With less than a month to go before the start of the 2016 Milwaukee Film Festival, lineup announcements have been coming at a furious clip. From September 22 through October 6, the screens of the Landmark Oriental Theatre, Landmark Downer Theatre, Fox-Bay Cinema Grill, Times Cinema, and Avalon Theater will be lit up with hundreds upon hundreds of films both big and small, dramatic and comedic, harrowing and entertaining, socially conscious and just plain weird. Oh, and locally made.

This morning, Milwaukee Film unveiled the 58 Milwaukee-made films that will be included in its 2016 Cream City Cinema program. The films range from feature-length narratives (Christopher Darling, pictured above) and music videos (Lorde Fredd33’s “SOS”), to documentaries (Tolkien & Lewis: Myth, Imagination & The Quest For Meaning) and youth films (Dark Side Waffles).

“An astonishing 249 local films were entered this year, a 56% increase over last year,” says Milwaukee Film Artistic & Executive Director Jonathan Jackson in a press release. “The growth in quantity and quality of submissions is telling, our already strong filmmaking community is growing rapidly.”

The Cream City Cinema program will include three juried cash prizes totaling $12,500, including the $5,000 Cream City Cinema Jury Award. New this year are the Cream City Cinema College Filmmaker Award ($2,500 cash prize) and the Milwaukee Music Video Award ($5,000 cash prize). Get a preview of the Milwaukee-made films coming to the fest below, courtesy of Milwaukee Film. (Festival passes and ticket 6-Packs are on sale now.)

Christopher Darling
(USA / 2015 / Directors: Scott Cary, Martin Kaszubowski)
Meet Christopher Darling, the alcoholic, misanthropic, womanizing lead singer of the modestly popular rock band The Pills. As Darling hits the road in support of his newest album despite a tepid response from audiences and critics alike, the gigs blend together into one long downward spiral into debauchery, with Darling becoming intimately acquainted with each city’s fine selection of bathroom stalls, recreational drugs, and groupies. But as his self-destructive streak grows wider and the audiences grow smaller, Darling is in danger of losing himself completely. A darkly comedic character study with a heavy dose of Bukowski, Christopher Darling is a bruising portrait of self-sabotage.

From Mass to the Mountain
(USA / 2016 / Directors: Kurt Sensenbrenner, Colin Sytsma)
Eastern Panama finds itself in dire straits—impoverished and struggling to combat the government corruption that has left citizens decimated by drought and a contaminated water supply, people here are in desperate need of assistance. Enter Ripon, WI’s own Father Wally Kasuboski. Dubbed “Padre Pablo” by the Panamanian locals, he has dedicated 28 years of his life toward developing the infrastructure necessary to bring drinking water to this rural community. An inspiring story of one man’s tireless efforts to bring succor to an exploited people, From Mass to the Mountain is the moving story of a Wisconsinite who has embraced a new home and is passionately working to improve it.

From Mass to the Mountain – Official Trailer from Kurt Sensenbrenner on Vimeo.

HAPPY: A Small Film With A Big Smile
(USA / 2016 / Director: Michael Patrick McKinley)
Visual artist Leonard “Porkchop” Zimmerman could have given in to the darkness that encroached on him from all sides following the untimely passing of his partner, Brian. Instead, he chose to channel his grief into art, creating numerous paintings of robots involved in exploits that run the gamut from mundane to profound. Out of this grew the “Happy” campaign: the robot drawing that became a worldwide phenomenon as a colorful reminder of the transformational power of embracing joy. HAPPY is an irresistible and inspirational portrait of one man’s journey through the storm in order to share with us the sunshine he found on the other side.

The Milwaukee Music Video Show
For those about to watch Milwaukee rock, we salute you: the local film and music scenes combine in a gorgeous collision for The Milwaukee Music Video Show, a celebration of the myriad art talent our community has to offer. Diverse artists (Webster X, Maritime, Group of the Altos, Lex Allen) combine with a vast array of visual techniques (live action, animation, experimental) to showcase the best and brightest across multiple disciplines.

