Do you love movies? Are you overwhelmed by the over 300 films at this year’s Milwaukee Film Festival, with no idea what to see? Have no fear. I’ve mapped out the first weekend of the fest and highlighted some of the must-sees and underrated gems for first-time festival-goers and experts alike.
Thursday, September 24th:
YOUTH, 7 PM at the Oriental Theatre
The Milwaukee Film Festival’s Opening Night selection, Youth, is a great way to start the event off with a bang. Back in 2013, the MKE Film Members were dazzled by Italian director Paolo Sorrentino’s Oscar-winning film The Great Beauty, and his follow-up film should be just as beautifully shot and deeply moving. Youth, about two old friends reuniting in the Swiss Alps to reflect on their lives and careers, is said to be an early candidate for this year’s Oscar ceremony, so those who want bragging rights should hurry up and get their tickets now. Be sure to hop on over to Kenilworth after the film ends to mingle with festival goers, filmmakers and sponsors at the Opening Night Party!
Friday, September 25th:
THE RUSSIAN WOODPECKER, 5 PM at the Oriental Theatre
Milwaukee native Chad Gracia’s documentary (which took the Grand Jury Prize at both this year’s Sundance Film Festival and the neighboring Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival), following a survivor of the Chernobyl disaster, will most likely be one of the most unique film-watching experiences you will have this year. When performance artist Fedor Alexandrovich discovers a dark secret related to the disaster, he must decide if he should reveal it, or if, with Russia and the Ukraine once-again at odds, the risk is far too great. Both Gracia and Alexandrovich are said to attend. This film is a must-see.
ZOUZOU, 6:30 PM at the Fox Bay Cinema Grill
When three generations of French women gather in one home for the weekend, expect nothing less than an entertaining comedic romp that tackles the tricky topic of sex with refreshing honesty. When fourteen-year-old Zouzou is caught in the heat of the moment, she runs off, leaving the rest of the family to track her down while learning way too much information about the others’ lives. This film is guaranteed to be a hit with audiences. Don’t miss out on being part of the conversation.
THEY HAVE ESCAPED, 11:59 PM at the Oriental Theatre
The less you know about this film going in, the better. Two Finnish teenage outcasts meet at a halfway house, and what happens next has been described as part twisted fairy-tale, part nightmare odyssey. The Milwaukee Film Festival’s Cinema Hooligante program has always been a highlight in previous festivals, and this year is no exception. You haven’t seen anything like this film before. Don’t make me say I told you so.
Saturday, September 26th:
WELCOME TO LEITH, 1:45 PM at the Avalon Atmospheric Theatre
Leith, North Dakota has a population of exactly twenty-four people. That is, until a notorious white supremacist rolls into town with the goal of turning Leith into a national hub for his organization. Tensions rise. The townspeople stand their ground. This documentary, which has played and won at festivals all over the country, is a chilling look at what could very sound likr the plot of a dystopian novel, except that not only is it really happening, it’s happening in your own backyard.
VIOLET, 9:30 PM at the Oriental Theatre
Jesse is a fifteen-year-old boy. He likes to ride his dirt bike and go to the mall with his best friend. One day, his best friend is stabbed to death in front of his very eyes, leaving Jesse (and the audience) to process this senseless act of violence for the remainder of the film’s run time. Should he have done something? What could he have done differently? Could he have done anything at all? These are a few of the questions this impressive debut will leave you reeling with long after the screen goes dark.
SHORTS: THE BEST DAMN F*#@ING MIDNIGHT PROGRAM EVER. SH*T, 11:59 PM at the Oriental Theatre
The title says it all. This is something you won’t want to miss.
Sunday, September 27th
SONG OF THE SEA, 10:45 AM at the Downer Theatre
I’d be amiss to exclude the wonderful Rated K kid’s program that the Milwaukee Film Festival puts on every year. A highlight from this year’s lineup has to be the animated Irish film Song of the Sea, from the team behind the Oscar-nominated The Secret of Kells. When a young girl realizes that she has the ability to turn into a seal, her and her brother set out on an adventure to discover the truth behind her gift, and save the world in the process. A wonderful fairy tale for all ages. Bring your children/siblings/nieces and nephews.
MY SKINNY SISTER, 1:15 PM at the Fox Bay Cinema Grill
Katja and Stella are sisters. Katja is slender and confident. Younger sister Stella is neither of those things. When she discovers the truth behind her older sister and role model’s slender frame, their established dynamic is put to the test. Swedish director Susanna Lenken based this story of love, jealousy, betrayal and friendship off of her own life growing up, and it is sure to strike a chord with audiences as a standout of this year’s Passport program.
THE MILWAUKEE SHOW: I, 8:00 PM at the Oriental Theatre
What better way to celebrate the booming local film industry than by attending The Milwaukee Show, a showcase of narrative and documentary shorts made by filmmakers in the Milwaukee area. Tickets for this show (part one in an installment of two shows) often go quickly, so don’t miss out on the opportunity to witness the impeccable talent and creativity of Cream City’s very own.
Stay tuned for more festival picks in the next week! Tickets are now on sale to the general public, and can now be bought online at mkefilm.org, by phone at (414) 727-8468, or in person at any one of the box offices located at all theatre venues.