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Post by Sean Weitner on 11/15/2012 4:25pm

This week, Christina Martin-Wright, who served last year as interim operations director for the Wisconsin Film Festival, was promoted to executive relations and programs director for the UW Arts Institute. The Arts Institute puts on the film fest, in addition to other university initiatives such as Interdisciplinary Arts Residency Program, the Pro Arte Quartet and the CD Recording Project, and in her new position Martin-Wright has executive responsibility for all those programs. Dane101 sat down with Martin-Wright to discuss her new position and the Wisconsin Film Festival, which has been in the news more frequently than usual during its 2012 off-season, with announcements including a move to an eight-day festival that has shifted from the Capitol-to-campus corridor to the campus-to-Hilldale corridor, as well as restructuring that moved longtime festival director Meg Hamel into a new position as outreach specialist.

Dane101: Congratulations on the new position. I got the e-mail about it when the position was listed -- it's a big position. You're doing a lot of things: You're doing all of the communications for the Arts Institute, you are doing all of the fundraising for these programs, you're running all of these programs, and you're also the campus liaison. That's a lot to take on.

CMW: Put like that, it is, but the fact of the matter is that I'm not running the programs. There are many, many, many skilled, brilliant people who are actually on the ground taking charge of all of these programs of the Arts Institute. I am not, per se, running them, but serving as more of an air traffic controller to make sure that everything is running smoothly and being the liaison between the staff and the executive management of the Arts Institute.

Dane101: Which is not a position that existed before?

CMW: Well, yes and no. There's a much larger restructuring going on right now at the Institute and at the university in the creation of the School of the Arts. A lot of things are in flux.

Dane101: Why will this new position, and you in this new position, be good for the festival?

CMW: Last year, artistic vision transferred from the Arts Institute film office and traveled across the street to Vilas [Hall] and the Communication Arts department. The Comm Arts department is not part of the Arts Institute. The Arts Institute retains fiscal and fiduciary responsibility for the festival itself. It handles all of the operations involved -- from securing venues, overseeing contracts, all of the publicity and box office management, volunteers ... all of the things that really make the festival happen. But the one aspect that is crucial to the fest that went across the street -- University Avenue; we happen to be on either side of the street -- was film programming. What's going to be shown? Who's going to be invited to the festival? The full management of the Wisconsin's Own competition, which is the cornerstone of our festival. Management and direction is now controlled on that other side of the street. Last year, in this interim year, duties were parceled and assigned to individuals. Norma Saldivar maintained oversight and ultimate responsibility for the festival as executive director of the Arts Institute, but what we were [lacking] in the transitional year was someone to bridge the gap and keep the vision of the festival itself as an event in Madison in mind. That's me.

Post by dane101 on 7/19/2012 12:00pm

Back in April (ah, what we wouldn’t give for a 44 degree day now…), dane101 covered the 2012 Wisconsin Film Fest as an event partner for this wonderful institution. During the Fest, a number of filmmakers took time from their busy screening and viewing schedules to sit down and chat with us about their craft, the disadvantage of loud 1970s era equipment used during sex scenes, video games and eating contests. The podcast was recorded at the Madison Concourse Hotel.

Find the first part of the podcast here.

Both of the interviews in part 2 are here.

Or you can download them separately:

:: Robert Flaxman and John Iltis, A Labor of Love
(dane10 also posted a preview of this film.)

:: Adam Cornelius, Ecstasy of Order the Tetris Masters
(dane101 posted a preview as well as a review for this film.)

Post by Dan Walkner on 6/29/2012 10:04am

Monsieur Lazhar
Canada | 2011 | 94 min | 35mm |
In French with English subtitles
Starts today at Sundance Cinemas in Madison

This review originally appeared as part of our Wisconsin Film Festival 2012 coverage

A friend of mine, a kindergarten teacher, nearly blew one of her student's minds when she told him that the large wooden door in the back of the classroom was simply where she hung her jacket; she didn't live in there. Realizing that teachers have lives outside of grading papers and writing report cards is something that children seldom consider. In the case of Monsieur Lazhar, played by Mohamed Fellag in this Oscar-nominated film, his life is complicated by his immigration status and a recent family tragedy that he has only just begun to process. Also, to complicate matters, he takes over a classroom left vacant by a young teacher's suicide.

In the film, written and directed by Philippe Felardeau, loud and lively children are juxtaposed with shots of the institutional sterility of the school building. Visions of cold and drab hallways open to apartments bursting with African violets and other eye catching décor. Looking out the window of his mundane flat, Lazhar sees snowflakes trickling like bits of spinning silver.

Post by dane101 on 6/25/2012 10:30am


Back in April, dane101 covered the 2012 Wisconsin Film Fest as an event partner for this wonderful institution. During the Fest, a number of filmmakers took time from their busy screening and viewing schedules to sit down and chat with us about their craft, their connection to Wisconsin (and the Forevertron), and whether or not they ran a pizza eating contest (stay tuned for the answer). The podcast was recorded at the Madison Concourse Hotel.

Below are the first three interviews, downloadable separately or HERE as one big chunk.

:: Kyle Richards, Amateur Monster Movie
(dane10 also posted a review of this film.)

:: Nick Holle, Jim Boston, Ethan Uslan, The Entertainers
(dane101 posted an interview as well as a preview for this film.)

:: Alex Gaynor, Wid Winner & the Slipstream 

Post by Jeff Kalhagen on 4/30/2012 3:30pm

The Entertainers Co-Director Nick Holle discusses his documentary and the premiere screening at the 2012 Wisconsin Film Festival. If you don't see the video below please refresh this page.

