Tag Archives: Milwaukee LGBT Film Festival

Wisconsin Sound #6



At the beginning of 2015 two of the most buzzed about Milwaukee bands were fronted by females. GGOOLLDD’s feel good earworm single “Gold” quickly made its way on local airwaves, while Whips put out arguably the best Wisconsin record of 2014, Turn It On, which garnered heaps of critical acclaim.

Before Margaret Butler of GGOOLLDD (GG) and Ashley Smith of Whips came on the scene the leading ladies of Milwaukee music were the sister duo of Vic and Gab (Victoriah Banuelos and Hannah Gabriela Banuelos). Vic and Gab’s catchy indie pop landed them a showcase at South by Southwest (SXSW), as well as a gig opening for President Obama.

GG headed into 2016 hot on the heels of a successful EP and a string of summer festival appearances. They would become one of two local bands to sell out Turner Hall Ballroom in the last decade. Whips mostly went on hiatus, as members focused on other projects and businesses. Meanwhile, the Banuelos sisters reinvented themselves as synth pop trio Reyna, taking a few pages out of GG’s playbook.

Whips at AM/FM.
Whips at AM/FM.

All three bands in question were at the center of a storm of local music these past few weeks. On September 16 my girlfriend and I went to Madison to see UK/US rock band The Kills play Live on King Street, a free summer concert series outside the Majestic Theatre. The Kills combine the hard-driving guitar of Jamie Hince and the beautifully brash vocals of Alison Mosshart, who reminded me of Whips’ Smith during her badass performance.

Though Whips and The Kills are far more similar, GG was the first opener at Live on King Street. It’s a testament to GG’s consistency, whereas Whips has only played a handful of shows over the past year. To their credit, Whips have been working on a new record.

Scottish electro-pop trio CHVRCHES was scheduled to play The Riverside Theater on September 25 and an opener wasn’t announced until the week of the show. I figured GG was a shoe-in, but Reyna ended up taking the guest spot. Coincidentally, GG played a surprise show the night before at the old Hotel Foster space, sharing a bill with non other than Whips.

The AM/FM pop-up event at the old Hotel Foster space was a huge success. The crowd was well beyond capacity. Whips ran through a tight set that included new songs, which I’m happy to report are really good. Later in the night GG kept the party going. They played a song that I mistook for a cover of The Kills. Turns out it was their new single “Undercovers.”

Reyna at The Riverside (Courtesy of the Pabst Theater Group).
Reyna at The Riverside (Courtesy of the Pabst Theater Group).

The CHVRCHES show was my first time seeing any iteration of the Banuelos sisters live. When I first heard Reyna’s debut single “Spill Your Colors,” I mistook it for a new CHVRCHES song, so it was fitting that they opened. But their set left me unimpressed. Their cover of “Flesh Without Blood” by Grimes was a noble effort in an otherwise mediocre performance. They seem to be copying GG’s sound and style, as one of the sisters wore a glittery green jacket. What’s next? If Whips’ new album thrusts them to the forefront of local music, will the third Banuelos sister band be hard rocking?

Whips will headline the Beet Street Harvest Festival at Cactus Club in Milwaukee on October 15.

GGOOLLDD will headline Turner Hall Ballroom in Milwaukee on December 2 and The Frequency in Madison on December 9.


Speaking of the AM/FM pop-up event, one of the many cool aspects of that night was the Video Villains. The Milwaukee-based visual art projection duo of Michael Britton and Adam Kuhnen have made a name for themselves by creating dynamic backdrops for live music performances. Originally working as DJs and promoters, the duo switched over to video projection after attending an eye-opening party in Minneapolis.

Ad Rock Music Series (PHOTO - Bigshot Robot).
Ad Rock Music Series (PHOTO – Bigshot Robot).

When indie pop rockers Dream Attics made their live debut in May 2015 at Mad Planet Video Villains created a beautiful set with synchronized table lamps, smoke machines and back-projected visuals. That summer they brought their brand of sensory art to the open waters of Lake Michigan on the Noh Life Cruise.

This summer I noticed that I wasn’t seeing their name on local shows as much. That’s because the duo has expanded their vision, collaborating on larger scale events and some that aren’t music related. I emailed Britton to see what the guys have been up to over the past year.

