With just over two weeks to go until opening day on Thursday, Apr. 12, Wisconsin Film Festival organizers are releasing the names of filmmakers attending the event. These include more than a dozen directors and writers from around the nation, as well as more than three score more -- many local -- participating in the Wisconsin's Own and Student Shorts programming. All are slated to attend screenings of their work, with opportunities to meet them running through the entire weekend.
A few of the visiting filmmakers have been scheduled to attend for some time, including Mike Akel and Chris Mass (the director and writer, respectively, of Chalk) and Jay Thompson (director of Heart of an Empire). The first a mockumentary about teaching in high school and the second a documentary about the charity work of an organization of Star Wars fanatics, both films are screening one after another in an opening night celebration at the Wisconsin Union Theater.
Others, though, are only now solidifying their plans to travel to Madison. Over the last two days, Wisconsin Film Fest director Meg Hamel has released the names of more guests, many of them directors of some of the highest-profile movies screening at the festival.
Aaron Woolf, Curt Ellis and Ian Cheney -- the directors of the quickly sold-out and Willy Street Co-op-sponored King Corn -- are attending the Friday screening of their documentary at the Bartell Theatre. Likewise, directors Eric Breitenbach and Phyllis Redman are attending the Friday screening of their doc When Pigs Fly at Monona Terrace.
Saturday brings the largest group of visiting filmmakers. Justin Lin is returning to the Madison following his original trip in 2003 for Better Luck Tomorrow; this year, he is presenting Finishing the Game, his take on what the festival describes as "the ludicrous world of mid-1970s kung fu cinema." Also appearing with their works that day are FranÃois Dompierre (director of the relationship drama All the Days Before Tomorrow), UW graduate Susan Dynner (director of the music documentary Punk's Not Dead), Tara Wray (director of the maternal Manhattan, Kansas), and Dylan Howitt (director of the African swords into plowshares doc Tree of Guns).
A couple more filmmakers are slated to attend on Sunday, including Rajnesh Domalpalli (director of the coming-of-age story Vanaja) and Marian Marzinski (creator of the autobiographical Life on Marz: A Memoir of a Film Teacher).
This list will certainly grow by the start of the festival, with the visiting filmmakers scheduled subject to change.
Then there are the numerous filmmakers responsible for the works screening in the two locally-themed series (Wisconsin's Own and Student Shorts), including many of those receiving awards from the festival. These include:
- Linda Babler, Luciano, David Giffey, and Paul McMahon of Long Shadows: Veterans' Paths to Peace
- Wendy Schneider of Cut: Teens and Self-Injury
- Andrew Napier of Keeping the Spirit
- Madison Tift, Raad Fadaak, and Gretta Wing Miller of Made With Love: A Story of Emergency Communities
- Ben Olson of Ball Saved
- Aaron Lubarsky of Sportsfan
- Katherine Leggett, Romi Chiorean, Todd Wider, and Jedd Widder of The Untyings
- Tim Gable, Craig DiBiase, and John Pinter of It's Happiness: A Polka Documentary
Two non-film events are returning for another year at the festival. These are the Hollywood Badgers panel (featuring recent UW grads who have since packed up and moved to L.A.), and a tournament for CINEPLEXITY, a film-oriented game created by Madisonians John Kovalic and JonMichael Rasmus. The former notes that there will be "tons of prizes."
The headlining bands for both festival parties have also been released. Arriving from Ames, Iowa for the Friday night party at CafÃ Montmarte is Leslie and the Ly's. In the midst of a national tour, this pop band features front woman Leslie Hall and a rotating cast of supporting musicians performing Apple's Garage Band-composed tunes atop turntables and the keytar. The Saturday night party, also at Montmartre, features the Mayor Dave-approved Blueheels, a soulful country rock quartet that's increasingly making itself noticed around town.
Festival tickets are continuing to sell quickly, both online and at the official box office in the UW Memorial Union.