Show­cases film­mak­ers’ range

Wisconsin Gazette - - Opinion -

job to spotlight the boundaries of cine­matic sto­ry­telling.”

VIR­TUAL RE­AL­ITY

The fes­ti­val, which runs Sept. 28–Oct. 12, also has made sig­nif­i­cant strides in the area of vir­tual re­al­ity — VR for short. A ded­i­cated VR Gallery is lo­cated around the cor­ner from the Ori­en­tal The­atre, with free ad­mis­sion to the pub­lic.

The films shown in the VR gallery demon­strate the power of this im­mer­sive new tech­nol­ogy,

“We had done VR dis­plays at pre­vi­ous fes­ti­vals, but this year there’s a phys­i­cal pop-up shop de­voted to the tech­nol­ogy,” says Jack­son, a Cleve­land na­tive and for­mer film­maker who moved to Mil­wau­kee in 1998 to at­tend UWM’s film school. “There will be dif­fer­ent types of hard­ware that peo­ple can try, in­clud­ing head­sets that repli­cate the full 360-de­gree ex­pe­ri­ence.”

This is not a mere video-game ex­pe­ri­ence, Jack­son ex­plains. In The Fight for Fal­lu­jah, view­ers will find them­selves along­side Iraqi forces bat­tling ISIS rebels to re­gain the city. The film con­tains ac­tual bat­tle footage.

“I’m in­ter­ested in so­cial re­al­ity as­pects that al­low view­ers to im­merse them­selves in sit­u­a­tions they never oth­er­wise would ex­pe­ri­ence,” Jack­son ex­plains. “The abil­ity to ex­pe­ri­ence an ac­tual bat­tle with a 360-de­gree view might cause some­one to think twice be­fore go­ing to war.”

PUSH­ING BOUNDARIES

Stumped, which opens the fes­ti­val, ably de­mon­strates film’s abil­ity to con­nect us with oth­ers. The 2017 doc­u­men­tary — a full-length ex­pan­sion of a pre­vi­ously made short — tells the story of Will Lautzen­heiser, a Mon­tana State Univer­sity film teacher who con­tracted a bac­te­rial in­fec­tion that re­quired doc­tors to am­pu­tate all or part of his four limbs to save his life. Lautzen­heiser tack­led his trauma head-on by be­com­ing a stand-up co­me­dian, a ca­reer move that re­veals the man’s truly in­domitable spirit.

An­other is Man­i­festo, a 2017 Ger­man film in which Cate Blanchett por­trays 13 char­ac­ters — from a puck rocker to a house­wife. The man­i­festos, taken from through­out his­tory, range from Karl Marx to Jim Jar­musch in Blanchett’s tour-de-force per­for­mance.

Films have been ar­ranged into mul­ti­ple cat­e­gories that stress con­tent, length and in­tent. The cat­e­gories in­clude Amer­i­can In­de­pen­dents and Rated K: for Kids to Sports­ball! and Worldviews. There also are the Black Lens and Cine Sin Fron­teras cat­e­gories, which high­light the work of African-Amer­i­can and His­panic film­mak­ers, re­spec­tively.

Fes­ti­val films are el­i­gi­ble for cash prizes. The award amounts dif­fer by cat­e­gory, but the to­tal purse is worth more than $20,000. The awards are de­signed to help fledg­ling film­mak­ers pur­sue their ca­reers,

Jack­son says.

NEW HOME, YEAR­ROUND FILMS

Mil­wau­kee Film, the fes­ti­val’s par­ent or­ga­ni­za­tion, also will have a new home. Start­ing July 1, 2018, the or­ga­ni­za­tion will take over op­er­a­tions and pro­gram­ming at the Ori­en­tal The­atre, says Jack­son. It’s the start of a 31-year lease that will give the group a year-round pres­ence and en­able it to pro­gram the types of films usu­ally seen only dur­ing the fes­ti­val.

In a world where me­dia is tai­lored more and more to in­di­vid­ual pref­er­ences and ex­pe­ri­ences, the in­flu­ence of film fes­ti­vals be­comes a crit­i­cal ex­er­cise in so­cial engi­neer­ing, he adds.

“A fes­ti­val al­lows peo­ple to come to­gether and see a film they might not oth­er­wise see and then have con­ver­sa­tions about it,” Jack­son says. “A fes­ti­val at its best is about build­ing com­mu­nity and serv­ing as a fo­rum to bring peo­ple to­gether.

Land­mark Ori­en­tal The­atre, Land­mark Downer The­atre, Fox Bay Cin­ema Grill,

Times Cin­ema,

Avalon Theater,

VR Gallery,

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