The large back room at Escape Java Joint & Art Gallery was buzzing with activity on Thursday night as local filmmakers gathered for the kickoff screening of the annual autumn Kabaret at Wis-Kino, the short film group based in Madison. The gathering marked not only the beginning of a two-day frenzy of filmmaking for Kabaret participants, but the organization's fifth birthday as well.
"Scary/Halloween" was the optional theme for the kickoff screening, a popular topic that's a perennial favorite for the group's October gatherings. There were seven films shown on Thursday, most of which incorporated the spooky season element in one way or another, though most typically with a comedic bent.
A list and brief descriptions of films from Kabaret kickoff screening follows, two of which are available online for viewing:
An Impression of Prospection by Aaron Catalano
A collaborative effort by several regular Wis-Kino contributors -- Emilio Tozzi, Eric Allin, Roger Bindl -- this film is centered around a monologue by actress Rachel Renee. Speaking to herself against a moving backdrop of hand-drawn seaside images before breaking into song for a pair of rapt listeners. Everything is not as it seems, though, as reality intervenes by the end of the tune.
Make Believe by Dennis Shaffer
Where's the oldest and best source of theatrical and Halloween costumes and make-up in Madison? That would be Mallatt Pharmacy, of course, the Monroe Street institution that got its start many decades ago on State Street for UW acting students. Since then, it's grown into a major source of costumes for rental and purchase, one with a major online component. Originally created during the Spring 2006 Wis-Kino Kabaret, this documentary looks at the shop.
The Raven by Roger Bindl
The filmmaker narrates the classic Edgar Allen Poe poem The Raven in this short, set against his trademark mix of live action and animated elements.
Le Conte's Sparrow by John Feith
This short, narrated piece is seemingly a nature documentary about the titular bird, a small sparrow native to the Upper Midwest during the warmer months of the year. Of course, not everything is as it seems.
Satan's Night Out or Tom Waits was Right by RASH Films
Boozin', pranks, karaoke, reading in a car, more boozin', and passing out; it's all but a simple night of fun for a certain bearded deity. As indicated in the title, this short is inspired by a lyric from Tom Wait's 1980 album Heartattack and Vine.
Seeds by Tona Williams
"This is my first animated film," notes Williams in its description. "It's based on drawings and prints I've been making for years, but I thought it would be fun to finally start making them move!" Set to a pulsing beat by Kevin MacLeod, the short uses claymation to show the sprouting and growth of a unique life-form.
- A trailer for Massacre: The Musical by Graveside Pictures
A full-length trailer for the horror-musical based upon a Mercury Players Theatre production was the final local short to hit the screens at the Kabaret kickoff. Complete with plenty of blood and guts, not to mention a cloven head, it drew plenty of laughs from the audience.
- The screening ended with several shorts presented by Wis-Kino co-directors Sam Lawson and Josh Klessig that were created at a Kino Kabaret in France over the summer.
As the lights came up following the screening, the audience was ready to learn the required secret ingredient for the Kabaret. It was to be delivered via texting from a representative of Kino Louisville, Madison's sister group in Kentucky that is holding their annual Kabaret next weekend. After a few minutes of waiting, the theme was announced: "Down the Gutter." There's no doubt participants will have fun with this one.
The Kabaret will end with a screening of the five-minutes-or-less films created over the preceding 48 hours on Saturday night. The show starts at 7 p.m. at Westgate Cinemas on the west side of Madison.