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Tuesday, April 23, 2024
Film Festival 2011: Amy George

Film Festival 2011: Amy George

The Wisconsin Film Festival exhibits the unifying power of cinema

The 25th annual Wisconsin Film Festival kicked off on April 13 with an opening night reception featuring the announcement of this year’s Golden Badger Award winners followed by a screening of the Ukrainian film “Luxembourg, Luxembourg.” The ceremony took place in the Great Hall at Memorial Union with a collection of University of Wisconsin-Madison staff members, filmmakers, undergraduate students and community members celebrating the art of cinema and demonstrating continued support for Wisconsin filmmakers. 

The Wisconsin Film Festival celebrates both local and international filmmakers. The festival screens a variety of films from April 14 to April 20. This year, the festival is presenting over 160 films, from animated features to documentary shorts; anyone would be guaranteed to find at least one film they enjoy at the festival.

The night began with Wisconsin Film Festival Director of Operations Ben Resier, who joined the film festival staff in 2012. After he joined, Resier began to expand the festival’s community outreach and set up programs encouraging elementary, middle and high school students to attend showings. He also aided in keeping the film festival alive during the COVID-19 pandemic by negotiating with different filmmakers to allow for 24 free online screenings of short films. 

Resier began his speech by giving everyone a warm welcome to the event. He thanked many individuals, including District 11 Alder Bill Tishler, who helped reopen the recently closed Hilldale AMC movie theater to show films for the festival one last time. 

Tishler explained why that theater is so important to him — it “was the first movie theater [he] went to as a child," which led him to fall in love with cinema and pursue his passion in college, where he received a communication arts degree.

The opening ceremony concluded with the presentation of the Golden Badger Awards — three awards recognizing the most accomplished professional Wisconsin filmmakers. To be eligible for this award, at least one-third of a given film must have been shot in Wisconsin, and at least one member of the film’s creative team either had to be a Wisconsin native, a former resident of Wisconsin for one or more years, an alum currently enrolled in a Wisconsin university or college or a current resident of Wisconsin.  

This year's winners were the short films “Carol & Janet,” directed by Andrea Rosen, “Friday Night Blind,” directed by Scott Krahn and Robb Fischer and “Of Wood” directed by Owen Klatte. Unfortunately, all of these films have already screened at the festival, but a broader release should happen in the future. 

“Carol & Janet” is about a relationship between two friends who work a warehouse job and goof around — until a few surprises test their friendship. “Friday Night Blind” features a group of three blind women who get together and bowl every week in the Milwaukee Beer Barrels Blind Bowling League. “Of Wood '' is told through the medium of animated wood carvings that tell the story of mankind and its relationship to paper.

After the awards presentation, attendees were asked to move to Shannon Hall, where an extensive line of people had been eagerly waiting to see the first film of the festival, “Luxembourg, Luxembourg.” Before the film's start, the film festival's director Kelley Conway gave a short presentation thanking everyone for their attendance, and Resier presented short clips from this year’s Golden Badger Award winners.

At the beginning of “Luxembourg, Luxembourg,” I witnessed the true power of cinema among a crowd of over 600 individuals. Never before have I experienced a film in a theater with so many people, and hearing everyone laugh and sigh in unison at the events on screen was a truly magical and unifying experience. Just as Conway said in her opening statement, the film industry is not dead — contrary to what people may say. Both Resier and Conway pointed out that what makes the film festival so unique are the people attending and the wonderful spirit they bring with them that keeps the festival going.

I had a delightful time talking to Wisconsin filmmakers and film enthusiasts alike and highly recommend attending at least one film during the festival. It is an experience you do not want to miss. And as an added bonus, admission is free for university students with presentation of a student ID.

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