The 2011 Milwaukee Film Festival opens in full force

By - Sep 24th, 2011 04:00 am

photo by Jennell Jenney

In the cool and fading fall night, hundreds of movie-goers came to the Oriental Theatre for the Opening Night Premiere of the 2011 Milwaukee Film Festival, which featured the screening of indie comedy Natural Selection. Milwaukeeans of all kinds came out in full force to support the festival. Even Milwaukee Brewers closer (and unofficial MFF spokesman) John Axford took a day off from the team’s pennant race to take part in the opening night festivities.

Natural Selection was chosen as the opening feature of the festival after an award-winning screening at this year’s SXSW Festival in Austin, Tex. Lead actors Matt O’Leary and Rachael Harris (known for her work on The Daily Show and The Hangover) also took home awards for their performances. Sadly, Harris was unable to attend last night’s opening, but she expressed her regret through a letter read by producer, Brion Hambel, who made a made a brief and grateful speech before the curtains were drawn back.

Natural Selection is the story of Linda (Harris), a devoutly religious Texan married to Abe, a man so zealous he views intercourse with his barren wife as a sinful waste of God’s “seed.” It’s only after Abe has a near-fatal stroke in the sperm bank he’s been frequenting for the past 24 years that Linda discovers the true extremes her husband has gone to in order to live biblically.

As the lights went up in the theatre and the stately buddahs were once again visible in their nooks, it was clear Natural Selection had lived up to its billing as an “indie darling”, and well as the apparent immediate favorite to win the audience award at this year’s festival. (—Jack Schleicher)

Opening Night Party

photo by Lacy LandreThe after-party, held at the Discovery World museum along the lakefront, had a red carpet for “paparazzi photos” taken by a photographer for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. It had ushers dressed in the red uniform of old, complete with bellboy caps, handing out maps and timetables. Bartenders served lemony gin cocktails, popcorn popped, Neroli Salon and Spa conducted “Beauty Bar” sessions while an endless supply of waiters approached every ten seconds with primo appetizers.

If you could make it through the thick crowd of well-dressed and often well-connected filmmakers and film-goers in attendance—and past DJ Madhatter spinning records for 88.9 Radio Milwaukee—then you saw many balloons or a fuzzy umbrella descending the main staircase. Behind these veils, but not for long, were members of the Brew City Bombshells burlesque group, who performed an ode to the MFF closing night film, On Tour. Off to the side, occasional lightning and rain would descend over the scale models of the Great Lakes while turtles swam in the tall aquarium.

photo by Lacy LandreThere is nothing quite like the view from outside the Pilot House on the third floor of this round building.  From there, you can see clear from the Port of Milwaukee to Veterans Park. Below, party attendees saddled up for more drinks before slipping into the circus tent that housed the evening’s showcase musicians. Inside, WMSE’s Dori Zori conducted a movie trivia contest while nearby a screen-printed poster exhibit paid homage to MFF films using local artists like Von Munz – and then selling lithographs for $25.

88.9’s Marcus Doucette kept the tempo for the first part of the evening, giving way to a supergroup of Milwaukee rock musicians who formed that night as “Sex and Cigarettes” – a reference to MFF spotlight film Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life. For those who required no sleep, the party continued into the wee hours with DJ Rekha mixing Bhangra music with hip-hop. (—Brian Jacobson)

You can see opening night scenes in a special photo gallery by photo interns Jennell Jenney and Lacy Landre in the slideshows below, or by visiting our complete set on Flickr

Categories: Movies

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