Film Festival celebrates independent movies

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Film Festival celebrates independent movies

The Oriental Theatre is one of nine theaters screening the featured movies. Photo courtesy of Milwaukee Film.

The Oriental Theatre is one of nine theaters screening the featured movies. Photo courtesy of Milwaukee Film.

The Oriental Theatre is one of nine theaters screening the featured movies. Photo courtesy of Milwaukee Film.

The Oriental Theatre is one of nine theaters screening the featured movies. Photo courtesy of Milwaukee Film.

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Whether looking for a riveting drama film or a heart-breaking rom-com, anyone could scroll through Netflix or go to a video store and find a movie that interests them. However, among all the major studio movies, there are thousands of artists creating films for the movie industry that big box offices and large audiences may never see. For 15 days every year, Milwaukee shines the spotlight on these artists, and just like with the blockbusters, there’s something for everyone.

The Milwaukee Film Festival is an annual event meant to celebrate the medium of film and highlight filmmakers from around the world, all in the heart of Milwaukee, according to the Milwaukee Film Festival website. The 15-day long celebration takes place at eight different theaters around the city and one theater in Cedarburg, Wisconsin.

The 2019 festival takes place October 17-31, featuring over 300 films from a variety of genres. There are over 100 different events associated with the festival, including parties, panels and presentations that give local filmmakers and film watchers a chance to dive deeper into the films and make personal connections with them.

Every year, the film festival chooses special pieces for opening night and closing night as well as a special centerpiece that all air at the Oriental Theatre, 2230 N. Farwell Ave.

This year, a film called “I Want My MTV” documents the rise and evolution of the music television channel and the impact it’s had on the music industry; it kicks off the festival Oct. 17 at 7 p.m. The centerpiece film, titled “Chained for Life,” discusses representation in movies through a story of romance and it plays Oct. 25 at 6:30 p.m. At the end of the 15 days, Oct. 31 at 7:30 p.m., “The Apollo” will close out the film festival, with the film highlighting the titular theater that hosted some of the most pivotal moments in black artistry.

Karina Henderson, marketing director for Milwaukee Film, which puts on the festival, said the celebration is unique because it can connect the entire community through one artistic form.

“People from all different walks of life come into a theater, sit down, sit next to each other, turn off the world outside, turn off anything else that’s going on in their lives and get immersed in an experience of a story that’s being shown to them and immersed in the emotion,” Henderson said.

The Milwaukee Film Festival has a strong connection to the Marquette community. Every year, Marquette sponsors a film in the festival. This year, the university’s Center for the Advancement of the Humanities is sponsoring a film called “You Gave Me A Song: The Life and Music of Alice Gerrard,” which focuses on the life of American folk musician Alice Gerrard and her dedication to preserving traditional music, according to the film’s website.

There are Marquette filmmakers participating in the festival, including Kris Holodak, assistant professor of digital media and performing arts in the College of Communication. Holodak and former Marquette professor Joe Brown submitted a 4-minute short film titled “Winter Cranes.” It will show in a collection of short films titled “The Milwaukee Show” that airs at the Oriental Main Theatre Oct. 21 at 7:30 p.m.

“Winter Cranes” highlights the unique migration of the Sandhill crane and its gathering in rural Wisconsin before embarking on a journey south, giving the audience the experience of bird watching.

Holodak said the festival’s free submission process makes it easy to send in projects.

“(They look) for Milwaukee filmmakers and Wisconsin filmmakers because they have three different blocks of shorts that are exclusively Milwaukee filmmakers. They’re trying to support the local community.”

In addition to participating as a filmmaker or an audience member, there are other ways that community members can get involved. The festival has volunteer positions open to the public that provide the opportunity to participate in the festival in a more interactive way.

Arely Melendez, a junior in the College of Business Administration, has been attending and volunteering at the festival since she was in high school. As a volunteer, Melendez attended an orientation and then completed tasks such as organizing lines, scanning tickets or handing out end-of-movie review slips. For their time, the volunteers received vouchers to see shows.

“All the volunteers are always super friendly, especially if you’ve never gone before,” Melendez said. “They’ll usually give you the rundown about how to vote once you go. … Your opinion matters when it comes to watching (the films).”

Whether submitting one’s own film, watching others’ films or volunteering, one thing that Henderson, Holodak and Melendez said is that there is something for everybody at the Milwaukee Film Festival.

“Find the kind of grouping of films that is likely to be what you like and start there,” Holodak said. “In the (program) book, they usually have a (section that says) ‘If you don’t have a lot of time, here’s one from each category we think is really good.’”

Student, senior and military member tickets for the film festival are $12.

Marquette students and faculty can request free ticket vouchers from stacy.tuchel@marquette.edu, according to Marquette Today. Vouchers are on a first-come, first-serve basis, and they must be exchanged for film tickets at the festival box office.

More information on the Milwaukee Film Festival, including a full list of films, volunteering opportunities and other ticket options can be found on the Milwaukee Film website.

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