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Milwaukee Film Festival’s Cream City Cinema lineup: 8 features, 36 shorts, hundreds of beavers

Milwaukee Film

What would the Milwaukee Film Festival be without Milwaukee films? A film festival located in Milwaukee, I suppose. Yes, the location gives this event a certain flavor. But it’s the content produced by local talent that really takes it up a notch.

It’s also the only way you’re going to get a film that pits one man against hundreds of beavers in 19th-century North America. More on that in a moment.

Today, the festival — presented by Associated Bank — announced its 2023 Cream City Cinema lineup, which includes eight feature-length films and 36 short films. To be eligible for awards, they must be directed by residents of the Milwaukee 7 region who are over the age of 18, although the younger auteurs are still represented among the short films via the Milwaukee Youth Show program.

"Milwaukee Film was founded with a commitment to Milwaukee’s filmmaking talent, and each year, our Cream City Cinema lineup pays back on that commitment with a lineup of films that rivals any city’s local program,” Milwaukee Film artistic director Cara Ogburn said. “This year’s lineup includes films that made their premieres at such festivals at Sundance, Fantastic Fest and SXSW, filmmakers and projects that have been supported by our array of artist services and youth education programs, and brand-new-to-us filmmakers bursting onto the scene.”

Milwaukee Film

Milwaukee Film highlighted two entries in its release, beginning with John A Biesack’s Love & Irony, a romantic comedy that tells “the story of an existential bike mechanic discovering the universal truths and transformative powers of love.”

They also noted the aforementioned Hundreds of Beavers directed by Mike Cheslik of Lake Michigan Monster fame. We’ll let them take it from here: “This 19th-century, black-and-white, no-dialogue, supernatural winter features a drunken applejack salesman who must go from zero to hero and become North America’s greatest fur trapper by defeating, yes, hundreds of beavers.”

Mark those two on your must-see list, check out the full Cream City Cinema lineup below, and then head over to the Milwaukee Film website for information on all-access passes, ticket packages and more.


A Common Sequence, dirs. Mary Helena Clark, Mike Gibisser

Mike Gibisser & Mary Helena Clark's A Common Sequence brings together the disparate visual and narrative threads of a critically-endangered salamander, the apple industry, Dominican nuns running a conservation lab, fishermen attempting to live off of a depleting lake, engineers developing AI-driven harvesting machines, and an indigenous biomedical researcher resisting the commodification of human DNA, to meditate on power dynamics, the shifting border between the natural and unnatural, and questions of value, extraction, and adaptation.

Beyond Human Nature, dir. Michael Neelsen

This Green Bay true crime story is handled with deft care by local director Michael Neelsen. When a man is murdered by drowning in a paper pulp vat, a small town clamors for justice and his brother comes face to face with the slippery nature of objective truth. Beyond Human Nature chronicles the grisly Tom Monfils homicide investigation of 1992 through the eyes of the people who lived it.

Earlybird, dir. Martin Kaszubowski

A familiar face in Cream City Cinema, Martin Kaszubowski returns with his solo feature debut, Earlybird, which tells the story of a struggling theater owner as he tries to resuscitate his business with increasingly outlandish play productions. A meditation on creative careers and the potential for passion to fizzle out, this fictional film will hit close to home and serve as a glimmer of hope for arts patrons and workers alike.

Milwaukee Film

Hundreds of Beavers, dir. Mike Cheslik

From the team that brought you Lake Michigan Monster (MFF2018) comes this 19th-century, black and white, no dialogue, supernatural winter epic we think both Tex Avery and Charlie Chaplin would be proud of. A drunken applejack salesman must go from zero to hero and become North America’s greatest fur trapper by defeating, yes, hundreds of beavers.

Love & Irony, dir. John A Biesack

The search for an authentic life leads an existential bike mechanic to discover the universal truths and transformative powers of love. With stunning black-and-white cinematography and cameos from all your favorite Milwaukee businesses, Love & Irony is a romantic comedy that is just as much a love letter to the Cream City itself.

The Warm Season, dir. Janet Grillo

It's 1967, and 12-year-old Clive is playing in the desert behind her family's remote motel when an unusual ranch hand mysteriously appears before her. His name is Mann, he's from another planet that is dying, and he's searching for a new place for his kind to live. Mann hands Clive a glowing orb, asks her to hide it, and promises he'll be back. Cut to 25 years later, Mann finally returns to fulfill his mission, and he needs Clive's help.

We Are Not Ghouls, dir. Chris James Thompson

Believing the detainees at Guantanamo Bay were "the worst of the worst" in the war on terror in 2005, US Air Force JAG Attorney Yvonne Bradley volunteered to defend Binyam Mohamed, who was facing the death penalty. As she arrived in Cuba and began to untangle an unimaginable case, this assumption was turned upside down and she spent the next four years battling to uncover the truth. Bradley ultimately speaks truth to power in the face of corruption, proving an unlikely and unassuming force of inspiration.

What We're Hungry For: How Food Pantries Fed Rural Wisconsin During the Pandemic, dir. Jim Winship

Documenting the response of five local Wisconsin food pantries to the unprecedented needs created by the coronavirus pandemic, this film tells the story of the hard work, ingenuity, and compassion of these organizations while also exploring the complex and longstanding challenges of fighting hunger in rural America.

Short films

  • 100 Seconds to Midnight, dir. Libbey Kirchner
  • Body Legato, dir. Sam Drake
  • Clark's Revival, dir. Carl Sturgess
  • Coming to Small Town America, dir. Hasti Ghasemivaghar
  • Controlling The Change, dir. Catcher Stodola
  • DAKHLA, dir. Nick Leffel
  • Dinner Set Gang - "Are You Someplace Else?", dir. Kurt Ravenwood
  • Fadó, dir. Quinn Jennings
  • Friday Night Blind, dirs. Scott Krahn, Robb Fischer
  • Fuzzysurf - "Sheep Shed", dir. Tommy Simms, Joe Ludwig
  • Grapes, dir. Sophie Hatton
  • Hawaiian Pizza, dir. Absatou (Touie) Jenneh Sow
  • Language Unknown, dir. Janelle VanderKelen
  • mother nature, dir. Sabrina Katie Woo
  • Of Wood, dir. Owen Klatte
  • Paralelos, dir. Paula Scalona
  • Parental Orbit, dirs. Dara Carneol, Bernard Carneol
  • Patient, dir. Lori Felker
  • Pet World, dirs. Sofia Theodore-Pierce, Grace Mitchell
  • Polka Time!, dir. Dick Blau
  • Pretty Boys, dir. Sanaa Thomas
  • Provenance: A letter to my daughter, dir. Li Chiao-Ping
  • Radium Girls Book Trailer, dirs. students from Greenfield MS
  • RIP, dirs. Carol Brandt, Erika Sorenson
  • Seen//Unseen, dir. T.J. Blanco
  • Seventeen, dir. Mira Santo Tomas
  • Sit Where the Light Corrupts Your Face, dir. Gillian Waldo
  • Split Memories, dir. Katya Ravie
  • Stuck Somewhere, dir. Alyssa Sue Borkowski
  • The False Prince Book Trailer, dirs. students from Greenfield MS
  • The Happening, dir. Evelyn Winter
  • The Indicators, dir. Kurt Sensenbrenner
  • Tim Meets Mat, dir. Lucas Lovo
  • Trash Man 2: Trash Man Goes On Vacation, dir. Isabella Switalski
  • Unconventional: Living Life to the Max, dir. Hannah Johnson
  • Zayde, dir. Rachel Faye Lubar