A Celebration of All Things Cultural, Artistic, and Entertaining in Madison
Apr 14, 2010
05:13 PM

Starring Wisconsin

Starring Wisconsin

One of my favorite things about the Wisconsin Film Festival—which opens today and screens films at eight downtown theaters through Sunday—is the focus on films with Wisconsin connections.

While the fest brings in narratives, documentaries, experimental works and shorts from around the world, it always shows some love for works set in Wisconsin or created by filmmakers from the state. (Festival-goers can even search the film guide for “Wisconsin’s Own” selections.)

It's fun to see how scenes familiar to us, how personalities and conventions ingrained in us, get portrayed on the screen.

 Here are ten films I’d love to catch for a little Wisconsin flavor during this year’s fest:



As They Fade
Type of film: Narrative, short (12 minutes)
When and where: Friday, 7:15 p.m., Monona Terrace
Synopsis: In this supernatural story, a lost girl searches for clues to her past. But with each item found, she encounters reenactments of violent scenes.
Wisconsin connection: The short was filmed during a summer in Madeline Island.
See it because: Lake Superior seems an inspired setting for a mysterious fairy tale.


Type of film: Narrative (99 minutes)
When and where: Saturday, 7:15 p.m., Chazen Museum of Art
Synopsis: Petersen’s Cabins is the setting of a film that focuses on the relationships between the diverse residents of a Baraboo campground motel.
Wisconsin connection: The movie was filmed in Baraboo and writer/director Mary Sweeny is a part-time Madison resident. (We interviewed her last year for a story in the magazine.)
See it because: It’s always interesting to see how Wisconsinites are portrayed in movies—and even more so when the filmmaker’s a local.

Feed the Fish
Type of film: Narrative (92 minutes)
When and where: Friday, 10 p.m., Chazen Museum of Art
Synopsis: To shake Joe out of his career, relationship and general life funk, best friend JP takes him from California to Wisconsin for Sturgeon Bay’s annual Polar Bear Plunge.
Wisconsin connection: Sturgeon Bay represents Wisconsin in its small-town, Midwestern glory.
See it because: Wisconsinites should recognize themselves and their neighbors in this romantic comedy.


The Grapes of Madison
Type of film: Narrative, short (41 minutes)
When and where: Sunday, 6:45 p.m., Play Circle Theater
Synopsis: After losing his job, slacker Steve finds refuge in community theater.
Wisconsin connection: This Madison-based film comes from Madisonian Ben Reiser.
See it because: This comedy has a distinctly local feel and should be laugh-out-loud funny.


Type of film: Narrative, short (19 minutes)
When and where: Thursday, 9:30 p.m., Monona Terrace
Synopsis: This film offers a day-in-the-life look at three ordinary people seen on the streets.
Wisconsin connection: The short is set in Milwaukee and director Ji-sun O is a UW–Milwaukee grad.
See it because: Everyone you encounter has a story—don’t you sometimes wonder what they are?


Type of film: Documentary (104 minutes)
When and where: Thursday, 5 p.m., Monona Terrace
Synopsis: Multico is a class from Madison West High School that tours elementary and middle schools, performing sketches about racism, homophobia, domestic violence and more. But this year’s group isn’t clicking, and they’ll have to push harder if they want to truly connect.
Wisconsin connection: This film follows the Madison West group.
See it because: Watching high schoolers push past traditional boundaries to find authenticity and connection is likely to be eye-opening, thought-provoking and moving.


Type of film: Narrative (108 minutes)
When and where: Friday, 7:15 p.m., Chazen Museum of Art
Synopsis: After Kevin’s father and sister move away, his pack of friends becomes his family as he endures the trials and triumphs of becoming a man.
Wisconsin connection: NONAMES was filmed entirely in central Wisconsin.
See it because: The film shows both the ups (loyal friends and the favorite bar) and the downs (everyone knows everyone’s business) of living in a tight-knit community.


Type of film: Narrative (80 minutes)
When and where: Saturday, 10 p.m., Chazen Museum of Art
Synopsis: Adam and David want to make a documentary about Wisconsin reporter and reality television star Meredith. But when twin girls go missing, they become the camera crew on her mission to break the story. Viewer discretion is advised in this horror film.
Wisconsin connection: Re-Cut was shot in Spring Green, Dodgeville, Ridgeway and Madison. And writer Dylan Manger and director Fritz Manger are Green Bay natives.
See it because: After seeing terrifying scenes play out in your hometown, those “that could never happen here” horror movie excuses likely will weaken a bit.


Svetlana about Svetlana
Type of film: Documentary (44 minutes); in Russian with English subtitles.
When and where: Sunday, 1:45 p.m., Play Circle Theater
Synopsis: Svetlana Parshina was moved as a child by reading a book by Svetlana Alliluyeva, the daughter of Joseph Stallin. When she learns that the eighty-two-year-old is living in a Madison retirement home, she pushes for an interview—and ultimately gets it.
Wisconsin connection: Stalin’s daughter was living quietly in Madison.
See it because: Alliluyeva offers unique, fascinating and candid insights into the Cold War, her father and her own life.


Type of film: Narrative (82 minutes)
When and where: Saturday, 1:30 p.m., Play Circle Theater
Synopsis: A husband and wife overwhelmed with anger and frustration head into the woods to escape the distractions of the city and explore what’s gone wrong.
Wisconsin connection: UW–Milwaukee film student Johnathon Olsen filmed Waltz in northern Wisconsin.
See it because: Don’t we all want to know if relationships can make it back from the brink?

For more information on these and all the other movies in the Wisconsin Film Festival, visit wifilmfest.org.

Photos courtesy of the Wisconsin Film Festival.

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About This Blog

As managing editor at Madison Magazine, I'm also an unabashed arts enthusiast. Paintings, plays, music, movies—I'm intrigued by all forms of creative expression. I enjoy talking with artists and sharing their insights, challenges, inspirations and latest endeavors. Check in regularly for details on events, previews and reviews, artist interviews and more! 

– Katie Vaughn
Follow Katie on Twitter @katiemv

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