“We still do local shows but have switched our focus to more well thought out events that can help facilitate our creative vision. We are doing Planned Parenthood’s 80th Anniversary party at Potawatomi Casino this Fall, along with the infamous Zombie Pub Crawl in Minneapolis.”

“Some of the highlights of our summer include teaming up with Beauty Bar and Red Bull for an awesome Lollapalooza after party with LCD Soundsystem. We also teamed up with Visit Milwaukee for national tourism week for a two-night projection mapped building installation downtown on the Marcus Performing Arts Center.”

On September 2 my girlfriend and I went to the newly-opened Adventure Rock indoor climbing center/condominiums on Milwaukee’s East Side for the first Ad Rock Music Series event. Having already been involved with the Brookfield location, the Villains created an installation for the Milwaukee site’s grand opening. After that, Adventure Rock was all ears for the prospect of a music series.

“The Ad Rock Music Series is something we have wanted to tackle for a while now. We are always looking for opportunities to host concerts in a non-traditional setting and the climbing gym was the perfect chance for us to transform a space into something Milwaukee has never seen before.”

And indeed it was something unique for not only Milwaukee but Wisconsin. During sets by Boom Boom Klap, Chris Siegel, Strehlow x Ian Ewing, and Win + Woo, the Villains projected custom visuals on an off-white, forty-foot climbing wall. With the padded floor below the climbing walls and the huge open space, it was an awesome environment to experience live music. The Villains are currently planning the second Ad Rock Music event and promise more surprises and bigger names.


The bustling crowds at the 8th installment of the Milwaukee Film Festival put our cinephile tendencies on full display. Though the largest local film fest has wrapped, another beloved celebration of cinema is just around the corner. The 31st Milwaukee LGBT Film/Video Festival officially kicks off October 12. Before previewing some of those films, let’s take a look at some highlights from the MFF.

On Friday September 23 local music and filmmaking luminaries gathered for the second Milwaukee Music Video Show. A few videos made their debut at the festival including Maritime’s cheeky “Roaming Empire,” Fox Face’s eerie “Teenage Wiccan,” and the touching “Doctor My Own Patience” by Serengeti. The entries were cinematic, silly, trippy, haunting, and overall impressive.

Menomonee Falls-native Richard Riehle of Office Space fame appears in Trapper Schoepp’s video for “Settlin’ or Sleepin’ Around.” During the Q & A Schoepp told the crowd how he landed this Hollywood actorby following him into Comet Cafe one afternoon and asking him politely.

Canopies “Getting Older” utilizes infrared structured light imaging. During the Q & A we learned that this technique was achieved by hacking an Xbox Kinect camera and using open-source hardware and custom software. In Fabian James & Treyy G’s “See You” the dynamic moves of breakdancer Andrei Duka Antipov were captured by a homemade camera rig that spun around Antipov. Interestingly, director Quinn Hester randomly met the singer during a visit to an Apple Store.

The first time I saw Group of the Altos’ video for “Coplights” it was an emotional experience. The texture and imagery are both beautiful and bleak, perfectly matching the song. All dozen-plus members of the group appear in the video. Seeing “Coplights” on the big screen at the Oriental was ten times as emotional, considering the band is currently on hiatus. Whether GOTA returns or not, the video stands as a testament to one of the greatest ensembles in Wisconsin music history.

Throughout the Milwaukee Music Video Show two camps emerged as the premier local music video makers: Sane Crew and Cody LaPlant/Damien Klaven, each with three entries. While the Sane Crew video for WC Tank’s “27th & National” was a worthy contender for best video, LaPlant/Klaven took home the award for their work on WebsterX’s “Lately.”

The Milwaukee LGBT Film/Video Festival will unspool at the UWM Union Cinema next week, save for the Opening Night film, which will be at the Oriental Theatre. Kiki (October 12, 7 p.m., Oriental) kicks off the festival by revisiting the NYC scene where LGBTQ youth-of-color found agency and inspiration in the Kiki balls profiled in the landmark 1990 documentary Paris is Burning.

Another loosely music-related film is Spa Night (October 15, 7 p.m.), about a first generation Korean-American young man struggling with homosexual desires, set principally in the nocturnal world of spas and karaoke bars in LA’s Koreatown. Actor Joe Seo won the Special Jury Award for breakthrough performance at Sundance.