WC Tank – “27th and National” (USA / 2016 / Director: Kelly Michael Anderson)
Busdriver – “Much” (USA / 2015 / Director: Dan Peters)
Canopies – “Getting Older” (USA / 2015 / Director: Ryan Reeve)
Devil Met Contention – “Used to Be” (USA / 2016 / Directors: Jessica Farrell, Ehson Rad)
Direct Hit – “Was it the Acid?” (USA / 2016 / Directors: Bobby Ciraldo, Andrew Swant)
Fabian James & Treyy G – “See You” (USA / 2016 / Director: Quinn Hester)
Fox Face – “Teenage Wiccan” (USA / 2016 / Director: Mitch Rasque)
The Drowning Dreamers Band – “Frayed Bridge to Dying Star” (USA / 2016 / Director: Sean Kafer)
Group of the Altos – “Coplights” (USA / 2016 / Directors: Heather Hass, Shawn Stephany, Sean Williamson)
Lex Allen – “Cream & Sugar” (USA / 2015 / Director: Cody LaPlant)
Lorde Fredd33 – “SOS” (USA / 2016 / Director: Kiran Vee)
Maritime – “Roaming Empire” (USA / 2016 / Director: Erin Elders)
Rio Turbo – “20/20 (Dashcam Remix)” (USA / 2016 / Director: Dan Boville)
Serengeti – “Doctor My Own Patience” (USA / 2016 / Director: WC Tank)
Trapper Schoepp – “Settlin’ Or Sleepin’ Around” (USA / 2016 / Director: Caroline Jaecks)
Webster X – “Lately” (USA / 2015 / Directors: Cody LaPlant, Damien Blue, Sam Ahmed)

The Milwaukee Show I
Nobody brews up a refreshing batch of storytelling quite like our own local filmmakers, and this year’s edition of The Milwaukee Show I is no different. Stories include a mysterious message at a late-night radio station, an ancient Hindu fable brought to life through animation, Mark Borchardt as an L.A.-based guru, and a true crime story from our own community.

Fox In The Fan (USA / 2016 / Director: Carol Brandt)
The Hindu Thread (USA / 2015 / Director: Jennifer Higgins)
Needlepoint (USA / 2016 / Director: Jon Phillips)
Saint Paul (USA / 2016 / Director: Xavier Ruffin)
Shangri-LA (USA / 2016 / Directors: Drew Rosas, Nick Sommer)
Some Dark Place (USA / 2016 / Director: Cecelia Condit)
Synthase (USA / 2015 / Director: Sam Kirchoff)
Twin Sister (Jimagua) (Cuba, USA / 2016 / Director: Sitora Takanaev)

The Milwaukee Show II
With simply too much quality for one program, The Milwaukee Show II brings us even more lovely local selections. Stories include a family of zombies sitting down to a fancy dinner, the dark history of forced sterilization in the United States, and the touching story of a terminally ill woman using her remaining time to argue with her sister about the hottest cartoon character.

American Zombies (USA / 2016 / Director: Joe Bowes)
Fixing The Dog (USA / 2015 / Director: Miles O’Neil)
Jáaji Approx. (USA / 2015 / Director: Sky Hopinka)
@Me (USA / 2016 / Director: Kristin Peterson)
Northfound (USA / 2016 / Director: Dana Shihadah)
Recycle (USA / 2016 / Director: Spencer Ortega)
The Seed in the Sky (USA / 2016 / Director: Dave Kiehl)
Sterile (USA / 2015 / Director: Matthew Klein)

The Milwaukee Youth Show
These kids are more than all right: see work from our local Spielbergs-in-waiting, a youth-driven showcase that highlights the diversity of talent and visions Milwaukee’s young people have to offer. We at the Milwaukee Film Festival believe the children are our future, but if these dynamic works are any indication, the future has already arrived!

