We are music people. We don’t play films on the radio, but that is just because that wouldn’t make any sense. Really, we are arts people. We love music, movies, books, the whole gambit of the arts world. That is why we love the Milwaukee Film Festival. It brings throngs of people in Milwaukee out to celebrate the best of the best in film.
So we got our highlighters out, opened up the guide, went through the 300 plus films at the festival this year, and picked the films that we are most excited to see. Each day we picked a feature film, a documentary, and a short film collection. These are our picks for the week of Sept. 28.
Feature film: Beatles at Fox Bay Cinema at 9:30pm
This winning coming-of-age drama (based on an internationally best-selling novel) shows that the most seismic changes in a young life can come with the drop of a needle on some classic vinyl. Beatlemania hits Norway, and Kim, Gunnar, Ola, and Seb can't help but be swept up in the fever, plotting to start their own quartet, The Snafus. And though their dreams of rock superstardom aren't meant to be, their pursuit of this passion leads them through formative experiences with girls, bullies, alcohol, and political tumult in this nostalgic portrait of youthful abandon (filled with original Beatles recordings!).
Documentary film: The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution at The Oriental at 6:15pm
Into today’s era still struggling with police brutality, racial discrimination, and extreme poverty comes master documentarian Stanley Nelson’s stirring portrait of the Black Panther Party. Following the party from its inception in the early ’60s to its bitter dissolution a decade later, MFF alum Nelson captures the essential history of the movement, elegantly mixing archival footage alongside interviews with FBI informants, journalists, supporters, detractors, and lower-level members of the party. This is a profoundly resonant portrait of a period of time when impatience bred revolution and a vibrant group rose up to bring civil rights issues to the forefront.
Shorts: British Arrow Awards at The Times Cinema at 7:15pm
The perfect program for people who only watch the Super Bowl for the commercials, the BRITISH ARROWS AWARDS are a celebration of the very best in British advertising, a potent combination of daffy humor and high-tech invention. From Marmite jar rescue operations to moon-walking ponies, these are an eclectic mix of riveting mini-dramas, outrageous wit, and awe-inspiring innovation, even making room for a celebrity cameo or two (hello, Jason Sudeikis).
Feature Film: White God at the Downer Theater at 9:45pm
Imagine THE BIRDS told from the animals' perspective and you're only scratching the surface of this remarkable Hungarian thriller, a morally challenging cautionary tale tackling cultural and political tension amid an all-out dog revolt. Lili is forced to abandon her beloved mutt, Hagen, due to the state's strict breeding protocols, but she refuses to give up hope that they will be reunited. As Lili searches, Hagen is subjected to the cruelties of man and so slowly amasses an army of the unwanted to exact revenge. A remarkable feat of filmmaking, WHITE GOD suggests instead of going to heaven, all dogs might unleash hell on Earth.
Documentary Film: 30 Seconds Away: Breaking The Cycle
Milwaukee's homelessness problem is examined by no less an authority than former federal agent and Marquette graduate Faith Kohler in 30 SECONDS AWAY, a vital documentary examination of this issue from all sides of the argument. Spending time with those struggling to survive on the streets as well as with the justice system and Milwaukee police stuck between trying to enforce the law and caring for these forgotten members of society (through means such as our local Homeless Outreach Team), Kohler paints a powerful and empathetic portrait of an ever-growing problem with no easy solutions.
Documentary Film (second pick): Just Eat It: A Food Waste Story
Between foodie blogs, TV cooking competitions, and myriad culinary magazines, it’s clear that we love food. So why are we throwing away 50% of it? Documentary filmmaking couple Jen and Grant are horrified by this food waste and quit grocery shopping cold turkey, pledging to live only off of food that is thrown away. A deep dive into our nation’s dumpsters, JUST EAT IT is a shocking exposé of our food industry—from farm to retail and all the way to the back of our fridge—and its systematic obsession with expiration dates and the aesthetics of perfect produce.
Feature Film: Turbo Kid at the Times Cinema at 7:00pm
In the post-apocalyptic future of 1997, acid rain beats down on the barren landscape while evil warlord Zeus kidnaps people in order to harvest them for their precious water. In steps reluctant hero The Kid, a youngster content to tool around on his BMX bike and read old Turbo Man comic books all day. But when his only friend is taken hostage, he must embrace his destiny and become the hero he's only ever read about. The retro-futuristic TURBO KID is a cult classic in the making, combining ’80s movie nostalgia with geysers of blood to make something you've never seen before.
