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Indie films focus of Wega Arts festival

Wega Arts will host three days of independent and foreign films Thursday through Friday, Nov. 10-12, at the Gerold Opera House, 136 E. Main St.

The Weyauwega International Film Festival will present films from Iran, Iraq, India, Haiti, Spain and Japan, as well as dozens of shorts, features and documentaries from independent American filmmakers.

Tickets are either $7 for a day, allowing admittance to any and all films shown that day, or $15 for all three days of the festival.

Advance tickets may be purchased at The Bookcellar in downtown Waupaca, at The Coffee Klatsch in downtown Weyauwega or online at http://wegaarts.org/.

Organizers Kathy Fehl and Ian Teal hope this year’s film festival will be the first of many for Wega Arts.

“Last year we showed six different indie movies,” Fehl said. “We were very pleased to find that people enjoyed seeing these non-Hollywood films.”

Fehl and Teal, with some help from Holly Martin, viewed more than 60 films submitted for the festival.

“The decisions we made reflect our sense of what’s valuable,” Fehl said. “Some of the films have great visual and composition quality. Others have strong, realistic narrative and meaning.”

Fehl said they also selected films based on a sense of authenticity and that they would spark thoughtfulness and conversation among members of the audience.

“A lot of the documentaries that we saw seeped preachy,” Teal said. “They had a particular way of looking at an issue, and they wanted you to look at the issue in the same way.”

“I think a documentary should have a point of view, but it shouldn’t be didactic,” Fehl added. “It should be subtle enough that you feel engaged by it, rather than alienated.”

Many of the films have Wisconsin connections.

In his film “Valley Maker,” Sean Kafer, a New London High School graduate, combines documentary and personal travelogue to chronicle his trip down the Mississippi River from Prescott, Wis., to New Orleans. He makes the 1,600-mile journey in a hand-crafted barrel raft.

“I call it a postcard from Americana,” Fehl said.

Kafer’s 72-minute film is scheduled for 9 p.m. Friday, Nov. 11, and again at 6 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 12.

“Sierra Spirits” is a 19-minute comedy by another New London native, Gary Brummer. Three goofy cowboys are hired by a saloon owner to hunt down some robbers.

“Sierra Spirits” will be among the short films program, slated for 3:30 p.m. Friday.

Max Hauser, of Iola, will be on hand to discuss his short film, “American Man,” at 2 p.m. Saturday. Hauser had a supporting role in “Afterthought,” the parapsychological thriller filmed in Waupaca in 2006.

David Nordstrom, a native of Eau Claire, returned to his hometown to shoot “Sawdust City,” a feature film about two estranged brothers who spend Thanksgiving Day searching through dive bars for their alcoholic father whom they have not seen for years. According to The Hollywood Reporter, “This extremely well-observed, unpretentious, atmospheric study of dysfunctional family relations has an intoxicating flavor of authenticity.”

“Sawdust City” is slated for screenings at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 10, and 4 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 12.

One of the highlights of the Weyauwega Film Festival will be the screening of “Primary” at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 12.

A ground-breaking doc-umentary of the 1960 presidential race, “Primary” follows Senators John Kennedy and Hubert Humphrey as they campaigned in Wisconsin for the Democratic nomination. “Primary” was directed by Robert Drew and filmed by a crew including Richard Leacock, D.A. Pennebaker and Albert Maysles who went on to make such films as “Monterey Pop,” “Don’t Look Back” and “The War Room.”

The festival will also present the world premiere of “Believe You Me,” a feature film by Scott Honea. Set in Texas, “Believe You Me” is about a small town newspaper photographer who tries to cope with his brother’s death by volunteering at a suicide hotline.

“Believe You Me” will screen at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 11.

“The Gunness Mystery” is a documentary about a woman serial killer who lived in Indiana and advertised for husbands in Scandinavian newspapers. The potential grooms were promised an opportunity to be partners in her farm. They were also told to sell their belongings, bring cash and tell no one where they were going. The men’s whereabouts remained unknown for years, until the dismembered bodies of at least 40 people were discovered buried on the Gunness farm. Two of her victims were from Iola and Scandinavia.

“The Gunness Mystery” is scheduled for 6 p.m. Friday.

Other festival highlights include:

• “Kenbe La,” a documentary about Haiti’s Holy Trinity Music School, made by Wisconsin filmmakers Carolyn Armstrong of Lawrence University and Stephen Anunson.

• “The Forest Prince and the Pig Man,” is a documentary about hitchhiking in America, directed by Craig Constantine. The film tells two parallel stories. One is about Billy Jack, a contemporary traveler who thumbs his way across the country, meeting unusual people along the way. The other describes the history of hitchhiking in America.

• “Hotstuff” is a documentary about glass making, directed by Robin Lehman. This film is having its world premiere at the Weyauwega Film Festival.

• “Atroz” is a 10-minute short directed by Franciso Alvarez. The film’s title means “awful” in Spanish, and it is a teddy bear’s first-person account of the endearments he must endure at the hands of a little girl.

• “Camp Unity” is an American film set in Iraq. It tells the story of a group of Americans who held a summer music and dance workshop with Kurdish youths.

The festival includes more than a dozen short films, as well as selections from the Wildwood Film Festival in the Fox Valley.

Weyauwega International Film Festival Schedule

Thursday, Nov. 10

1 p.m. Shorts Program 1

2 p.m. “Believe You Me”

4 p.m. Shorts Program 2

5:30 p.m. “Camp Unity”

7 p.m. “Sawdust City”

9 p.m. “Forest Prince and the Pig Man”

Friday, Nov. 11

1 p.m. “Hotstuff”

2 p.m. “Living River: The Ganges”

3:30 p.m. Shorts Program 3

5 p.m. Wildwood Selections

6 p.m. “Gunness Mystery”

7 p.m. “Believe You Me”

9 p.m. “Valley Maker”

Saturday, Nov. 12

10:30 a.m. “Forest Prince & the Pig Man”

Noon “Kenbe La – Hold On”

2 p.m. Shorts Program 4

3 p.m. Wildwood Selections

4 p.m. “Sawdust City”

6 p.m. “Valley Maker”

7:30 p.m. “Primary”

8:30 p.m. Closing Night Party

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