<i>Linda Linda Linda</i> was directed by Nobuhiro Namashita.
This year's edition of the Wisconsin Film Festival is now less than two months away, with the tickets going on sale in only a matter of weeks. Fest director Meg Hamel and her crew of volunteers are getting busier as the weeks tick way, preparing to screen everything from a documentary about a photographer to a program of award-winning British commercials.
There are numerous tasks that need completing: collecting still photos and the cast and crew lists of the films, subsequently prepping this material for the festival program; double-checking the films' run times, particularly those completed as recently as a few weeks ago; and, planning the live events during the four day event running from Thursday, Apr. 12 through Sunday, Apr. 15.
"Now that we have our film program pretty much locked down, now I can go and talk with filmmakers possibly interested in coming to Madison to speak about their work," Hamel says. "That's what will really be occupying me for the next two weeks."
She spoke with The Daily Page on Wednesday afternoon about this ongoing behind-the-scenes work, and revealed the titles of a few more flicks appearing in the program:
- One new venue this year is the Memorial Union Theatre, if only for one night. That's is where Mel Brooks' Young Frankenstein will be screened in its full restored glory on the opening night of the festival. 'We're really excited about being at the Union Theatre, as we've never been there before," Hamel says. "It's huge, it's elegant, we're really excited to bring the festival in there."
- There's another big ticket movie screening downtown that Thursday night that isn't even part of the festival. This is Gus Van Sant's 1985 film Mala Noche, his sophomore offering as a director. This screening is part of the "Spotlight Film & Video" series at the museum curated by UW Communication Arts Department professor J.J. Murphy, which runs most Thursdays at the MMoCA lecture hall. "Although the festival won't be there that night," Hamel says, "they'll still be showing the movie." How fortuitous for film fans that night.
- One of the documentaries on board for this year's festival is a Canadian title named Manufactured Landscapes. Created by the filmmaker Jennifer Baichwal, it examines the work of Edward Burtynsky, a photographer specializing in large-scale images of industrial edifice and detritus. "It's an astonishing creation, because it's not merely a biography of the photographer," says Hamel, "but a way for us to see through film the kind of images he shoots as still pictures." The film played at Sundance and won the 2007 Genie award for Best Documentary.
- Linda Linda Linda has "one of the most infections theme songs that you'll ever hear," asserts Hamel, one that's on regular rotation on her iPod. Created by Nobuhiro Yamashita, the film tells the story of a trio a group of girls putting together a band for their high school talent show. Released in Japan in 2005, the feature has only recently become available in the U.S. "It's fun to finally bring this film to Madison," she says, one that will particularly be enjoyable for high school students.
- Another documentary making its way to the festival is Tim's Island, created by Wickes Helmboldt and Laszlo Fulops. They were shooting footage in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina hit, and found themselves invited to ride out the storm at a house along with more than a dozen other people, seven dogs and eight cats. When the waters rose, though, they became stranded on the titular temporary island and sweat it out for days. "I haven't seen that many documentaries that were just created unexpectedly on the fly," Hamel says. "It's a fascinating look to see what life was like for people who were slowly realizing what a disaster this was going to be."
- One brand new offering at this year's festival are commercials. Yup, TV commercials. Actually, it's a program featuring winners of the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, along with a couple other art museums. "I was amazed by their quality," notes Hamel, "these great little two-minute movies." So now the best spots on the telly are making their way to Madison to bring a little light relief to the festival. "I hope it's the beginning of a tradition that we can start here," says Hamel.
- And finally, organizers continue to seek volunteers, primarily for the four days of the festival. If interested, you can sign up here.
There are 50 days remaining until the opening of the ninth annual Wisconsin Film Festival.