Oscar-winning films top Wisconsin Film Festival schedule

Michael Muckian, Contributing writer

Film fans still trying to see this year’s Oscar-winning films can check off two features on their lists by attending the Wisconsin Film Festival in Madison.

The Salesman, the French/Iranian suspense thriller that won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, and My Life as a Zucchini, the French/Swiss film that took honors for Best Animated Feature, will be shown at the fest, which runs March 30–April 6.

“We were surprised and happy that we are able to screen them,” says Ben Reiser, coordinator of the festival presented by the University of Wisconsin-Madison Arts Institute in association with the UW Department of Communication Arts. “As an added bonus, Nick Offerman, who does the character voicing for the English language version of Zucchini, is coming to the festival to support this film, as well as three others.”

Also attending the fest: Terence Davies, director and screenwriter for 2016’s A Quiet Passion about American poet Emily Dickinson — and Larry Peerce, director of One Potato, Two Potato, the groundbreaking 1964 film about interracial marriage.

‘Fraud’

The festival, now in its 19th year, boasts more than 120 films shown at five venues on campus and around the city. Categories — consisting of features, documentaries and shorts produced in the United States and other countries — include restorations and rediscoveries, as well as films made in Wisconsin or that have state connections.

There’s also a short selection of children’s films and features by new women directors.

Despite the wide range of film styles, subject matter and treatment, Reiser has no trouble naming the festival’s most unusual film: Fraud, a 52-minute work of “metafiction” that creates a brand-new genre — the found-footage crime thriller.

The 2016 film chronicles the years 2008–15 in the life of a working-class family using recorded footage from their everyday lives that was uploaded to YouTube. Director Dean Fleischer-Camp deftly weaves the banal footage into a pulp fiction odyssey that finds the family fleeing the law. They’re victims of their own excessive and ill-advised spending habits at equally banal big-box stores and on weekend getaways.

Fraud is a blazing-fast mindbender and without a doubt this year’s wildest cinematic ride,” Reiser says.

His other top selections include:

  • Whose Streets? (2017). A Wisconsin premiere and part of the New Women Directors series, the documentary film by director Sabaah Folayan offers a living history of the Black Lives Matter movement in Ferguson, Missouri.
  • The 60 Yard Line (2016). This world-premiere film is described as “a romantic comedy, a heartwarming bromance and a dark exploration of the relationship between booze and Midwestern sports mania” in its tale of several Green Bay Packers superfans. Director Leif Gantvoort and screenwriters Ryan Churchill and Nick Greco will introduce the film, part of the fest’s Wisconsin’s Own series.
  • Nocturama (2016). This Belgian/French/German production, part of the New International Cinema series, chronicles the overnight exploits of a group of young, attractive Parisians in a ballet of movement and sound. The group eventually occupies a department store for the equivalent of an overnight rave.
  • Transmissions from the Heartland offers four short 2016 documentaries from the Wisconsin’s Own series: A Place in the Garden (15 minutes) chronicles two Wisconsin couples who moonlight as hummingbird experts; The Dundee Project (20 minutes) finds Milwaukee filmmaker Mark Borchardt of American Movie fame drinking and chatting with Dundee residents about the area’s plethora of UFO sightings; Whadya’ Do Now? (30 minutes) features Madison radio personality Michael Feldman after the demise of his comedy-talk show, which aired on NPR for 31 years; and Silently Steal Away (20 minutes) brings Borchardt back as narrator of a look at The Jack Raymond Show, which broadcast on a Chippewa Falls radio station for 48 years. Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon makes an appearance in the film.
  • King of Jazz (1930) is a restored version of possibly the most visually stunning of all Hollywood musicals. The Technicolor, all-singing, all-dancing program may be best known for introducing the world to Bing Crosby.

On screen

For a list of films and other information, visit 2017.wifilmfest.org.