Post by Sean Weitner on 4/28/2012 5:40pm

There's plenty of reason to hate the adage "Those who can, do: those who can't, teach," but I have to say I've always liked people like James Schamus, who both teaches and does, getting Oscar nominations for writing (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) and producing (Brokeback Mountain) while also serving as a full-fledged film prof at NYU. The prospect of a film fest lecture, presented by UW Humanities, in which he'd talk about what we could learn about storytelling from the almost entirely redacted dossier that the ACLU made the Department of Homeland Security furnish to its subject, the activist Nancy Kricorian (Schamus' wife), seemed like a perfect Schamus sampler.

And it was -- potentially too much so for a casual audience, because Schamus was in full academic mode, weaving a deft argument from which your humble correspondent only recognized one out of every 10 thinkers and artists referenced. (If you showed up to hear film folk get name-dropped, tough luck.) You may have had to be one of the 1 percent of the 1 percent of the 1 percent who gets their kicks musing about the dramatic weight of heterodiegetic narrators being revealed as homodiegetic, but: I am, so I had a great time.

Schamus' main theme is a favorite of mine -- paranoia and our Big Brother-ish times -- told via his tale of Kricorian being surprised to learn not only that the authorities had built a file about her, but that they were obligated to release it to her. And of course, upon receipt, 99 percent of it was blacked out.

Post by Sean Weitner on 4/28/2012 9:55am

A lot of my film fest was ascetic -- the cell in Grey Matter, bleak Quebec in Familiar Ground, the stripped-down planes of Frames. So stepping into Elena, which opens and spends half of its time in a lush Russian home, was a sensory rush -- a Xanadu of colors, textures, fabrics, surfaces, lights and shadows that made your eyes quiver. The Orpheum, mostly full for this closing-night selection, seemed to caught up in the same appreciative hush.

I'd judge, based on eavesdropping once the lights came up, that a lot of the appreciation had soured by movie's end. Elena -- sold in the fest guide as "Hitchcockian" -- is a tricky film in that despite strong performances, lovely classical filmmaking and a well-plotted script written with clear conviction, the end is deeply unsatisfying, a bleak plop.

When the movie opens, we think Elena (Nadezhda Markina) is the middle-aged live-in housekeeper for a retired plutocrat, handling his domestic chores and making her nut so she can provide money to her unemployed son and his young family -- whose apartment, which we visit with Elena, is infinitely shabbier but just as carefully set-dressed as the apartment. But then we upgrade our estimation of her role to housekeeper with benefits, and it's not until an hour in that we realize they are husband and wife.

That's admirably patient storytelling from director Andrei Zvyagintsev and screenwriter Oleg Negin, and the limbo of that relationship provides shifting vantages into those power dynamics -- the pair's biggest point of contention is whether he can excuse her son's failed adulthood and provide a modest-ish sum that would put her ne'er-do-well grandson in college rather than the army, or whether all his fortune will flow to his ingrate daughter from a prior marriage.

Post by michael donnelly on 4/26/2012 11:15am

Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation
USA | 1989 | 100 min | Digibeta
narrative | section: Special Event

After Wisconsin Film Fest attendees got the treat of seeing Eric Zala & Chris Strompolos's childhood remake of Raiders of the Lost Ark at the Orpheum on Saturday, April 21, the filmmakers stayed for a lengthy Q&A session. Among other things, they explained some of their special effects, where they got a truck, and how they found an Egyptian desert in 1980s Mississippi. Zala and Strompolos have a book coming out this fall about the making of the film.

Also check out dane101's review of the film.

Post by Scott Gordon on 4/25/2012 9:34am

As the Union South Marquee opened up Friday night for animator Don Hertzfeldt's screening and Q&A, the screen showed sketches and storyboards full of chicken-scratch instructions and cryptic calculations. Some showed blurry scribbles of nothing in particular, others showed people with mutant distended crotch-bellies bumping into grocery-store fruit displays, and still others showed the story of Hertzfeldt's "Bill" trilogy coming into focus.

The screening included the newest of that series, "It's Such A Beautiful Day," and the previous entries, "Everything Will Be OK" and "I Am So Proud Of You." The three films, about a man suffering from an unidentified mental illness, alternated with the kind of gleefully violent shorts for which many of us first came to love Hertzfeldt. Sure, they all featured his simple line-drawn characters, but it made for a temperamental lurching back and forth that highlighted how far he's pushed himself emotionally with the new work.

The screening kicked off with "Wisdom Teeth," in which a friend pulls out stitches from his friend's gums after a wisdom-teeth operation. The characters speak in a quasi-European gibberish language, subtitled with lines like "This is a pain of unreasonable proportion." The brilliance of the short is that it somehow finds comic timing within one interminably drawn-out bit, the victim picking just the right moment to toss his arms up in exasperation as more and more thread piles up at his friend's feet. It's not quite as long and hallucinatory as the amazing "Rejected," which wasn't included Friday night, but had the same power to wrench laughs out of a crowd.

Post by dane101 on 4/24/2012 9:01am

Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation
USA | 1989 | 100 min | Digibeta
narrative | section: Special Event

Rob Matsushita

Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation, for those not familiar, is a near-shot-for-shot, sequence-for sequence remake of the classic Steven Spielberg action adventure. Eric Zala, Chris Strompolos, and Jayson Lamb were all around 12 years old when they started planning this, and by the time they finished shooting and editing they were all ready to graduate from high school. It was in sequence, and one of the many charms of the movie is that as the story continues, you get to watch the kids grow up.

It's impossible to watch this without context -- a big part of the fun of the movie comes from how familiar you are with the original Raiders. Throughout, you're asking yourself, "Okay, how are they going to pull off the scene with the Well Of Souls?" "Are they going to do the bit with Marion in the mirror?" "Are they doing the truck chase?"