Fitful winter weather or post-holiday blues keeping you from theaters? That’s no problem at the Missed Madison Film Festival, Jan. 11-15, because there are no physical screenings; the festival is a “virtual” one.
“Basically the idea is that we’re going to look at films that should have played in Madison in 2015 but did not,” says James Kreul, editor at Madison Film Forum, who came up with the idea after reading an Indiewire article about the top foreign-language films of 2015.
“I was surprised how few of them had theatrical runs in Madison,” he says. The film festival is a curatorial effort to highlight must-see films that people are able to watch on home screens by renting DVDs or Blu-ray discs, streaming or using video-on-demand services.
Festival offerings will include about 30 films from “best of 2015” lists and international festivals, as well as genre pictures and lesser-known films by major filmmakers.
“Too many filmgoers limit their adventurous choices to the 10 days of the Wisconsin Film Festival,” says Kreul, who calls the marketplace for non-mainstream films in Madison “dismal.”
The Missed Madison Film Festival is a collaborative effort by online film discussion groups and area critics, including Madison Film Forum, LakeFrontRow, the UW’s Wisconsin Union Directorate, the Cinesthesia cinema series at Madison Public Library, writer Chris Lay of Tone Madison and Craig Johnson of Welcome to the Basement. (Lay, Kreul and Johnson all contribute to Isthmus.)
Hard to Be a God
Each partner organization will cross-promote and share reviews on social media and podcasts, an effort they hope will foster new readers, listeners and audiences. The organizations will also make it easier to track down the films by including links to streaming and video-on-demand resources. The physical anchor for the project will be Four Star Video Co-op, 449 State St., which will offer podcast reviews and a special display of festival-related DVDs.
“One of our missions is to make films available that are not available in other ways, such as foreign cinema and smaller films that don’t get attention,” says Lewis Peterson, one of Four Star’s co-managers and, with Kreul, a lead festival organizer. “It’s easy to forget the wide swath of great films that are being made by auteurs both domestic and abroad.”
Black Coal, Thin Ice
Kreul says the organizers are still narrowing down the choices from a possible list of 50 films that did not screen at the Wisconsin Film Festival, UW Cinematheque or mainstream venues.
“Part of the fun will be revealing the choices,” he says, adding that three certain entries are Aleksei German’s Hard to Be a God; Black Coal, Thin Ice, a Chinese thriller; and Argentinian Gaspar Noé’s steamy Love.
Kreul says the organizers used sites like Rotten Tomatoes and critics’ best-of lists to create a spreadsheet of 50-60 eligible films that was passed among the participants. “The reviewers gravitated toward the films that they’re most interested and most excited about,” says Kreul. “They’re films that they want to make sure people know about.”
Kreul says the festival is also considering titles that did not receive rave reviews, such as David Cronenberg’s Maps to the Stars, which will screen at the Madison Public Library in February.
Maps to the Stars
“Each of the films we’re covering has a great deal of ambition, which is a great thing in a film landscape that seems more and more focused on sure bets getting big budgets,” says Lewis. “Films that are trying to push the envelope [are] being relegated to specialty items that only the die-hards are aware of.”
There are several other virtual festivals generated in the United States, notably the Great Lakes International Film Festival, physically based in Erie, Pa.
In the end, the effort is also about improving film culture in Madison. “Let’s look at films and let people know about more films,” says Kreul. “I’m hoping that this collaboration between organizations will lead to things in the future.”
For more information on the Missed Madison Film Festival, visit madfilm.org.