festival is wrapped and done, you don't have to stop supporting independent film. Keep up with the parent organization, Milwaukee Film, year-round to see what kind of cinematic treats they'll be bringing to the community. I know membership is high up on my Christmas list this year!
Did you participate in the festival at all? What was your favorite film? Do you want the festival to improve next year? Fill out their attendee survey here!