The legacy of the oldest Black owned disco in America is featured in Jewel’s Catch One (October 17, 7 p.m.). The film is rich with music from the last forty years, plus exclusive interviews with the likes of Madonna, Sandra Bernhard and more, as it chronicles Jewel-Thais Williams’ four decades of music, fashion, celebrity and activism. Williams and director C. Fitz will be in attendance.

As part of the Closing Night program Who Wants Cake?: An Evening of Community Shorts (October 23, 7 p.m.) there will be a short about the first and only gay-themed country music album. Forty years after its release Patrick Heggerty’s Lavender Country (1973) is being heralded as “resonant and wonderful…a rare act of bravery and honesty.” The short documentary (These C*cksucking Tears) explores Heggerty’s unlikely personal journey.


In the last issue of WiG I wrote about the ladies of New Boyz Club, who celebrated their debut EP release on September 30 at Company Brewing. For that performance they put together a lineup of supporting acts featuring talented females, including Sista Strings, Hello Death and the power punk quartet of Fox Face, the only band on the bill I hadn’t yet seen.

Hot off the release of their first vinyl pressingthe Teenage Wiccan 7-inchand the debut of their video for “Teenage Wiccan” at the Milwaukee Music Video Show, Fox Face thoroughly impressed in a live setting.

Back in April during the Arte Para Todos festival I heard that Fox Face’s abrasive volume elicited noise complaints from a neighbor of Brenner Brewing Company, where the show was being held. Allegedly, the neighbor had a decibel level App on his iPhone that he used to prove how deafening the sound was.

Indeed, Fox Face plays loud and fast, but with plenty of skill and charisma to back up the big decibels. During their set Fox Face did an awesome cover of Britney Spears’ “Toxic,” which they hadn’t performed since PrideFest. “We’ve got a wiccan set up by our merch table,” bassist Mary-Jo mentioned. “Stop by and we’ll have a séance.” Their witchy sounds and style have made Fox Face one of the best punk bands in Wisconsin.


"Priestess" artwork by Janice Vogt.
“Priestess” artwork by Janice Vogt.

Since taking the city by storm last year with their rapturous live performances, the New Age Narcissism collective has put out some of the best music in Wisconsin. Q the Sun released two excellent projects with WebsterX (KidX) and Lorde Fredd33 (Dead Man’s View), while Lex Allen put out the Social Me Duh EP and the excellent single “Cream and Sugar (ft. WebsterX).” Though she often steals the live show with her magnetic voice and presence, Siren has only released a few songs, including “Queen Medusa.” There have long been talks of an EP, but so far nothing has stuck. That is, until now. “Priestess” (produced by Mic Kellogg) is the first single from Siren’s forthcoming project. Fingers crossed.

Siren will perform live in support of Gosh Pith on October 7 in the Back Room at Colectivo in Milwaukee. Also sharing the bill will be NO/NO and Liquid City Motors.

El-Shareef, the author of one my top six Wisconsin hip-hop projects of the year, is back with an uncharacteristically upbeat Derelle Rideout produced joint called “Uniform Souls.” It’s the first single off Reef’s forthcoming debut album that will be released on vinyl through Germany’s Radio Juicy. Give it a listen here.

img_7552Two weeks after they rocked a packed house at the old Hotel Foster space for the AM/FM event (mentioned above), synthpop heavyweights GGOOLLDD dropped a new song and announced they’ll be returning to headline Turner Hall Ballroom on December 2 with Har Mar Superstar and Flint Eastwood. The new track, “Undercovers,” marks a turning point in the writing process for the group, as all five members provided input. It was recorded with Ben H. Allen in his Atlanta recording studio in August. It is GG’s best use of guitar to date and another banger for their repertoire. Listen to it here.


Though it’s a couple months later than I originally reported in my feature on heavy surf pop rockers Soul Low, their new video for “Be Like You” has finally been released. As they mentioned in our interview, it’s “like Pee Wee Herman suburban insanity,” and a nice example of the Soul boys tendency to perform in drag at house shows. Also, it’s somewhat of a preview for their Gloss Records presents: Halloween Spooktacular show at Cactus Club on October 28. Last year on Halloween they performed in full KISS costumes. What will the boys be this year?

