International, independent, Wisconsin cinema
By Robert Cloud
The 13th annual Weyauwega International Film Festival runs Wednesday through Saturday, Nov. 8-11, at the Gerold Opera House
This year’s festival features 55 films from around the globe, as well as 19 films with Wisconsin connections.
Many screenings are followed by the filmmakers taking the stage and speaking about their work.
The festival opens at 4 p.m. Wednesday with a historical thriller based on a Green Bay urban legend, “Room 108: The Clearing.”
Directed by Freddie Morano, the film is set in February 1900 during the performance of a play at a downtown Green Bay Theater. The lead actor and actress are having an affair and when the husband discovers them kissing on a balcony, he shoots them both, then shoots himself. Their ghosts will haunt the theater.
A century later, a paranormal investigator will travel back in time to find the truth about what happened that fateful night.
Also on Wednesday, “Tell Me Iggy” will show at 6:30 p.m. Filmed in Miami, New York, Berlin, Athens and Paris Iggy Pop talks about his past and present, his concerts and projects. The documentary features interviews with Johnny Depp, John Waters, Debbie Harry (Blondie), Nick Kent and Beatrice Dalle.
Wednesday will close with a 7:30 p.m. screening of the 1966 mystery thriller and counter-cultural icon “Blow-Up.”
Set in London in the 1960s, “Blow-Up” follows a fashion photographer who believes that while he was shooting photos of two lovers in a park may have inadvertently captured a murder on film.
Directed by Michelangelo Antonioni, the film stars David Hemmings, Vanessa Redgrave and Sarah Miles.
It also features music composed and performed by jazz pianist Herbie Hancock and a band with some of the most outstanding musicians of the New York jazz scene.
In a scene near the film’s end, The Yardbirds, with Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck on guitar, perform on stage at a nightclub.
“Blow-Up inspired future generations of filmmakers and artists with its nontraditional storytelling, captivating, hallucinating visuals and its deep, thought-provoking attempt at disclosing and exploring the perceptive nature of reality and the often baffling relationship of truth and perception,” according to Ian Teal, who with Kathy Fehl co-founded Wega Arts and the Weyauwega International Film Festival
“Blow-Up” won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival and was nominated for Oscars for Best Director and Best Original Screen Play.
Hollywood’s Hays Production Code denied approval for “Blow-Up” due to its explicit sexual content, but the film’s critical and commercial success contributed to the code being replaced by the MPAA film rating system two years later.
Thursday will feature three short-film programs at 1:45 p.m., 3:30 p.m. and 5 p.m.
Each program shows four to five films that range from four to 44 minutes long. Animated flicks, documentary pics, student projects and short movies from Wisconsin, the U.S., Cameroon, France, Russia, China, United Kingdom, Canada and the Czech Republic are among festival picks.
At 6:30 p.m. Thursday, the festival will show “American Pot Story: Oaksterdam,” a feature-length documentary about efforts in Oakland, California to legalize marijuana.
“A handful of activists led the charge, fighting stigma and misinformation. Eventually they achieved success with their efforts, spearheading the change for the rest of the country as well,” Teal said. “As of 2023, 24 states have fully legalized it and 15 have medical usage legalized.”
The film’s director, Ravit Markus, will attend the screening at the festival.
Thursday will close with an 8:30 p.m. screening of “Tourists,” a film directed by Jon Jost.
Jost has directed more than 40 feature length films since 1973 and more than 50 short films since 2020.
“Jost began making films in the early 1960s. His films, which he made independently and on low budgets, demonstrate a creative imagination and seriousness of purpose which have earned him an important place in the history of American independent cinema,” Teal said. “Jost made his first feature-length film in 1974, and has since been devoted to the making of a wide-ranging series of films, largely focused on specifically American topics, in form ranging from essays, to essay-fictions, to avant-garde and new narrative forms. His work has shown widely in museums, film archives and festivals since 1975.”
Jost will be at the film festival to present two of his films: “Tourists” on Thursday and “All the Vermeers in New York” on Saturday night.
