Milwaukee Film Festival arrives in high anticipation

Story and Photos By Sara Raasch

People came in droves to walk the red carpet. Searchlights flooded the sky and beamed down light, spelling out in block letters, MKE Film Festival.

On Thursday, Sept. 26, the sold-out opening night party kicked off the 2014 Milwaukee Film Festival, a two-week lollapalooza showing 275 films.

As parties go, it was a great one: movie trailers, music, appetizers, drinks, cupcakes, revelry and more, on three separate floors of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Kenilworth Square East building.

Film Hype

Many partygoers had come from the first film of the festival, “1971” (USA 2014), which had just let out around the corner at the Oriental Theatre. Bay View resident Mike Baran called the film “extraordinary.”

Baran, who has been a Milwaukee Film Festival member “since the beginning,” is also a festival pass holder. That means his pass gets him into any film he wants – even the ones that are sold out. Besides seeing “1971,” he will go to a number of documentaries and shorts. On his must-see list? “Shorts: Date Night” (films about love, dating, and heartbreak).

Up the stairs, on the first of three levels of the party, blue lights bathed the party goers, creating an almost futuristic look among the stark white walls of Kenilworth. UW-M students, Samuel Breden, 24, from Neenah, Wisconsin and Emry Brisky, 21, from Sauk City, Wisconsin were festival newcomers.

“I’m here to network,” said Breden, a film student at the Peck School of the Arts. “I live two blocks from here, which is another incentive to attend. Also, I hope to get tickets to ‘Man With a Movie Camera’ [USSR 1929].”

Breden’s pick is a silent film from 1929. It’s ala a day in the life of Russia, with live music provided by Alloy Orchestra.

Brisky, on the other hand, hopes to see “Winter’s Bone” (USA, 2010), which he has seen before and highly recommends. The film stars Jennifer Lawrence in her movie debut. Though there are so many films worth seeing, Breden and Brisky will probably just see two or three films on their “student” budget.

“I’m really proud to have a school like Peck School of the Arts [a Providing Sponsor of the Film Festival] in the state of Wisconsin,” Emry said.

More than just Films

The Film Festival is not limited to films. There are talkbacks with movie directors and stars, conversations about films held at area businesses, sing-a-longs and even live music at the Hotel Foster. The festival also hosts educational screenings for Milwaukee students in elementary, middle and high school.

The Milwaukee Connection

Tamara Halverson, a Film Festival participant for the past four years, was there to support her husband who worked on four of this year’s films. She is most excited to see “The Surface” (USA 2014), starring Sean Astin (“Rudy,” “The Goonies,” “Lord of the Rings”) and “Serial Daters Anonymous” (USA, 2014).

“Both films are shot in Milwaukee,” Halverson said.

The Milwaukee Shows (I and II) showcase the talent in the 414 area including directors, writers, actors and the location we call our own.

Lisa Fohey, another festival attendee, explained why she attends the film fest.

“You get to see films that you don’t know a lot about and you almost always are blown away,” Fohey said.

The festival runs 16 days from Sept. 25 through Oct. 9 and includes virtually all types of films. Ticket prices are $10 for adults, $9 for adults over 60, $8 for Milwaukee Film Members, and $6 for children under 12. Check out MKE Film to see what is sold out, selling out fast and the Film Pick of the Day.

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