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Festival to showcase films from across the globe

March 24, 2010

It Changes You. That’s the 12th Wisconsin Film Festival slogan, and though it’s too early to tell, it’s probably accurate.

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“The real foundation of this is giving people the opportunity to try something new and go see films they might not ever get the chance to see, or might not even think they’d want to see,” says Film Festival director Meg Hamel. “It’s a chance for people to really stretch their own expectations of what they think they might like in movies.”

Running from Wednesday, April 14–Sunday, April 18, and presented by the Arts Institute with the assistance of the Department of Communication Arts, the festival has expanded from four to five days for the first time this year.

With two theaters showing movies in high definition, eight screening venues and 192 films, there’s no way patrons can walk away from the festival unaffected.

Hamel was careful to select a vast diversity of films to be screened at the 2010 festival. There are comedies, thrillers, experimental films, cinematographic beauties and more.

“My Way Home,” winner of the Golden Badger award from the 2010 Wisconsin Film Festival, will be shown at 5:15 p.m. on Saturday, April 17, at the Monona Terrace.

Photo: courtesy Wisconsin Film Festival

“Anybody who is coming to see four films at the festival would be hard pressed to even find four films that are even like each other,” she says. “You’ll end up with a schedule that’s pretty diverse.”

But they all reflect a unique approach to cinema and an original view on what it means to be human.

“The films that I’ve always been drawn to when it comes to the festival have been films that may have a more realistic or even improvisational feel to them,” Hamel says. “I really look for films that are a lot more challenging when it comes to the expectations of the viewer, that are stories that are sometimes about difficult subjects or take a particularly novel approach to how they’re going to tell a story.”

Though the festival will feature a number of remarkable cinema gems, notable guests and exciting events, Hamel is careful to keep all the films and programming affordable and open to everyone.

“The Topp Twins” screens at 6 p.m. on Thursday, April 15, in the Orpheum’s Main Theater.

Photo: courtesy Wisconsin Film Festival

“It may feel like the way festivals work is for there to be a lot of prestige associated with certain things, that it’s hard to get into certain films,” she says. “That’s just not how we do things here.”

The festival hasn’t raised its ticket prices since 2002, which remain $7 for general admission and $4 with a student ID. Tickets went on sale on March 20 and can be purchased at or at the festival box office inside the Memorial Union.

Films of interest:

“A Town Called Panic (Panique au village)”: This Belgian stop-motion animation features Cowboy, Indian and Horse as they battle an avalanche of 50 million bricks and a journey into an underwater alternate universe that culminates in the descent to the center of the Earth.

Wacky, surreal and an international hit, “A Town Called Panic,” had audiences roaring with laughter across the globe. Now it’s Wisconsin’s turn. Saturday, April 17, 3:30 p.m., Orpheum Main Theater

“My Way Home”: Hamel partners with a number of programs on campus to showcase films that reflect both the best in cinematography and the educational mission of the program.

In collaboration with the Asian American studies program, the Wisconsin Film Festival decided to feature the documentary “My Way Home.”

Four UW–Milwaukee students created, edited and shot the film, which stars a Hmong American woman, Dao Chang, who was born in Laos but raised in Wisconsin.

Chang journeys back to Laos to gain a better understanding of her culture, the war and her family, particularly her reticent, conservative father.

“My Way Home” is the winner of the Golden Badger award from the 2010 Wisconsin Film Festival. Saturday, April 17, 5:15 p.m., Monona Terrace

“The Topp Twins: Untouchable Girls”: Sisters Jules and Lynda Topp are possibly the most renowned comedic act in New Zealand. This documentary features all of their quirky stage characters, including old women dressed for lawn bowling and middle-aged pub fellows.

But the film probes deeper than the stage, into their political activism, coming out to their parents and the value of just being yourself.

The film features home movies and footage from their shows and captures both hilarious and tear-jerking moments in their lives.

“The Topp Twins” is the opening night special presentation. Although the festival starts on Wednesday, April 14, the official kickoff is the next day. Thursday, April 15, 6 p.m., Orpheum Main Theater

“Baraboo”: UW–Madison alumna and Hollywood film producer and editor Mary Sweeney makes her feature-length directing debut in “Baraboo,” a film about a run-down cabin-style motel in the outskirts of town.

Sweeney, a part-time Wisconsin resident, presents her protagonist, Jane, who owns Petersen’s Cabins and struggles with her rebellious teenage son. Between a blossoming romance with one of her residents and a number of other intriguing personalities on the grounds, we gain an inside view of the often overlooked small-town way of life.

Both a beautiful work of cinema and a unique take on humanity, “Baraboo” is the winner of the Golden Badger from the 2010 Wisconsin Film Festival. Saturday, April 17, 7:15 p.m., Chazen Museum of Art

“The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers”: Through interviews and archival footage, war planner Daniel Ellsberg tells the story of his decision to leak more than 7,000 top-secret government documents in 1971, known as the Pentagon Papers.

The documents exposed the lies behind the Vietnam War and the Nixon administration, and the corruption and murder hidden from the public.

The documentary showcases Ellsberg’s courage to risk life in prison and stand up for what he believed, and the backlash that followed his disclosure, featuring a series of interviews, including a rarely seen interview of President Nixon from his own secret White House Tapes.

“The Most Dangerous Man in America” was nominated for an Academy Award in 2009 for Best Documentary Film. Thursday, April 15, 8 p.m., Orpheum Main Theater.

Tags: arts, film