CONTACT: Meg Hamel, 608-262-6578, [email protected]
MADISON – It started as an experiment in 1999. Now in its 11th year, the Wisconsin Film Festival has grown so popular that it’s taken over Babcock Hall.
Well, not quite. Still, a limited-edition Babcock Dairy ice cream flavor (called, naturally, “In the Dark”) is just one of the offerings that makes the Wisconsin Film Festival one of Madison’s top cultural highlights.
The Wisconsin Film Festival takes place from Thursday, April 2-Sunday, April 5, in 10 theaters around downtown Madison and the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus.
Tickets for the Wisconsin Film Festival went on sale March 7, and several films have already sold out. Notable on that list: “Being Bucky,” a documentary about the students inside the costume of Wisconsin’s favorite mascot (6:15 p.m. Saturday, April 4, at Monona Terrace). Still, you may not be out of luck; try a rush ticket for last-minute opportunities.
“Being Bucky” is not the only film with a strong Wisconsin connection. Though Film Festival director Meg Hamel looks for a wide variety of films, she especially enjoys being able to present films relating to the state and its people. UW-Madison alumnus Robert Stone directed the environmental documentary “Earth Days,” while director Ronald Bronstein, a former student, created his idiosyncratic feature “Frownland” with the help of producer and alumnus Mark Raybin. Former Madisonians Doug Pray (“Art & Copy”) and Marc Webb (“500 Days of Summer”) also directed some of the bigger festival offerings.
These films – often starring well-known Hollywood talent – stand in stark contrast to the juried selection of the Wisconsin’s Own series. Whether directed by a Pewaukee native or filmed in Superior, the films of Wisconsin’s Own may represent newer talent and smaller expressions than the (comparatively) big-budget features.
That’s the beauty of the festival, says Hamel.
“‘Earth Days,’ which was the closing film at Sundance, is huge. We’re not going to put it in competition against a short film made by some guy from Chippewa Falls. Wisconsin’s Own offers a chance to screen a lot of films that we might not have known about or seen,” Hamel says.
As always, the festival spotlights several film series that illuminate many facets of human experience. “Film•Able: Disabilities on Film” encourages viewers to not only reconsider perceptions and limitations but to enjoy many different types of artistic expression.
For additional perspectives on global culture and heritage, try some of the films in “Focus on South Korea,” “Inside Islam,” and “Disparate Voices: Asian American Film.” Close to home, “Milk in the Land: Ballad of an American Drink” is part of the series “The Cream and the Crop: Farming and the Land on Film,” showing the relationship between people and the earth around the world. Finally, enjoy bright new prints and big-screen beauty in “Restorations and Revivals.”
In addition, several special events bring a wider dimension to the films.
On April 5, follow up the screening of “Between the Folds” with a free origami workshop at 2 p.m. at Steep and Brew. Director Vanessa Gould and origami expert Ruthanne Bessman (of Wisconsin Public Radio) share some of the techniques that make paper-folding such a beautiful and accessible art.
Anyone with dreams of moving west to join the film industry should stop by the Hollywood Badgers Panel at 1 p.m. on April 4 at the Pyle Center, 702 Langdon St. UW-Madison graduates who work in many areas of the entertainment industry will share their stories and answer questions. Festival organizers continue to plan and add activities, so keep checking the Web site for more details and new offerings.
As for that ice cream, it’s already here. With its chocolate truffle pieces, chocolate chips, dark fudge swirl, and pecans, enjoy “In the Dark” before or after any show at the Memorial Union.
The film program and schedule is posted at http://www.wifilmfest.org/. A printed program was included in the March 6 edition of Isthmus. Tickets are available through the Web site listed above and at the Film Festival box office in the Memorial Union (Annex Room, second floor), 800 Langdon St.
Tickets are $7 for general admission and $4 for students, with discounts for the purchase of multiple tickets. Tickets may also be available on the day of the show at the theater where the film will be shown. On-site box offices open an hour before the first film of the day at that theater.
Want to see “Being Bucky” or “Winter of Frozen Dreams” but didn’t get a ticket before the sell-out? You might still be able to get in with a rush ticket. Some unused tickets may not be used, so Film Festival volunteers will seat several lucky folks immediately before the show. If no tickets are available at the theater’s box office, join the rush-ticket line.