The man behind the fest: Carl Bogner talks about this year’s Milwaukee LGBT Film/Video Festival

As the out director of the Milwaukee LGBT Film/Video Festival, Carl Bogner has his finger on the pulse of queer cinema. Thanks to his encyclopedic cinematic knowledge, his impeccable taste and his industry connections, Bogner brings the best to Milwaukee, making the city’s festival one of the nation’s very best of its kind.

For this year’s festival, as for the past 15, Bogner has fashioned a lineup featuring something for everyone – from documentaries to short features to full-length comedies and dramas.

In addition to directing the festival, Bogner is a senior lecturer at UWM’s Peck School of the Arts. I spoke with him about the upcoming Milwaukee LGBT Film/Video Festival, his efforts to help develop the filmmakers of the future – and more.

Gregg Shapiro: Are you a Milwaukee native?

Carl Bogner: Technically. I was born here. My father was a soil conservation engineer for the Department of Agriculture here (in Milwaukee). Before I was two, we moved to suburban Philadelphia and then on to suburban Washington, D.C. I went to high school and college in Virginia (at the University of Virginia, where he received a degree in writing; later, Bogner attended UWM, where he earned a BFA in film).

What do you like best about teaching?

The thinking (laughs). I teach this experimental media class. It’s a real pleasure to get to, on a regular basis, meet forms and artistic ideas that I find pleasurable to engage with. Learning how to communicate them to a new audience allows me opportunities to consider them or new things about them. Teaching is constantly introducing me to new ideas, new histories, new forms and new students. The interaction with students can be stirring. There’s a lot I can learn from … how they engage with these experimental forms. The best thing about teaching is the shared intellectual work that I’m doing with the students. I get to contend with ideas and art forms.

What is involved in the process of selecting film and video titles for the festival?

Because the (administration of the) festival is mostly me, I do have help programming our shorts programs, which in many ways are kind of like their own festival. Each shorts program will contain maybe nine or more short films, and we have three shorts programs. I do have a very able director of shorts programming who works with a committee to review the shorts entries, which are more numerous than what we have (for) the rest of the festival. (In terms of the full-length films), I look to see what is playing elsewhere, using other film festivals as my programming committee, if you will. Throughout the year, looking at things that played at Sundance, Berlin, and (also) at the things showcased at the prominent LGBT film and video festivals, starting with London in March, then Miami and Boston in May, and San Francisco, Los Angeles and Philadelphia in June and July. Probably a lot of the titles I learned about through those festivals but then also there’s stuff that you listen for and look for. This year, I’m thrilled that we’re showing this Philippine film called “Bwakaw.” It played at last year’s New York Film Festival. I keep my ears open to stuff. I read publications and look online, working to keep abreast of what’s out there. 

Is Milwaukee or Wisconsin represented in any of this year’s screenings?

I don’t have any set in Wisconsin. We do have some local talent. The film “Valencia: The Movie/S” is sort of our Wisconsin corner. One of the contributing directors to the film, Jill Soloway, went to UW-Madison. One of the actresses playing the lead character of Michelle (Tea) is Shawna Lipton, a Ph.D. candidate in the English department at UWM. 

Which films in this year’s lineup especially excite you?

It’s tough, given that my fingerprints are on every feature-length work we are presenting, I don’t have any that I’m not excited about. I did mention the Philippine film “Bwakaw,” which I’m very fond of. I know in part it’s because I’m a dog person – one of those weird people who doesn’t own a dog but throws themselves on other people’s dogs. The film was a very touching and, I think, very funny film, about a man in his 70s who waited until he was in his 60s to come out as gay. He finds himself at the end of his life sort of wondering about the loneliness that he probably helped sustain. His closest relationship is with this stray dog that he befriends. But it’s also a portrait of rural village life in the Philippines, and … a lot of the comedy comes from in way that this cranky old man interacts with people. It’s also something of a tearjerker. Another film I’m excited about, which is also a challenging film, is “Stranger by the Lake,” directed by Alain Guiraudie. At Cannes, it won the Queer Palm. It’s something of an experimental thriller that takes place in one location – a lakeside park where men cruise each other for sex. It has a sort of observational tone. I think it’s a successful film about cruising, in that a lot of it is about waiting and expectations, both thwarted and rewarded. A significant time into the film one of the men witnesses another man committing an act of violence, and the movie gradually become something of a thriller. I found it really fascinating watching this director making the choices he does.