Documentary Film: Breaking A Monster at Downer Theater at 3:45pm
In 2007, a tween trio became viral video sensations when footage of them rocking out in Times Square took the Internet by storm. For Unlocking the Truth, a teenage metal band comprised of three African-American boys, this was only the beginning: They became the youngest band ever to play Coachella and signed a million-dollar recording contract with Sony. This documentary follows along the way with their rapid transformation from tween obscurity to opening for Metallica—a hilarious look at juvenile stardom, where young boys have to deal with rehearsals and touring alongside parents, girls, and video games.
Shorts: The Milwaukee Music Video Show
A program that proves the local film scene is every bit the equal of that of our thriving local music scene, the Milwaukee Music Video Show plays host to a variety of musical acts (Vic and Gab, Webster X, Field Report, Sylvan Esso, Victor DeLorenzo of the Violent Femmes) and the wildly creative local filmmakers who bring their varied soundscapes to visual life. Fun, creative bursts of energy occur as these artistic disciplines combine, a toe-tapping, head-banging, hip-swaying celebration of local art displayed on the majestic big screen of the Oriental Theatre.
SHORT FILMS PART OF THIS PROGRAM: WOOLDRIDGE BROTHERS – "DRIVE THROUGH SUMMER", SAM & MARGOT – "BURN IT DOWN", SYLVAN ESSO – "DREAMY BRUISES", TIGERNITE – "WITCH", UNCLE LARRY – "PIECES", VIC AND GAB – "LOVE OF MINE", VICTOR DELORENZO – "CARRY ME", WEBSTERX – "DOOMSDAY", GREATEST LAKES – "NOTHING LEFT", KANE PLACE RECORD CLUB – "SUNSHINE", LEX ALLEN – "THIS IS OUR YEAR", MARITIME – "MILWAUKEE", THE MIDWEST BEAT – "HIGH LIFE", FIELD REPORT – "WINGS", GGOOLLDD – "BOYZ", CALLIOPE – "CASINO".
Feature Film: Uncle John at The Oriental Theater at 7:00pm
Nobody would expect beloved Wisconsin farmer John (a phenomenal performance from veteran character actor John Ashton) to be party to the sudden disappearance of born-again, reformed-bully Dutch. And John would prefer it stay that way, but Dutch’s brother is asking a lot of uncomfortable questions. Meanwhile, in Chicago, John’s nephew engages in a tentative courtship of his boss, eventually embarking on a road trip to show her the family farm. Filmed largely in Prairie du Sac and Lodi, WI, UNCLE JOHN builds tension with every scene, a pitch-perfect thriller that careens toward an expectation-confounding finale.
Documentary Film: He Named Me Malala at the Downer Theater at 4:15pm
This is an intimate portrait of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai, who was targeted by the Taliban and severely wounded by a gunshot in Pakistan. The then-fifteen-year-old (she just turned eighteen) was singled out for advocating for girls’ education, and the attack on her sparked an outcry from supporters around the world. She miraculously survived and is now a leading campaigner for girls’ education globally as co-founder of the Malala Fund. Acclaimed documentarian Davis Guggenheim (AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH, WAITING FOR 'SUPERMAN') shows us how Malala, her father, Zia, and her family are committed to fighting for education for all girls worldwide.
Shorts: Let’s Get Animated at the Times Cinema at 1:15pm
This diverse, unexpected, and beautiful grouping of animated offerings presents an ever-shifting series of stories where anything can and will happen. Ranging from silly and absurd to heartfelt and personal, each short is perfectly matched with its technique, form, and function in animated harmony. The wide variety is sure to provoke post-screening conversations in the lobby. SHORT FILMS PART OF THIS PROGRAM: QUEEN BUM (KÖNIGIN PO), STORM HITS JACKET (TEMPÊTE SUR ANORAK), WE CAN'T LIVE WITHOUT COSMOS, LIGHT MOTIF, THE FIVE MINUTE MUSEUM, BEACH FLAG (VOSTA), EDMOND, AUTOMATIC FITNESS.