Baseball Tips (USA / 2016 / Directors: Griffin Anderson, Hayden Herrick, Trevor Klein)
Color TV Evolution (USA / 2016 / Directors: Luis Ayala-Diaz, C.J. Robinson, Bryce Tome)
Colors (USA / 2016 / Director: Natasha Kappes)
Dark Side Waffles (USA / 2016 / Director: Zak Baudry)
The Evil Gift Giver (USA / 2016 / Directors: Youth from Fitzsimonds Boys and Girls Club)
The Game of Life (USA / 2016 / Director: Sam Pike)
INNER (USA / 2016 / Director: Ricardo Tenorio)
INSOMNIAC (USA / 2016 / Director: Cecelia Hubbard)
Mid-Day of the Living Dead (USA / 2016 / Director: Kyan Ditzenberger)
Millennial (USA / 2016 / Director: Emily Jacobson)
Photograph (USA / 2016 / Director: Angela Chobanian)
Rocket Kin (USA / 2016 / Directors: Alex Meeth, Ethan Suhr)
Silent Folds (USA / 2016 / Directors: Manny Manzanet, Weidman Morales)
Society’s Challenge (USA / 2016 / Directors: Trinity Hanson, Lukas Migliano)
Violence Shapes Us (USA / 2016 / Directors: Kaitlyn Burns, Emma Hermann, Dara Khampane, Katie Lehman)
A Work in Progress – The Breakfast Composer (USA / 2016 / Director: Tyler Pelzek)

REVZA I Naneek

REVZA (Turkey, USA / 2016 / Director: Emir Cakaroz)
UWM instructor/filmmaker Emir Cakaroz returns to his native Turkey to spend some quality time with his widowed mother. It is a poetic, observational portrait (capturing both the intimate and mundane) of not just the relationship between a mother and her son but also the life of a widow in a patriarchal society.

Naneek (USA / 2015 / Director: Neal Steeno)
Vietnam veteran Tim Keenan returns to the land that has haunted him. In search of peace of mind and forgiveness, he revisits the battleground of Dak To and meets with former enemies in order to acknowledge the humanity of the Vietnamese people he fought against.

There Are Jews Here
(USA / 2016 / Directors: Brad Lichtenstein, Morgan Johnson)
Director Brad Lichtenstein (As Goes Janesville, MFF2012) tells a touching story of America’s disappearing Jewish communities and the hardworking people striving to keep them intact and ensure that their cultural legacies are not lost. Come with us to Butte, MT, Laredo, TX, Dothan, AL (where a millionaire offers $50,000 to families willing to relocate and join their dwindling populace), and Latrobe, PA, as we witness more than 1 million American Jews living in small, once-thriving communities, bound together by faith and striving to keep the Jewish spirit alive.

There Are Jews Here – Trailer from Seventh Art Releasing on Vimeo.

Tolkien & Lewis: Myth, Imagination & The Quest For Meaning I Behind the Pearl Earrings

Tolkien & Lewis: Myth, Imagination & The Quest For Meaning (UK / 2016 / Director: Chip Duncan)
At Oxford University in 1931, a historic debate took place between two literary legends, The Lord of the Rings’ J.R.R. Tolkien and The Chronicles of Narnia’s C.S. Lewis, regarding myth, inspiration, and truth. It was a debate so powerful it converted former atheist Lewis to Christianity. Varied scholars and experts help color in this momentous meeting of the minds.

Behind the Pearl Earrings (USA / 2015 / Director: Maryann Lazarski)
A riveting MPTV production regarding Milwaukee native Dickey Chapelle, a female war journalist who always told the story her own way. Clad in an Australian bush hat, distinctive eyeglasses, and inimitable pearl earrings, Chapelle paved the way for future female correspondents.

The following locally-made short films will precede locally-made features in the Cream City Cinema Program. See the Program Book for their pairings.

Disintegrit (USA / 2016 / Director: Josh Paul Halverson)
Operation Wolf Patrol: Wildlife Policy in Wisconsin (USA / 2016 / Director: Joe Brown)

About The Author

Matt Wild
Co-Founder and Editor

In his spare time, Matt Wild enjoys collecting 8-bit Nintendo games (emulation is for creeps) and fondly remembering the time Milwaukee weatherman Vince Condella caused a stir at his Catholic grade school by showing up with an earring. He lives on Milwaukee's East Side.