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Nothing small about short film fest

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Among the little-known and under-appreciated festivals this city has to offer is the Milwaukee Short Film Festival. Last weekend marked the end of the 11th annual fest put on by the Milwaukee Independent Film Society.

The festival ran from Sept. 11 to 13 at three different locations and showed groupings of several short films at different times throughout each day.

A wide variety of films played at this year’s festival, but all contained potent and punctual content to keep audiences attentive and on their toes.

Anna Krutzik, director of six-minute film “This is Umberto,” produced her work in Milwaukee. A robotic voice introduces the audience to a plastic doll named Umberto. Then a cat tries to eat him. That’s pretty much all there is to it.

“I did this as a senior project, I just graduated a year ago from UW-Milwaukee,” Krutzik said. “I had that doll and I wanted to use it, I wanted to write in short sentences and to have the story be told in 29 chapters.”

While some films dabbled in the bizarre, others took a more stirring approach. More than one film dealt with the somber topic of illnesses.

Director Jason Servi presented “Out of Nothing,” an 11-minute film out of Brookfield, Wis. He said the film was developed around the idea of how new things can come out of relationships. Specifically, the relationship between a workaholic son and his mother, who is dying of cancer.

Anyone with parents can relate to the son in the film. He becomes easily aggravated with his mother instead of appreciating the intentions behind her actions.

However, the turning point of the relationship was more creepy than touching. The skies were a bit too blue, the clouds too white, the mother too cheery. Rather than finding meaning in this drastic change, I could only think, “Ew, sucks to be them.”

Friday, festivalgoers visited The Eisner American Museum of Advertising & Design, 208 N. Water Street, for five short films followed by a question and answer session.

The last film shown on Friday was titled, “How Not to Kill Everyone,” and received the Best Wisconsin Film award at the end of the festival. This short Milwaukee film lasted five minutes and was directed by Kathy Fischer and Drew Foerster.

“How Not to Kill Everyone” offers a glimpse into the life of a genius. From Smart Guy’s perspective, everyone else is an incompetent idiot, which makes all human interaction excessively frustrating. He learns coping methods in order to refrain from killing everyone.

Fischer said this film was shot last summer and was intended to be an election film.

“It was a great time to work with actual professional actors,” Foerster said. “Overall, it was a really great process.”

Fischer was also honored, along with Mark Metcalf, with the Milwaukee Independent Film Society Pace-Setter Award for their accomplishments in filmmaking and trendsetting in the Milwaukee area.

Saturday’s events were held at the Lubar Auditorium in the Milwaukee Art Museum, 700 N. Art Museum Dr., where  28 films played throughout the day.

Sunday’s films showed at the Oriental Theatre, 2230 N. Farwell Ave., followed by an after party at Live on North, 2028 E. North Ave. These films won most of the remainder of the awards.

“E Finita La Commedia” was awarded both Honorary Mention and Best Actor awards. This Belgian film was 13 minutes and directed by Jean-Julien Collette; the winning actor in the film was Cedric Eeckhout.

In a parked car, a depressive, gruff father and his rebellious son attempt to reconnect. The conversation is unusually revealing and alludes to a disturbing agreement between the men. Moving from questions of sex to drugs, from infidelity to murder, the ominous conclusion makes you reconsider the meaning of family.

The Audience Favorite was “Open Your Eyes”, a film out of Pasadena, Cali. directed by Susan Cohen. The film proved itself touching, as audience members cried within the short 13 minutes of the film.

“Open Your Eyes” flashes between a woman’s  diagnosis of breast cancer and her experience at a coworker’s bridal shower after chemotherapy and radiation treatments. The woman withdraws from her husband in her private life, and struggles with insecurity and isolation in her social life.

An unexpected friendship develops in the bathroom during the bridal shower, inspiring the woman to come to terms with the changes that have befallen her and to regain happiness.

The festival will return next year, and I highly recommend it. Not only is this an extremely affordable event (tickets are available for groups of films or you can buy an all-access 3-day pass), but it also presents an entirely new way to appreciate film.

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