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Wisconsin Film Festival expands to eight days

March 1, 2013

Photo: Nick Hitchon in film ’56 Up’

Michael Apted’s “56 Up,” the latest entry in his acclaimed series, will screen at the Wisconsin Film Festival with the participation of UW–Madison engineering professor Nick Hitchon (above), one of the film’s subjects.

The Wisconsin Film Festival — the largest campus-based film festival in the United States, averaging over 100 films and up to 34,000 attendees each spring — will spread out beyond one weekend for the first time this year, giving audiences eight days to take in the wide range of cinema being offered.

Tickets for the festival will go on sale on Saturday, March 16. The festival opens on Thursday, April 11 and plays through Thursday, April 18.

This year’s festival takes place in several newer locations, all offering state-of-the-art projection systems and multiple screenings of some of the event’s most popular films. Jim Healy, director of programming, and Mike King, senior programmer, preside over eight days of comedies, documentaries, animation, classics from around the world, and the popular Wisconsin’s Own films, from filmmakers with ties to the state.

“We’re incredibly fortunate to benefit from the talents and deep investment of our collaborators, supporters and our audience. Every year, we’re excited for another opportunity to do it all again, and this milestone year is no exception,” says Christina Martin-Wright, managing director of the festival.

In celebration, the festival will kick off its 2013 events with a benefit on Friday, March 15 from 6-9 p.m. The Crystal Ball will take place at Hilldale Shopping Center, home of Sundance Cinemas, which will host several high-profile screenings and events during the festival’s run.

Attendees will enjoy food and beverages from the Great Dane, a silent auction, door prizes and a sneak preview of this year’s films. The event is hosted by 2010 Golden Badger winner Steve Tyska of Madison disco group VO5. Entertainment also includes pianist Dan Barker playing film favorites. Advance tickets are $25, with a limited number of tickets available at the door for $30. The event is presented by Isthmus and Hilldale Shopping Center.

“Every year, we’re excited for another opportunity to do it all again, and this milestone year is no exception.”

Christina Martin-Wright

This year’s lineup includes brand new movies from internationally renowned directors (“You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet,” “Post Tenebras Lux”), as well as world-class selections from filmmakers based right here in Wisconsin or with ties to the Badger State (“Street Pulse,” “Dear Mr. Watterson”). Michael Apted’s “56 Up,” the latest entry in his acclaimed series, will also screen with the participation of UW–Madison engineering professor Nick Hitchon, one of the film’s subjects.

Without leaving the Dairy State, festivalgoers can travel to the far corners of the globe, from the Arctic Circle (“The Final Member”), to Senegal (“The Pirogue”), to a rare glimpse into contemporary North Korea (“Comrade Kim Goes Flying”), and beyond (“Lunarcy!”).

The festival’s popular repertory offerings include four spaghetti Westerns (including the recently restored Italian version of “The Big Gundown”), presented in conjunction with the UW Cinematheque’s ongoing series. Audiences will also see a rarely-screened effort by Wisconsin’s Own Joseph Losey (“M”), and three films from the 1970s featuring actor Michael Murphy, who will join audiences in person to discuss his work made in collaboration with iconic filmmakers: Woody Allen’s “Manhattan,” Robert Altman’s “Brewster McCloud,” and Saul Bass’s “Phase IV.”

More than ever, new films are in dialogue with the history of cinema. Two examples include opening night selection “Blancanieves,” a reimagining of Snow White done in the style of a silent film, as well as “Room 237,” an investigation into the mysteries of “The Shining.”

This year’s festival is bookended with Shakespeare adaptations from the opposite ends of film history. The first film to unspool will be the 1929 “The Taming of the Shrew,” with Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford; the festival ends a week later with “Avengers” director Joss Whedon’s up-to-the-minute riff on “Much Ado About Nothing.”

The Wisconsin Film Festival celebrates new American independent films, world cinema, documentaries, locally made films, experimental and avant-garde work, and newly restored classics at state-of-the-art venues offering superb high-definition video and 35mm projection. It is presented by UW–Madison’s Arts Institute in association with the Communication Arts Film Studies Program.