Outside of the film festival, do you have a favorite LGBT doc?

One of my first favorites was “The Times of Harvey Milk.” Another film that’s really important to me is Marlon Riggs’ “Tongues Untied.” It’s a documentary, but it’s also poetry and tribute. 

What about a favorite narrative LGBT film?

There’s a film I’ve been thinking a lot about lately but I haven’t seen in a while, a coming-of-age film from Québec directed by Léa Pool called “Set Me Free.” It’s about this girl who runs away from home and discovers her love of film and her love of women as she runs away. It’s a portrait of a young filmmaker.

Milwaukee LGBT Film/Video Festival reflects global diversity

Aging lesbian partners make a humorous and touching break for the Canadian border. A stirring documentary chronicles one group’s struggle against the AIDS epidemic. Gay men and transgenders fight for survival in three different homosexual-intolerant countries.

And that’s just for starters.

Thirteen feature films and 21 shorts from 11 countries will comprise the 2012 Milwaukee LGBT Film and Video Festival, presented by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Peck School of the Arts Department of Film. The “2nd annual 25th anniversary edition” of the festival runs from Oct. 18 to Oct. 21, with an opening night showing of Thom Fitzgerald’s “Cloudburst,” starring Olympia Dukakis (see interview page 18) and Brenda Fricker at the Oriental Theatre, 2230 N. Farwell St. All other screenings will be held at the UWM Union Theatre, 2200 E. Kenwood Blvd.

The festival’s film choice has long served as a barometer for the changing way LGBT groups have viewed themselves — and have been viewed by society. Consequently, the nature of LGBT cinema has changed over the decades, and many of the films no longer bear the burden of having to take a social, political or at least explanatory stance, according to festival director Carl Bogner, a lecturer in the Peck School’s film department. 

These changes, coupled with the rise of independent filmmaking, have allowed  filmmakers greater freedom to be more expressive and less didactic. The new environment also has fostered the emergence of films from countries historically intolerant to LGBT people, helping to broaden the nature and content of the festival,” Bogner says. “In many ways, we see more of a ‘mainstreaming’ of LGBT films, and I am not talking only about U.S. film production. That is to say, LGBT film – the public, most prominent face of it – is more commercially savvy than one would have imagined two decades ago, when there were tendencies toward a more transgressive edge.”

The scope of LGBT films has broadened to embrace more subtle and evocative storytelling, Bogner says. “Mosquita y Mari,” writer-director Aurora Guerrero’s 2011 film, successfully explores the loving friendship that grows between two young Chicanas without being burdened by the need to make an LGBT statement.

“Is the word ‘lesbian’ even mentioned in the film? I can’t recall and it doesn’t need to be, so sensitive and alert is the filmmaking,” says Bogner. “Understanding the feelings of these two girls will be easy for any moviegoer.”

“Mosquita y Mari” screens Oct. 20 at 7 p.m. at the UWM Union Theatre. Guerrero will be on hand to introduce her work.

Filmmaker Sally El Hosani’s “My Brother the Devil,” which screens Oct. 21 at 7 p.m., is another film that explores the boundaries of sexual orientation within a greater social context. Set in London’s Hackney section, the U.K. film chronicles the challenges facing a family of Egyptian immigrants living at the edge of a growing gang culture. The questions that emerge about role models, masculinity and other social issues helped the film win the Outstanding International Feature award at last year’s Outfest.

“The film is a consideration of masculinity, and within that consideration, values and boundaries are tested when gay identity becomes a part of the mix,” Bogner says. “It echoes and expands on concerns about identity, family and community that you will find in other films in the festival.”

Other films run the gamut of LGBT issues, including Jim Hubbard’s 2012 documentary “United in Anger: A History of ACT UP”; “Facing Mirrors,” a 2011 film and the first from Iran to feature a transgender character in the lead role; “Call Me Kuchu,” a 2012 documentary about being gay (“kuchu”) in Uganda, a country that criminalizes homosexuality; and 1985’s “Sparkle’s Tavern,” the last film of notorious gay underground U.S. filmmaker Curt McDowell.

Past LGBT film festivals have attracted “thousands” of viewers each, Bogner says. He expects the trend to continue this year, despite the busy fall arts season.

