Though the first reels at the 2007 Wisconsin Film Festival will start rolling at Cinematheque with Killer of Sheep, the official premiere for the four-day celebration of cinema begins two hours later with a screening of Chalk at the Wisconsin Union Theater.
The film was co-written Mike Akel and Chris Mass, a pair of Austin-based writers, actors and most importantly, teachers, who created this improvisational look at life in high school as seen through the eyes of its oldest students, those standing in the front of the classroom. Both are expected to appear at the screening at one of the festival's newest venues.
Here is the mockumentary's description in the official festival guide:
Chalk is one of the wittiest films at the Festival, sketching out a year of rookie teachers at Harrison. In an improvisational style that wraps a bit of reality TV around a faux documentary core, the ensemble cast will win you over with their portrayal of high school staff way out of their depth. Filmmakers Mike Akel and Chris Mass, best friends since eighth grade, drew on their own experiences as teachers -- the character names are even drawn from their childhood teachers. Mass plays overconfident Mr. Stroop, determined to out-hip his way to the "Most Popular Teacher" award. Coach Webb, a stickler for rules, wonders if she'll find romance -- could it be with Mr. Lowrey, the completely inept first-year teacher who can't even keep track of his chalk? This is a gloriously painful exploration of the frustrations of America's most underappreciated profession, created with loving respect by a close-knit cast and crew. Plus, it's hoot.
A trailer for Chalk follows below.
Chalk has received several honors at previous festivals, including the Jury Award for Outstanding Performance at the L.A. Film Festival, the Audience Award at the 2006 Cinequest Film Festival, the Special Jury Award for Best Ensemble Acting at the Florida Film Festival, and the Grand Jury Award for Best Narrative Feature at the Independent Film Festival of Boston.
There are already numerous reviews of the film given that it is slated for a theatrical release this spring. The best place to start, though, is with an interview in the filmmakers in their hometown Austin Chronicle. Other information can also be found in its IMBD profile, as well as in reviews published by Variety, Film Threat, The Hollywood Reporter, Backstage.com, Jette Kernion for Cinematical, Mark Keizer for BoxOffice.com, Jennifer DeFilippo for indieIN, and Jay Seaver for eFilmCritic.
The ninth annual Wisconsin Film Festival is scheduled for Thursday, Apr. 12 through Sunday, Apr. 15. Tickets are currnetly on sale.