Isthmus video guy Ben Reiser interviews Wisconsin Film Festival Director Meg Hamel outside Monona Terrace Friday.
Earlier this week, Wisconsin Film Festival director Meg Hamel announced via Twitter that she was hearing about quite a few state employees who planned to take a furlough day Friday in order to see a bunch of movies. When she arrives at Friday's 2 pm screening of House Quakeat Monona Terrace, she polls the audience to see how many are taking a vacation day.
Whatever happened to just blowing off work to catch an afternoon screening?
After two days of evening shows, Friday at the film fest offers the first opportunities to play hookey, which is exactly what a few women who preferred to remain anonymous are doing at House Quake.
"Politics is part of my job," says one. "So this could be considered sort of like work."
"Yeah," says her coworker. "We're taking notes."
The documentary about the 2006 Congressional elections, in which then U.S. Rep. Rahm Emanuel engineered a 31-seat pick-up for Democrats, could be seen as almost an instructional how-to for grabbing power. Emanuel is relentless in recruiting non-traditional candidates, including former NFL quarterback Heath Shuler, a pro-life, bible thumper from North Carolina.
On my way into Monona Terrace, I pass Isthmus video guy Ben Reiser, who spent some of the day following Hamel from one screening to another on their bikes. He's mounted his camera on his bike's book rack so he can lob questions at Hamel while riding. We'll be able to see if his experiment works when his video is posted on Saturday.
Downstairs, Hamel strolls into the auditorium early and takes a few questions from the early arrivals. One film goer wonders how many of the festival's 192 offerings she has seen. All of them is the answer. "I probably watch 600 to 800, maybe a thousand films for the festival," she says. Some don't require much of her attention, as she knows early on they won't be a good fit.
We're not used to Friday being the third day of the Fest already, when die-hards have settled into their grooves and audiences aren't nearly as giddy as they are in the opening nights. The screening of Looking for Ericmight have been raucous on opening night, in a packed Orpheum main room. But tonight it's relatively calm. The balcony is sparsely populated and good seats are easy to come by.
Hamel explains that the British movie fills her personal quotient of one soccer film per fest. The protagonist, Eric, hits rock bottom and airs his problems to a poster of Eric Cantona, a French soccer superstar who plays for Eric's beloved Manchester United. Cantona, playing himself with ample humor and charm, appears in Eric's bedroom and dispenses advice.
The film is co-produced by Cantona and features clips of the center striker's most fabulous goals. But the accents, coupled with the Orpheum's sound, make it hard to understand the characters at times. It's a Netflix candidate, however, if only to catch what I missed the first time around.