“The festival has a very loyal audience, with a lot of generous support from across the community,” Bogner says. “They also are culturally savvy consumers and I hope this year’s selection of film appeals to them.”

In addition to this month’s festival, the Peck School of the Arts will continue to offer special monthly screenings of LGBT films. The first two screenings in that series are scheduled for Nov. 1 and Nov 29. Titles and locations have yet to be determined.

To download a festival brochure, visit www.uwm.edu/psoa/film/lgbtfilmfestival.

Olympia Dukakis channels her rebellious spirit in ‘Cloudburst’

In “Cloudburst,” Stella (Olympia Dukakis), a foul-mouthed, old-school dyke and her longtime partner Dottie (Brenda Fricker), a visually-impaired, doughy femme, are threatened with separation after Dottie takes a fall. Dottie’s granddaughter tricks her into signing a legal guardianship document and then proceeds to move Dottie into a long-term care facility. But Stella, who will not be deterred, busts Dottie out of the home.

As the couple heads to Canada to get married and gain some kind of legal rights, they pick up hitcher/hustler Prentice (Ryan Doucette). The three embark on a series of adventures that none anticipated.

“Cloudburst” is a sweet comedy with serious undertones, as well as a strong script and performances.

I spoke with Olympia Dukakis last month.

Gregg Shapiro: Stella, the character that you play in “Cloudburst,” has, shall we say, a way with words.

Olympia Dukakis: (Laughs) And gestures!

Have you ever played a character with such a vast vocabulary of profanity?

No. I’ve never played anyone so openly rebellious (laughs). Unfortunately, it’s a real part of my nature, so I kind of took to it like a fish to water.

Stella, who lives in Maine, is what I would describe as a classic northern New Englander. As a New Englander yourself, have you ever encountered anyone like Stella?

I’ve encountered people who have insisted on their own lifestyle even against what might be considered the grain, what might be considered the acceptable.

There is a kind of eccentricity that some people have in the New England area. They don’t succumb to what’s expected, but decide they’re going to have the life they want. That I’ve encountered. But I think that Stella, because of the time she came out and connected with her partner, Dottie, was a time when it was not as it is today. Stella took it on and was rebellious in that way. She was probably one of the few at the time – because she didn’t live in a so-to-speak community of people who could then be supportive of each other. 

Stella is obsessed with k.d. lang and her music. How do you, personally, feel about k.d. lang?

(Laughs) Oh, I love her songs. The movie actually takes its title from one of her songs. I don’t hear her songs so much now. I remember once I was in a restaurant and k.d. was there with a younger woman and I could see that there was kind of a thing between the two of them and they were very deep in conversation. I just went up and inserted myself and told her how much I enjoyed her music, and she was very sweet to me and made it clear to me that she wanted me to fuck off (laughs).

Where do you stand on the subject of same-sex marriage?

Stand on it? There’s no stand. Everyone should live and be the way they want! 

“Cloudburst” takes on the serious subject of aging queer people and how there is the potential of them being separated in their twilight years. 

Oh my God, it’s a painful, painful thing, which is something that Stella just refuses to accept. That’s why she abducts Dottie and takes her off. 

You previously worked with writer/director Thom Fitzgerald on “The Event.” What do you like about working with him?

He’s damn good, that’s what I like about working with him. I like the stories he tells, I like the way he shoots. He makes beautiful films. Just to look at them, they’re great. The stories are all varied and unique. I was in “The Event,” a story about a gay guy who wants to take himself out because he’s going into the last phases of AIDS, and he has a party. The mother is the one that actually helps him die. That’s an unusual story and a real heart-wrencher. And then “3 Needles.” I would do anything in a movie with Thom Fitzgerald. I told him I’ll play a small part, I don’t care. In “3 Needles” I played this small part of a nun.

Before appearing in “The Event,” you had already made a considerable impression on the LGBT community with your wonderful portrayal of Anna Madrigal in the “Tales of the City” series. Were you aware of an LGBT following before that?

Oh, no. Well, yes. “Steel Magnolias” to a certain degree – a lot of gay men enjoyed the things that my character said. They loved her humor, her honesty and her phrasing. ”If you’ve got nothing good to say about anybody, come sit by me.” Things like that. I think they enjoyed a lot of it.