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What’s New at Milwaukee Film Festival?

Hispanic films, classics and documentaries, including ‘Beware the Slenderman,’ highlight this year’s festival

Sep. 20, 2016
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Along with its lineup of feature films from around the U.S. and the world, this year’s Milwaukee Film Festival will include a handful of classic films (ranging from Metropolis to Blue Velvet) as well as a trio of new programming tracks. It’s all in keeping with the festival’s mission of honoring cinema history while promoting the medium’s advance into the future.

The new Cine Sin Fronteras track includes half a dozen films about the Latin American diaspora. According to the festival’s Artistic and Executive Director Jonathan Jackson, none of the titles are focused specifically on immigration but “you see immigration as a theme throughout.” The public’s growing appetite for fact-based films is reflected in the second new track, Sportsball!, which includes six documentaries on sports. Among them are When We Were Kings on the Muhammad Ali-George Foreman “Rumble in the Jungle”; Keepers of the Game, a close study of a girls lacrosse team; and a history lesson behind the sport of Fastball.

The third new programming track, United States of Cinema, “is a dedicated place to show the breadth and strength of American independent filmmaking,” Jackson says. “We’ve all seen umpteen New York indie films or L.A. dramas. These films take place in unique places with a diverse roster of characters, including Somali and Iranian immigrants, with lots of interesting stories.” 

Alongside Sportsball! on the festival’s roster is the popular Documentary Festival Favorites, a programming track boasting 18 documentary films “on a wide range of topics and issues that matter from across the globe, not just the U.S.,” according to the festival’s Programming & Education Director Cara Ogburn. “There certainly is an increased interest in these types of films,” she continues. “Between Making a Murderer and the Serial podcast, there is a strong gravitation back to true-life storytelling.”

Sponsored by Shepherd Express, Documentary Festival Favorites includes feature-length films, produced over the past two years in the U.S., Germany, China, Turkey, Ireland and Bolivia. 

One of them is of special local interest. Beware the Slenderman by Emmy-winning director Irene Taylor Brodsky focuses on the internet “urban legend” that inspired a pair of Waukesha girls in a notorious case of attempted murder. “It was made with the full cooperation of the perpetrators’ families,” says Jackson. “Threaded through it is footage from after the girls’ arrest—raw camera feed from the police interrogation room. Beware the Slenderman looks at the subject from the perspective of understanding the phenomenon of internet folklore, the nature of storytelling as it evolves in social media.”

Beware the Slenderman debuted earlier this year at Austin’s South by Southwest festival and will be broadcast before year’s end on HBO. The Milwaukee Film Festival will host the Wisconsin premiere in three screenings, Sept. 24-25 at the Oriental Theatre and Oct. 5 at Times Cinema.

Other highlights among the Documentary Festival Favorites include Orange Sunshine, which examines the Brotherhood of Eternal Love, a ’60s-era California sect that became America’s biggest LSD distributors; In Pursuit of Silence, which delves into the sonic and sensory overload of contemporary society; God Knows Where I Am, a sensitive portrait of mental illness and society’s struggle to deal with the problem; and National Bird, in which three whistle blowers describe their roles inside America’s drone warfare program.

For more information visit mkefilm.org.

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