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Milwaukee Short Film Festival

Great movies in small doses

Sep. 8, 2009
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If you ask Milwaukee residents about film around town, many people will point you in the direction of the nearest multiplex playing the latest Hollywood offering. But, fact is, there are many fans and producers of progressive cinema in the city. Skeptics need only look to the Milwaukee Short Film Festival (MFSS), now on the brink of its 11th year. More than 40 films will be screened at three different city venues over three days. The festival features films from all over the United States, including several from Milwaukee, as well as many from international filmmakers. Not bad for a festival that began as a showing of films on public access television.

From small-screen beginnings, the Milwaukee Short Film Festival has grown into an event of national acclaim and international recognition. Ross Bigley, a graduate of Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design and director of the MSFF (operating under the nonprofit Milwaukee Independent Film Society), estimates that more than 200 films were submitted to this year’s festival. This is significant, considering that the submission number usually hovers around 80 and in only a couple of years has gone upward of 100. With so many submissions—and so many of high quality—from all over the world, deciding which ones will be screened at the festival can be an arduous chore. “We had so many good films that we had to say ‘no’ to. It’s like this one great 20-minute film from France or two films from Milwaukee that won’t get in,” Bigley says.

The 11th annual festival runs Friday through Sunday, Sept. 11-13. Sensing the need for growth, Bigley moved MSFF out of its single space at the Times Cinema and into three different screening venues. The festival begins Friday at the Eisner Museum of Advertising & Design. Saturday’s films will be screened at the Milwaukee Art Museum’s Lubar Auditorium. The festival will wrap on Sunday at the Oriental Theatre. The opening-night selections at the Eisner Museum will incorporate the festival’s first-ever Pace-Setter Award, presented to Mark Metcalf and Kathy Fischer for their accomplishments and contributions to the medium of film in Milwaukee. A short film directed by Fischer called How to Not Kill Everyone, featuring Metcalf, will be shown this night.

Bigley believes this year’s festival contains its strongest lineup and touts a wide range of films that have something for everyone. Interesting selections include a student film from Spain, shot in New York, called Basket Bronx, and a documentary with Natalie Merchant called No Good Reason. Also included are a puppet film and more animation than in previous years. Using a scoring system, industry judges will determine the artistic merit of the selections and pick the Best Film and Honorary Mention. Awards will also be given for Best Director, Best Actor or Best Ensemble and the Best Wisconsin Film.

A complete list of the films and ticket information can be found at www.milwaukeeindependentfilmsociety.org.

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