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MADISON - The eighth annual Wisconsin Film Festival will again feature a diverse program of independent features, international cinema, experimental films, documentaries and short films that audiences have come to enjoy.
Presented by the University of Wisconsin-Madison Arts Institute, the Wisconsin Film Festival will take place in Madison from Thursday, March 30 through Sunday, April 2.
A complete schedule will be online Wednesday, March 1 at www.wifilmfest.org. Tickets go on sale Saturday, March 4 at the same address, or at the Wisconsin Union Theater Box Office, (877) 963-FILM.
Here's what to expect for 2006:
• Audience Award: The festival continues the second year of the Steep & Brew Audience Award. Films running 60 minutes or longer are eligible, with audience members voting on how much they liked the film. Last year's winning dramatic film was "Brothers," a Danish film by Susanne Bier, and Taggart Siegel's "The Real Dirt on Farmer John" was the audience favorite for the documentary award. The winners of the 2006 Steep & Brew Audience Awards will be announced Monday, April 3, after the conclusion of the festival.
• Wisconsin's Own Competition: The 2006 festival continues the tradition of showcasing work by filmmakers with Wisconsin ties through juried competitions. Jurors for the 2006 Wisconsin's Own Competition are Debra McClutchey, producer for The Criterion Collection and a UW-Madison graduate; Adam Sekuler, program director for Northwest Film Forum in Seattle; and Bill Siegel, co-director of the Academy Award-nominated documentary "The Weather Underground" (shown at the 2003 festival) and UW-Madison graduate.
• Student Shorts Competition: The competition expanded its range this year to include college students from Wisconsin but attending universities outside the state, as well as students at colleges in Wisconsin. This year's jurors are all UW-Madison alumni: Kerman Eckes, an audio producer for Wisconsin Public Television; Eric J. Nelson, a free-lance director of photography and lighting designer; and Alyska Bailey Peterson, a documentary filmmaker and photographer.
• Theaters: The Hilldale Theater becomes a Wisconsin Film Festival venue for the first - and last - time. Since 1966, the Hilldale Theater has been an important part of Madison's film culture, and is scheduled to close later in 2006 as part of an extensive renovation of the Hilldale Mall area. Adding the theater's two screens to the festival venues achieves two goals: increasing the total number of tickets available to festival-goers this year (with convenient parking) and saluting the venerable theater.
Other continuing festival venues and partners include the Orpheum Theatre, the Bartell Theatre, Monona Terrace Convention Center, Club Majestic, University Square Theatres, Cinematheque and the Memorial Union Play Circle.
Here's a festival programming preview:
• Asian American Film Series '06: Y'all Gonna Learn Chinese, presented by the Asian American Studies Program (http://polyglot.lss.wisc.edu/aasp/), the series explores the ideas that the dominant culture promotes about Asians in the United States and Canada. Highlights include "The Grace Lee Project," a documentary in which filmmaker Grace Lee talks with other Asian Americans named Grace Lee; "Amu," a drama by Shonali Bose, in which an Indian-American college student returns to India to explore her roots and finds that they are intertwined in the 1984 Delhi riots; and Ham Tran's "Journey From The Fall," a film from the Sundance Film Festival that tracks the fate of a family divided after the fall of Saigon. The series title, "Y'all Gonna Learn Chinese," comes from lyrics by Jin, an Asian-American rapper featured in Todd Angkasuwan's documentary "No Sleep Til Shanghai."
• Global Lens 2006: For the third year, the Wisconsin Film Festival hosts the traveling film collection assembled by the Global Film Initiative (http://www.globalfilm.org/). Selected from international film festivals such as Cannes, Toronto and Rotterdam, these pictures are chosen for their cinematic and narrative excellence, cultural authenticity, and relevance to the Global Film Initiative's mission: raising cross-cultural awareness through cinema. Countries represented in this year's collection include Brazil ("Cinema, Aspirins and Vultures" by Marcelo Gomes and "Almost Brothers" by Lucia Murat), Iran ("Border Cafe" by Kambozia Partovi) and Burkina Faso ("Night of Truth" by Fanta Regina Narco).
Once again, the Wisconsin Film Festival will partner with the UW-Madison Language Institute and the Global Film Initiative to offer World Cinema Day, when Wisconsin high school students come to the Orpheum Theatre for a special screening of a film from the Global Lens series ("Stolen Life" by Li Shaohong), coupled with in-class discussion. Sponsors include the Evjue Foundation.
• World cinema: Another look at world cinema is presented by the UW-Madison's Global Studies program (http://global.wisc.edu/), with a series of four films that look at globalization as a contemporary phenomenon. Certain to be festival favorites: "Our Brand Is Crisis" by Rachel Boynton, following the efforts of James Carville's political consulting film to manage the Bolivian presidential re-election of Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada; and "Czech Dream," a project by two Czech film students to deploy a professional advertising and marketing campaign for a nonexistent megastore.
• American cinema: This category is strongly represented in this year's lineup. Films from well-known actors ("Lonesome Jim" by Steve Buscemi and "The Wendell Baker Story" by Luke Wilson and Andrew Wilson) will share the screen with newer talents ("Sweet Land" by Minnesota's Ali Selim, "Tre" by Eric Byler, "Conventioneers" by Mora Stephens). The Wisconsin Film Festival is also will present the stunning 1971 documentary "The Murder of Fred Hampton," which chronicles the charismatic 21-year-old Chicago Black Panther leader who was killed in his apartment by police.
• Contemporary World Cinema: Award-winning selections from some of the most dynamic filmmakers around the world will be a treat for the Festival audiences. Titles include "The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes," the exquisite, curious vision of the Brothers Quay, "Innocence," a lush portrait of an odd girls' boarding school, by Lucile Hadzihalilovic, "Adam's Apples," a good-versus-evil comedy by festival-favorite Anders Thomas Jensen, and "The Swenkas," a documentary with a storybook feel about a men's social club in Johannesburg, where every Saturday night the men compete for a prize given for the snappiest, most stylish outfit. Sponsors of international cinema presentations include the UW-Madison's Center for Jewish Studies and the European Studies Alliance.
In 2005, the festival showed 151 films from 27 countries, including 65 films by filmmakers with Wisconsin ties, with ticket sales of more than 24,000. For complete information, see http://www.wifilmfest.org, and join the e-mail list for up-to-date information.
Volunteers are critical to a successful festival, and those interested in joining the team can sign up for volunteer information on the Web site.