Home Entertainment Wisconsin Film Festival returns for its 25th anniversary 

Wisconsin Film Festival returns for its 25th anniversary 

The Connection is a 1961 found footage feature film directed by the American experimental filmmaker Shirley Clarke that will be shown on Friday, April 14, 5:30 p.m. at the Chazen Museum of Art.  (Photo: Wisconsin Film Festival)

For its twenty-fifth year, the Wisconsin Film Festival is back in a number of locations throughout the city. 

From April 14-20, 160 films will be shown at five venues in the Madison area: Hilldale, Shannon Hall in UW’s Memorial Union, the Chazen Museum of Art, UW’s Cinematheque and the Marquee at Union South. The Hilldale screening location is the home of the old AMC Movie Theater at the Hilldale Mall, which closed in December. The Hilldale Cinema has been a home base for the film festival for many years, and organizers were concerned about losing its three screens when planning the festival this year. 

However, an alderman, the Hillsdale Mall, AMC and the University all came together to allow screening to happen. This was very important to the organizers of the film festival, as WFF Artistic Director Mike King noted, “We’ve had so many, you know, memorable screenings there, memorable Q&A’s, and to be able to do it one more time, is really meaningful.” 

Along with full-length feature films, the festival also creates collections of short films, in groups of five or six that simulate the length of the feature film. Some of these film programs will include: Experimental compiling shorts from innovative filmmakers native to Wisconsin, Strangers in a Strange Land, collecting short films that “map out our differences but more importantly, our underlying similarities,” according to the festival website. Also included are Gems from the Chicago Film Archives, showcasing films that have been preserved by the archives on 16mm or 35mm film reels, and Shorter and Sweeter, which features short animated films.

As for feature-length films, the film festival has those, and many are planned to have the filmmakers themselves in attendance for a talkback after the film. “Filmmakers love coming to Madison, a lot of filmmakers have never been to Madison before and they’re really excited that we’re on a college campus and they want to connect with the students,” King said. 

“We also have filmmakers bringing repertory selections,” King explained, “We have Gee Malik Linton, who’s bringing this last Keanu Reeves movie he directed about five years ago that was never really officially released in his form. And he’s bringing the US premiere screening of that to our festival.” 

That film is Daughter of God, playing Saturday, April 15th, 5:30 pm, at the UW Cinematheque. The film, starring Reeves and Oscar nominee Ana de Armas was recut by producers in 2016 and retitled Exposed, which cut out most of De Armas’ performance. The version being shown at the film festival is the director’s original cut, which puts in much more of De Armas’ performance, and still features Reeves in a main role. 

Another feature film is the documentary Chop and Steele, directed and starred in by Joe Pickett and Nick Prueher. Pickett and Preuher are most well known for being the creators of the Found Footage Film Festival, where they put together montages of clips they’ve found on old VHS tapes around the state. This documentary, however, follows their journey as they portray Chop and Steele, their alter egos on local news media, that is until they are sued by one of the local news companies. This film shows at 6:15 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. at the Hilldale Cinema 6 on April 18th. After the film, Pickett and Prueher will present a talkback and footage from this year’s found footage festival. 

Showing at Memorial Union on April 16 at 4:30 pm will be Hundreds Of Beavers, a film about an applejack salesman that has to defeat hundreds of beavers. With influences ranging from Looney Tunes, to 19th-century silent films, and Blazing Saddles, this film promises to be a little weird, but a good time. King describes the film as, a “really inventive, amazing narrative feature that is hilarious and so technically impressive.” 

Overall, the festival features many films made by filmmakers from or with a connection to Wisconsin. All films marked “Wisconsin’s Own” are made by filmmakers who are from the state, have attended a UW school, or have some other connection to the state. “[This] is the only part of the festival that we take submissions for,” King said, noting the contrast to the rest of the festival, where films are chosen from film festivals like Sundance and South by Southwest by his team to be featured. King stressed the importance of including films that have a connection to the state in the festival. 

Films that are made by Wisconsin filmmakers are also eligible for the Golden Badger Awards. Every year films are rated by a committee, and the top three films are chosen and awarded for their excellence. This year’s Golden Badger winner is the film Carol & Janet directed by Andrea Rosen. These awards are meant to spread awareness and acclaim for these films by Wisocnsin filmmakers, and provide a set of recommendations for festival attendees. 

As for what he recommends people see at the festival, artistic director King points to one location: Memorial Unions’ Shannon Hall. The 1,000-seat theater, owned by the University, doesn’t show any movies at other times during the year. The film festival brings in the screen, and the projectors are able to show movies in the hall. “They’re the ones that I think you know, are sort of the biggest movies,” King said. “Opening night we’re playing this wonderful Ukrainian movie ‘Luxembourg, Luxembourg.’ ‘We Are Not Ghouls’ is playing there, and ‘Hundreds of Beavers’ playing there. And there are lots of other really fun movies.” 


The Wisconsin Film Festival Takes place April 14-20. Tickets can be bought here. More details can be found on wifilmfest.org