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Wega Arts hosts film festival

Four days, 46 films, 18 countries

Ian Teal calls the eighth annual Weyauwega International Film Festival “the best lineup ever.”

“We have received more submissions than ever before,” said Teal, who is the festival’s director.

Slated to run Wednesday through Saturday, Nov. 7-10, at the Gerold Opera House, this year’s festival features 46 films representing 18 different countries.

A long lost silent film will be a highlight of the festival.

Harry Houdini’s 1919 film, “The Grim Game,” will screen at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 10.

Houdini stars as a man jailed unjustly for a murder he did not commit. He uses his amazing powers of escape to free himself and pursue the actual killers, who hold his fiancée captive.

Teal said Wega Arts supporter Tom Boldt is a Houdini fan and recommended what was considered Houdini’s best film.

It is filled with exciting escapes and stunts that put Houdini’s skills to the test.

The story of how the film was discovered and restored after missing for nearly 100 years is as intriguing as the film itself.

Teal said there had been rumors that a collector had a complete 16 mm print of the film in his private collection.

In 2015, film preservationist Rick Schmidlin tracked down the film and with the help of Turner Classic Movies had it restored.

“Outside of a few screenings in California, this is the first festival screening of this long lost classic,” Teal said.

The film will be introduced by film historian Jack Rhodes, who is responsible for the popular First Thursday Film Series at the Waupaca Area Public Library.

Boldt will display some rare Houdini memorabilia and discuss Houdini’s upbringing in nearby Appleton.

Schmidlin will explain how he tracked down the film.

The Weyauwega International Film Festival features many films with Wisconsin connections.

Pet Names

Filmed in Wisconsin, “Pet Names” is directed by Carol Brandt, who is a graduate of the film school at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

“‘Pet Names’ is about a girl who has dropped out of grad school and is taking care of her mother,” Teal said. “She decides to go camping with a neighbor for the weekend. You soon learn that they have some baggage.”

Meredith Johnston, who wrote the screenplay and stars in “Pet Names,” will attend the festival and answer questions from the audience.

Another Wisconsin-based film will be “Back of the Staircase,” directed by Drew Britton, another graduate of the UW-Milwaukee film school.

Telling the story of a dysfunctional family that gathers at the home of their comatose mother, “Back of the Staircase” will be screened at 12:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 10.

“Lake Michigan Monster” is another Wisconsin film, made on the shores of Lake Michigan.

An eccentric ship captain and a group of specialists attempt to hunt down the wiliest creature of the deep – the Lake Michigan Monster.

This madcap comedy is filmed in black-and-white and harkens back to the old creature features.

Director Ryland Brickson Cole Tews will be in attendance for the screening at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 9.

The festival also features “2001: A Space Odyssey,” which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.

2001: A Space Oddysey

This science fiction masterpiece takes the audience on a mysterious journey beginning with early man and culminating with a psychedelic trip to Jupiter.

“Here is a chance to see this masterpiece on the big screen,” Teal said.

“2001” screens at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 7, immediately following the opening night reception at 7 p.m.

The reception includes a free pasta dinner for all attendees.

Among the festival’s many international films are “You Go To My Head,” scheduled to show at 3:30 p.m. Saturday.

Teal described the film as “visually stunning, reminiscent of early Antonioni movies because it tells its story with pictures more than dialogue.”

Filmed in Morocco, “You Go To My Head” tells the story of Dafne, who suffers from post-traumatic amnesia following a mysterious car accident. Jake, the first person she sees when she regains consciousness, tells her he is her husband.

The film’s director, Dimitri de Clercq from Paris, France plans to attend the screening.

Saturday wraps up with the awards ceremony at about 9:30 p.m.

A reception follows with complimentary hors d’oeuvres.

The Gerold is located at 136 E. Main St. in downtown Weyauwega.

The full film schedule and festival passes are available at wegafilm.com.

There are no individual movie tickets, only day passes and festival passes.

Day Passes are $18 and good for any one whole day. Attendees may come and go as they please.

Festival Passes are $45, good for all four days and include two free popcorns and one free drink.

Passes are also available at the Gerold Box office during the festival.

The Gerold has theater seating down front, table seating and balcony seating.

For more information, call 920-867-4888.

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