It's here! The official guide to the 2014 Wisconsin Film Festival is hot off the presses, nestled inside the issue of Isthmus that hits newsstands today. Though the fest takes place April 3-10, tickets sales begin Sat., March 8.
Seats for many of the films will go fast, so here's a shortlist of titles you'll want to read up on right away. But don't fret if your screening of choice fills up: Festival staff sell a limited number of tickets at the door about 15 minutes before start of many screenings, so you’ve still got a shot at grabbing a seat.
Sunday, April 6, 3:45 p.m., Overture Center's Capitol Theater
Monday, April 7, 1:45 p.m., Sundance
A long-married British couple (Jim Broadbent, Lindsay Duncan) visit Paris, hoping to recreate the magical aura of their honeymoon, but the weekend turns into an airing of regrets rather than a deeply romantic holiday. WFF managing director Christina Martin-Wright recommends this picture to attendees who enjoyed Coming of Age, an Audience Award winner at last year's fest. Plus, this is your chance to see the Wisconsin premiere of a film that's been getting lots of positive buzz on the festival circuit. (Watch a trailer.)
Friday, April 4, 6:45 p.m., Sundance
Saturday, April 5, 2:45 p.m., Sundance
The greatest gift for many twentysomethings is a smooth transition into post-collegiate adulthood. In the latest feature by Joe Swanberg (Drinking Buddies, Hannah Takes the Stairs), young woman (Pitch Perfect's Anna Kendrick) with no job and a not much maturity visits her brother's Chicago home for the holidays, threatening to drive both him and his wife insane. Watch for appearances by Girls' Lena Dunham and Swanberg's charismatic young son, Jude.
Tuesday, April 8, 2:30 p.m., Sundance
Thursday, April 10, 8:45 p.m., Sundance
Many comedy fans know Saturday Night Live alum Jenny Slate as one half of the batty publicist duo on "Publizity," a fake reality program on Comedy Central's Kroll Show. Here she plays a Brooklyn bookseller and comedian who gets dumped, fired and knocked up just in time for Valentine's Day. If you're looking to end the festival with hiccups and a grin, this film should be the ticket.
Thursday, April 3, 9 p.m., UW Union South's Marquee Theater
Director David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express, Prince Avalanche) is scheduled to appear at this screening of his new film featuring outstanding performances by Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan. Cage plays an ex-con who tries to move past the violence that has marred his life. This personal journey involves becoming a mentor to a 15-year-old kid (Sheridan), but the relationship is threatened when his violent ways reemerge.(Watch a trailer.)
The Dance of Reality
Wednesday, April 9, 6 p.m., Sundance
This is the first feature in 25 years from celebrated director Alejandro Jodorowsky (El Topo, The Holy Mountain), so it's bound to be a big event. Here he guides us through surreal, partly invented memories from his youth, growing up in a family of Russian Jewish immigrants who've settled in a desert town in Chile. Facing cruelty from the kids at school, he finds solace in literature and films, and his kindly mother (played by opera soprano Pamela Flores) sings all of her lines. (Watch a trailer.)
Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter
Sunday, April 6, 5:30 p.m., Sundance
Monday, April 7, 8:30 p.m., Sundance
A frustrated Tokyo office worker becomes obsessed with the Coen brothers film Fargo, risking her job to fly to Minneapolis and search for the ransom money Steve Buscemi buries at the end of the movie. Co-producers Nathan Zellner and Chris Ohlson will also make an appearance at this Midwest premiere.
Friday, April 4, 2:15 p.m., UW Cinematheque
Sunday, April 6, 8:45 p.m., UW Cinematheque
Winner of the coveted Grand Jury Prize at this year's Sundance Film Festival, this documentary takes viewers to a Missouri town whose families are dealing with multiple traumas while struggling to make ends meet. Gritty yet compassionate, this film celebrates youth and resilience in memorable ways, in part because the filmmakers developed such close ties with their subjects over 450 hours of shooting. (Watch a trailer.)
Thursday, April 3, 6:30 p.m., UW Elvehjem
Friday, April 4, 2:15 p.m., Sundance
Brandy Burre's acting career was just beginning to gain steam when she appeared on the hit HBO series The Wire, so she decided to hide her pregnancy until her character's story had played out. She ultimately gave up acting to raise her kids, but now she's looking to re-enter the profession, which has proven to be a challenge. Sensitive and powerful, this documentary explores thorny questions about the roles that fit us best, the ways we construct our own identities and the struggle to balance family and career. Both Burre and director Robert Greene will be at the screening, which is also a Midwest premiere. (Watch a trailer.)
Sunday, April 6, 8:30 p.m., Overture Center's Capitol Theater
Wednesday, April 9, 8:45 p.m., Sundance
Admiring this funny love story's beautiful, hand-drawn frames is worth the price of admission. Oscar-nominated animator Bill Plympton (Idiots and Angels) created more than 400,000 while making the film, which involves a "Trans-Soul Machine" that allows one of the characters to inhabit the bodies of her beloved's former lovers. Bonus: This is your first chance to catch the film in the Midwest. (Watch a trailer.)
Sunday, April 6, 6:15 p.m., UW Union South's Marquee Theater
Tuesday, April 8, 6:45 p.m., Sundance
Billed as a "hypnotic symphony of mankind," this documentary is a collaboration between director Godfrey Reggio (Koyaanisqatsi) and revered composer Philip Glass. A meditation in black and white, it features intriguing images such as hands using invisible keyboards and touchscreens and faces reacting to scenes in videogames. Reggio is scheduled to appear at the Tuesday screening. (Watch a trailer.)
Sunday, April 6, 6 p.m., UW Elvehjem
Tuesday, April 8, 9:30 p.m., Sundance
This documentary didn't just win an award at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival. It won a Special Jury Award for "intuitive filmmaking," a prize that no other film has ever received. Jesse Moss (Full Battle Rattle) examines one of the American oil industry's lowest echelons: the thousands of fortune-seekers who've rushed to areas of North Dakota where oil and natural gas have recently been discovered. Tension arises when a local church's congregation begins criticizing a pastor who's turned the facility into a temporary shelter for new arrivals who have nowhere to live.
Saturday, April 5, 6:45 p.m., Sundance
Sunday, April 6, 11:30 a.m., Sundance
Award-winning director Paul Harrill (Gina, an Actress, Age 29) will join the audience as his latest film gets its world premiere. After receiving a shocking piece of mail, a newlywed (Ashley Shelton) distances herself from her husband, her friends and her successful real-estate career to embark upon a spiritual quest. Told in a low-key style that borders on meditative, this selection should provide a hearty serving of food for thought.