In celebration of the upcoming 14th annual Wisconsin Film Festival, April 18 to 22, in Madison, I’m presenting our Furlan family’s picks for this year’s events. There are over 150 films at the festival, all sure to be great, but perhaps our preview will help you narrow down your choices. Film descriptions courtesy of festival staff.
Peggy, age 40+, wine enthusiast, professional conversationist
- An African Election, documentary, USA/Switzerland. This documentary thriller looks behind the scenes at Ghana’s young democracy, its complex political machinery, and its struggle to prove its legitimacy to its own citizens.
- Alps, narrative, Greece. For many cinephiles, this darkly comic mind game from Dogtooth director Yorgos Lanthimos ranks among the most anticipated films of the year.
- The Fairy, narrative, Belgium/France. Dom is a clerk at a rundown hotel in Le Havre whose humdrum overnight shift is interrupted by Fiona, a self-described fairy who grants him three wishes.
- Goodbye First Love, narrative, France. Fifteen-year-old Camille is madly in love with Sullivan, who loves her back but not quite enough to forgo his desire to experience the world.
- We’re Not Broke, documentary, USA. Filmed and edited largely before last year’s historic events with the international Occupy movement, We’re Not Broke nonetheless captures a number of demonstrations (some right here in Madison) that foreshadow the happenings of late 2011.
Daniel, age 16, theater rock star, car aficionado
- Elena, narrative,Russia. A domestic thriller indebted to – and worthy of – Albert Hitchcock, this Russian knockout is situated at the always uneasy intersection of love and money.
- Flooding with Love for the Kid, narrative, USA. Flooding is a meticulous, faithful adaptation of David Morrell’s 1972 novel First Blood, which introduced the character of John Rambo.
- Girl Model, documentary,USA. A compelling and unsettling expose into a little-known segment of the modeling industry, this film follows the complex supply chain between Siberia, Japan, and the United States through the eyes of Nadya, a 13-year-old Siberian girl, and Ashley Arbaugh, the American scout who discovers her.
- Tomboy, narrative,France. Who hasn’t wanted to be someone else? Laure, a pencil-thin 10-year-old with close-cropped hair, gets the chance when her family moves to a new suburban development. For a brief summer, she enjoys an idyllic double life – beloved daughter and big sister at home, rambunctious boy out with her friends.
- Vito, documentary,USA. Vito Russo was one of New York’s most outspoken and inspiring gay rights activists. Director Jeffrey Schwarz combines remarkable archival footage with testimonies from those who knew Russo best to craft a heartfelt and moving portrait of a man and the movements for which he fought.
Joanna, age 14, volleyball player, queen of texting
- Compliance, narrative, USA. The most controversial film to premiere at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, Compliance explores the human motivations behind one of the most bizarre news stories of the last few years.
- Girl Model. See Daniel.
- Sleepless Night, narrative, France. A thriller with all the boring parts cut out, Sleepless Night is the Ideal Action Movie: a rocking, edge-of-your-seat chase scene extended to feature length.
- Taking Off, narrative, USA. Before his career really took off with One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Czech émigré director Milos Forman made his American debut with this very funny and observant generation gap comedy.
- Without, narrative, USA. A haunting variation on Gaslight, Without is both an enveloping psychodrama and an eerie demonstration of our reliance on technology to keep ourselves placated – and possibly even sane.
Luke, age 11, football player, comedian
- The Amateur Monster Movie, narrative,USA. Werewolves and zombies again aim to snack on the living in this hilarious and ingeniously low-budget first feature from Milwaukee native Kyle Richards.
- Bugsy Malone, narrative, United Kingdom. Maybe Bugsy Malone is not the first prohibition-era gangster musical comedy, but it’s the first one to feature an entire cast of under-14-year-olds playing the wiseguys and their molls.
- The Hunter, narrative, Iran. During a violent flare-up between demonstrators and authorities in the midst ofIran’s 2009 elections, a night watchman’s wife is killed in the crossfire and his seven-year-old daughter is nowhere to be found.
- Pelotero, documentary,USA. For thousands of Dominican 16-year-olds being scouted by Major League Baseball, every July 2, or international signing day, is the day they can sign a professional contract. On an island where baseball means everything, the stakes couldn’t be higher.
- Policeman, narrative,Israel. As fragmented as the culture it depicts, this riveting dispatch from the frontlines of Israeli politics takes the form of a diptych. The first half studies an elite police squad, the second an anarchic Jewish terrorist cell.
Dave, age 40+, baker, Tae Kwon Do student
- An African Election. See Peggy.
- Good Bye, narrative, Iran. A deceptively calm indictment of Iran’s repression of women, Good Bye follows a beautiful young woman’s labyrinthine efforts to leave the country.
- Green, narrative,USA. A young Brooklyn couple retreat to a secluded Virginia farmhouse and enter a web of jealousy in this eerie indie.
- Into the Wake, narrative,USA. For this psychological action thriller shot in Sauk County, director John Mossman enlisted the aid of film students from UW-Baraboo, making this a truly collaborative Wisconsin effort.
- Klown, narrative, Denmark. Hailed as one of the funniest films of the year upon its U.S. premiere at Austin’s Fantastic Fest, this extremely raunchy comedy plays like an edgier version of Curb Your Enthusiasm.
We are also excited to offer lodging packages at The Livingston Inn for this year’s festival. Weekday packages (Wednesday, Thursday, or Sunday) are $169 and include one night of accommodations and tickets for two to any film. Weekend packages are $399 and include two nights of accommodations and tickets for two for any two films throughout the weekend.
Our thanks to everyone involved in the festival and kudos to the many talented individuals who are a part of this year’s films!