Erin Petersen

Milwaukee Film kicks off 3rd annual film festival

By - Sep 19th, 2011 04:00 am


Courtesy of Brian Jacobson. View from terrace of Discovery World, opening ’09.

Milwaukee Film formed three years ago with the goal of bringing world class film to our fair city, working simultaneously to support the local and regional film community. Programs like Collaborative Cinema, which teaches the art (and not to mention, the technical ins and outs) of filmmaking to high school students, foster a love and appreciation for the medium in a younger generation and nurture the local film community at the same time.

The centerpiece of Milwaukee Film’s year-round work, however, is undoubtedly the annual film festival, bringing the best films from around the world to the Milwaukee’s North Shore, Ridge and historic Oriental theatres for eleven days of movie-going goodness.

Jonathan Jackson

In its third year, the festival is especially ambitious, with 177 films, several special programs and series devoted entirely to locally-made film. The staff at Milwaukee Film hand-picked some of the best and most-anticipated films of the year for MFF 2011, including the opening night presentation of Robbie Pickering’s quirky indie comedy Natural Selection, and the festival centerpiece, Drake Doremus’ woeful love story Like Crazy, winner of the Grand Prize at Sundance this year.

“I feel great about the program that we’re putting together this year … we have much more diverse offerings than ever before,” says the festival’s Artistic Director and Milwaukee Film Executive Director, Jonathan Jackson.

A good thing for those who are new to the fest, or who can only see a handful a films this year — take a look at the 2011 festival guide and you’ll notice that ,while there are an overwhelming number of great films to see, the line-up is not quite as daunting as in years past. In keeping with its mission to making world-class film available to everyone, Milwaukee Film has created a guide that is more accessible with hand-selected “Spotlight Presentations,” narrowing down select films by geography, genre and sub-genre. If it happens that you can only make it to one or two films this time around, this guide will make your decision decidedly easier.

Jackson adds that the staff at Milwaukee Film have expanded their curatorial roles this year, crafting a few intriguing programs for the 2011 line-up. Take One: Milwaukee Children’s Film Festival was a crowd favorite last year, and returns with a handful of feature films and shorts for kids, suited for audiences aged toddler to tween.

New in 2011 is the Passport: India  series, offering a view of Indian cinema beyond Bollywood. This is the first program of its kind within the Milwaukee Film Festival, featuring 8 films that run the gamut of genres, which Jackson says offers “a trip through country and through the culture.”

Still from “Gandu,” part of the MFF’s “Passport: India” series. Photo courtesy of Overdose Films.

“Not many people understand that Indian cinema is well attended overseas, but it’s just not as popular in the U.S.,” says Jackson. “The Passport series gives [Milwaukee Film] an opportunity to showcase some outrageous and extravagent Bollywood films, but also the indie films that are part of the new cinema movement in India.”

Two Tribute Programs pay homage to great figures in film, highlighting the work of cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond and Chicago’s Kartemquin Films.

“Kartemquin Films started making labor documentaries in the 60s, and since then has covered a wide variety of topics, essentially pursuing social justice through film,” says Jackson.”I’m particularly excited for The Interrupters, which is an outstanding film that’s also relevant to our times…director Steve James and several of the film’s subjects will be at the screening. It’s a special moment for the festival.”

The film focuses on Ameena, Cobie, and Eddie, three former gang members who hail from the toughest neighbhorhoods in Chicago. With the help of nonprofit program CeaseFire, however, the audience watches these once-hardened criminals transform into activists, working to stem violence and crime in their communities.

“We had great success last year with community engagement around screenings of Waiting for “Superman” and are looking to do the same this year with The Interrupters,” says Jackson.

To facilitate that engagement, Milwaukee Film created “Conversations,” another new component to the festival. Discussions will accompany select films throughout the festival, designed to provide a deeper insight into certain topics and themes, and to offer a more structured forum for some of the spontaneous conversations that tend to occur between audience members after screenings.

Each day of the festival, a different venue will host these conversations, which will be lead by various community groups and experts from area universities to delve deeper into themes of labor, the potential demise of traditional media, global relations, and much more.

“After last year’s festival, our board, supporters and staff realized that one of the best capacities the festival has is to create conversations between attendees,” says Jackson. “The [MFF] is not celebrating one artist, one culture, or one genre — we have 177 films with an incredibly rich, diverse group of themes and topics to explore. [The festival] brings together a diverse group of people and hopes that certain films will kick-start those conversations.”


The 2011 Milwaukee Film Festival kicks off Thursday, Sept. 22 with a screening of Natural Selection at the Oriental Theatre. The festival officially begins with the Opening Night Party, hosted by Discovery World at Pier Wisconsin, where attendees can mingle with the folks behind the fest and toast to another year of excellent film. For more information on films and showtimes or to purchase advance tickets, click here.

Categories: Movies

0 thoughts on “Milwaukee Film kicks off 3rd annual film festival”

  1. Anonymous says:

    If you just can’t wait until Thursday to get Milwaukee Film festival started – there’s a very provacative film offering tonight (Sept 19th) at the UWM Union Theater (unaffiliated with Milwaukee Film but a part of the Film Series at UWM and a feature presentation with screening sponsored by Translator Labs User Experience Series). The FREE screening is at 7pm TONIGHT – The film is titled “Miss Representation.”

    About Film: This film was featured at several film festivals including Sundance and others with positive reviews all over the nation. Miss Representation is a film highlighting the media’s role in the characterization of women and shaping images of women in today’s society. The implications for male and female identities and roles in society are discussed featuring a historical and current perspective.

    A discussion panel will follow tonight’s screening. More info is found here:

    Hope to see you tonight (and at Milwaukee Film festival later this week too!).

  2. Anonymous says:

    Mate Alan Taylor the Rochdale milkman was a legend he won us the FA Cup in 1975 check him out.

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