This week was the Wisconsin Film Festival so I spent most of my spare time attending movies. 8 in all, which is rather a lot for me in 5 days. I've been very thrifty lately and hardly attend any movies in the theater, also I often find myself balking at spending two hours in a dark room without being able to work on art projects. But the Wisconsin Film Festival is always a special exception to the rules. I'm no film review expert, but I am really pleased with all the films that I went to see this time around so I thought I'd share. How to discuss a film without revealing what the viewer should see for themselves? Clearly I will never be a reviewer. Nowadays, I am hopeful that even more obscure films will be available to you somewhere/how. There were some overall themes that recurred over the course of the five days: gorgeous scenery causing me to want to travel to even more places, labor/union issues (which presumably were not on the mind of Meg Hamel when she picked these movies so long ago), creativity and art and unity/harmony. I am so grateful to all the filmmakers for sharing their visions and talents, and for everyone at the Wisconsin Film Festival for pulling this event together!
And now, the films:
How To Start Your Own Country: A series of short looks at micronations... micro micro nations (even a country of one, well, more if you count the dogs). Though this was a film of eccentrics, it did raise some interesting questions about what it means to be a nation. Also, some tempting ideas of starting my own nation. I bet Anthology's passport stamp would be cool!
Boy: A widely acclaimed New Zealand film which made me want to go back to New Zealand. Moments of laugher and poignancy and sorrow (though the worst that could have happened did not so that was a relief). The "Thriller" haka is worth it alone.
British Television Adverstising Awards: No fair! How come they get all the clever ads? This was a first for me, though it is a very popular film festival feature. There were several with a Wallace & Grommit sort of feeling and this adorable assembly line for seasoning potatoes that including blowing spiced kisses at them. Since this was my first time, I don't have anything to compare them to except my own television-watching. There were light-hearted and clever and funny ads, but also very serious public service messages.
Potche: Attended this one with my dad, who is a Francophile. Starring Catherine Deneuve. Interestingly, the story includes labor union issues so it felt very pertinent to the goings-on in Madison.
Mine Vaganti: Traditional Italian family-life collides with matters of pasta, a closeted gay son, and complex relationships and obligations. Again, lovely scenery, great acting, amusing scenes (notably, when the gay friends from Rome stop in for a visit).
And my top three:
Troll Hunter: I know, I know. Everyone is suprised that I went to see this one. It was shot as if by amateur filmmakers, out following a secret government agent who hunts trolls. And yes, you get to see trolls in the film. Set in Norway with totally gorgeous scenery, it plays like a documentary, except for the minor detail of the trolls. At times suspenseful, at times hilarious...
Bill Cunningham New York: Another 'must see.' This documentary follows Bill Cunnigham, photographer for the New York Times. It was fun to see scenes of New York and remember that we'll be there in May (Sachi and I have a buying trip and it's just the two of us - fun! fun!). It's always great to see someone pursue something with such dedication (in this case, the clothes that people wear) but also, this is an amazing man. Very principled, very inspiring. Truthfully, I got a little teary wishing that there were more people like him.
Louder Than a Bomb: About the Chicagoland high school poetry slam competitions. If you have never seen slam poetry, I highly recommend it. I'm not really a poetry person but a few years ago the national poetry slam competition was here in Madison. Many of the poets made buttons at our shop and I heard enough about the competition that I was intrigued and I went to the finals. Wow - talk about blowing my mind! First, they write their own poems, and then they have amazing performances of them. So the minute I read about "Louder than a Bomb," I knew I had to go, even though it meant leaving my sister and Mom stranded during the busiest hour of Saturday. In our daily lives it is so easy to say that art is a luxury (how many times do I pass up purchasing a ticket to a play or a dance?) and yet I am reminded of how important it is. In the arts, I feel that we might have our best chance of speaking to each other across geographical barriers, across distances of age and political views and language. I can appreciate the work that someone does with their hands, or feet, or voice, even if there are other aspects of their lives that I will never understand or know. This was definitely brought home in this movie - if you can imagine, high school kids come from ALL over the Chicagoland area: private schools, public schools, charter schools, south side, north side, Jewish, Christian, African-American. Even though there are many aspects of each others' lives that they will never understand, they have poetry in common and they can come to appreciate each others' talents for the craft of writing and performing. I remember as a geology student in college, attending a summer program for women in geology, sitting at a table with other young women and talking about geology - being among people who spoke the same language as you, struggled over similar situations... Despite all our differences, it was such a thrill to be able to be understood on that level. And I imagine the same for these high school poets. Of course, it is especially moving to see low-income youth, who might otherwise feel they have no voice, no prospects, to be up on stage expressing themselves so creativitely and powerfully. Yep, this one made me cry also.
I hope you also enjoyed your festival films. And if you didn't go, I'd definitely encourage you to be on the look-out next year!