Showing at 1:30 p.m. Friday, “Cat City” is a 2023 feature documentary on feral cats in Chicago,
Directed by cinematographer Ben Kolak and researched by award-winning investigative journalist Rebecca Burns, “Cat City” explores the pro and cons of an ordinance passed in 2007 that protects feral cats in Chicago.
The city’s policy of catch-and-kill was replaced with a policy to trap, neuter and return (TNR) feral cats to their neighborhoods, where some residents volunteered to be feline caretakers.
Among those interviewed in the film are TNR caretakers, an animal scientist, an apartment manager and a birder who sees the cats as predators.
“Through an ensemble story and cinematic style, “Cat City” presents a holistic portrait of the many feral cat issues and interventions, to inform better outcomes for all people and animals,” Teal said.
Two more shorts programs are scheduled for 3:15 p.m. and 5 p.m.
Psychofest starts at 7 p.m. with a lineup of horror, science fiction and thrillers. Nine short films and one feature-length film are scheduled.
Psychofest is an homage to the local history of the 1959 novel by Robert Bloch and the 1960 movie by Alfred Hitchcock. Bloch lived in Weyauwega at the time and his novel was inspired by Ed Gein’s gruesome murders in Plainfield.
At 9:45 p.m. Friday, Psychofest will screen “Eight Eyes.”
Filmed in Serbia and Macedonia, “Eight Eyes” is directed by American filmmaker Austin Jennings, who work is noted for its tense psychological horror.
Cass, played by Emily Sweet, and her husband Gav, played by Bradford Thomas, are backpacking through the former Yugoslavia, when they encounter a man who calls himself St. Peter, played by Bruno Veljanovski. He persuades them to follow him to his village where they can experience the “real” Serbia.
“Well honed performances and a directorial approach which will keep you constantly alert to what you’re not seeing keep this uncomfortable thriller taut and believable even at its most absurd,” according to film critic Jennie Kermode.
“Unfriending” will be Saturday’s opening film at noon.
Co-directed by Brett Butler and Jason Butler, “Unfriending” is a dark comedy set at a dinner party where a group of friends set up a life intervention where they try to convince to commit suicide because he has become a burden to himself and others.
The Wega Arts website describes it as “a razor sharp satire on cancel culture and the me generation in general.”
Two short film programs are planned for 1:45 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.
At 3:30 p.m., the festival will screen “When the Seedlings Grow,” a drama directed by Rêger Azad that depicts a one-day journey when a Syrian father and daughter go into town to sell yogurt and experience how their country has been changed by war and revolution.
At 6 p.m. the festival will present a second film by Jon Jost, “All the Vermeers in New York.”
Set in the late 1980s, this 1990 film opens with Anna, a French actress, gazing at a painting by Dutch Baroque artist Johannes Vermeer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She encounters a stockbroker named Mark who follows her from room to room in the museum. A romantic relationship filled with misunderstanding and missed opportunities ensues.
The late Roger Ebert described “All the Vermeers in New York” as “the kind of film you have to think and think about, and then finally you realize you admire it.”
Screening at 8 p.m., “Hundreds of Beavers,” is a black-and-white, mostly silent slapstick comedy made in Milwaukee in 2022.
“Hundreds of Beavers” is set in the Great Lakes in the 19th century when beavers attack an applejack distillery. The owner responds by trapping and killing beavers that look like costumed characters on a children’s show.
“The film is made by the same team, Mike Cheslik and Ryland Brickson Cole Tews, who brought us the highly entertaining and original Lake Michigan Monster in 2018 which took home the Weyauwega International Film Festival Spirit Award,” Teal said. “Their inspired use of special effects and sight gags provide plenty of laughs.”
Cheslik and Tews will be at the festival for the screening of their movie.
At 10 p.m., the festival will close with an awards ceremony.
The full festival pass costs $45 and grants admission to all screenings.
A day pass costs $15 for Wednesday and Thursday and $20 for Friday and Saturday and grants admission for the entire day.
Go to wiff2023.eventive.org/passes/buy to purchases passes for the festival.
An early bird discount is available for $37 through Oct. 28. Use the code wifpass at checkout.
The Gerold features a full bar and menu from the Wega Bistro.