Hey! The all-virtual 2021 Milwaukee Film Festival is happening…RIGHT NOW. From May 6-20, hundreds of feature films and shorts will be available for you to enjoy in the comfort of your own home. Find out how the whole thing works HERE. Passes and individual tickets are on sale NOW.
HERE‘s the full program! (Download a PDF HERE.) Below you’ll find 15 films that we’re definitely checking out—including all six films in the Milwaukee Record-sponsored Cinema Hooligante program. (Please note: the list does not include all the fantastic shorts programs—including the two “Milwaukee Shows” and the always delightful “The Best Damn F*#@ing Midnight Program Ever. Sh*t”—because you should just go ahead and buy tickets for all of them.)
Spain / 2021 / 103 min / No Dialogue
Baby is a dark fairytale about an addict mother who, in desperation, sells her newborn to traffickers. She quickly regrets the decision and ventures into an eerie forest to get him back. Inspired by Guillermo del Toro and the Brothers Grimm, Basque filmmaker Juanma Bajo Ulloa constructs a world that is equal parts grotesque and beautiful. This macabre tale is told entirely without dialogue and stars Rosie Day (Outlander), Harriet Sansom Harris (Desperate Housewives), and Natalia Tena (Game Of Thrones, Harry Potter).
DIR Juanma Bajo Ulloa
PROD Juanma Bajo Ulloa
SCR Juanma Bajo Ulloa, Elisa Marinas
COMING HOME IN THE DARK
New Zealand / 2021 / 93 min / English
Hoaggie and his family are having a delightful trip in the stunning New Zealand wilderness when they’re approached by two mysterious strangers. It quickly becomes apparent this duo has malicious intent. While Hoaggie claims to have no idea why, he has a sneaking suspicion that his unsavory past has come back to haunt him. The brutality and terror that unfolds will have you second guessing that summer road trip you have planned. WISCONSIN ONLY
DIR James Ashcroft
PROD Desray Armstrong, Catherine Fitzgerald, Mike Minogue
SCR James Ashcroft, Eli Kent, Owen Marshall
USA / 2020 / 83 min / English
Cowboys stars the always great Steve Zahn as a troubled dad who goes on the lam with his trans son Joe after they realize their rural Montana hometown will never let Joe live as his authentic self. Filled with musings on identity, responsibility, and gorgeous Montana landscapes, Cowboys will leave audiences with lots to think about after the credits roll.
DIR Anna Kerrigan
PROD Chris Parker, Dylan Sellers, Anna Kerrigan, Gigi Graff
SCR Anna Kerrigan
DEATH OF NINTENDO
Philippines, USA / 2020 / 99 min / Tagalog with English subtitles
In 1990s Manila, Paolo and his small crew of friends come of age as Mount Pinatubo gets ready to erupt. When frequent blackouts interrupt their Nintendo games, they set off on new adventures. Seen through the singular lens of Raya Martin, who was named one of the 50 most important filmmakers under 50 by Cinema Scope, Death of Nintendo is a charming tribute to puberty a-la Stand By Me…but with circumcision. AGES 13+
DIR Raya Martin
PROD Kriz G. Gazmen, Marjorie Lachica, Valerie Castillo Martinez, Marizel Samson-Martinez
SCR Valerie Castillo Martinez
USA / 2021 / 82 min / English, American Sign with English subtitles
Dylan and his dad have just moved to start a new life after the tragic loss of his mother. Dylan finds a mysterious book in a closet and reads about the Djinn, a magical beast that can grant wishes. Dylan is mute, so he wishes for a voice, but he fails to realize that he has to survive the night at the mercy of the monster. WISCONSIN ONLY
DIR David Charbonier, Justin Powell
PROD Carter Armstrong, Ryan Scaringe, Meghan Weinstein
SCR David Charbonier, Justin Powell
HOW IT FEELS TO BE FREE
Canada, USA / 2020 / 113 min / English
Yoruba Richen’s latest documentary showcases six Black women entertainers (Lena Horne, Abbey Lincoln, Nina Simone, Diahann Carroll, Cicely Tyson, Pam Grier) whose talent and activism propel them into transformative figures in popular culture. Based on the book by Ruth Feldstein, the film chronicles the defiant way in which each woman challenged an entertainment industry that sought to reduce them to marginalized roles and racist stereotypes.
DIR Yoruba Richen
SCR Elizabeth Trojian
I BLAME SOCIETY
USA / 2020 / 84 min / English
Stretching the ‘fake it ’til you make it’ ethos to its breaking point, I Blame Society is a whip-smart satire that takes a machete to the vacuous Hollywood machine. Director Gillian Wallace Horvat plays struggling filmmaker…Gillian Wallace Horvat, who in the process of fleshing out her mockumentary about committing the perfect murder accrues a very real body count, warping her vision into something more madness than method.
DIR Gillian Wallace Horvat
PROD Michelle Craig, Mette-Marie Kongsved, Laura Tunstall, Monte Zajicek
SCR Gillian Wallace Horvat, Chase Williamson
USA / 2020 / 83 min / English
Attracted by a neuroscientist’s bold claim of building a computer simulation of the entire human brain in just 10 years, Noah Hutton (Lapsis, MFF2020) decides to document the process, checking in every year as the global excitement surrounding the project grows along with its funding. But a chorus of scientists express their skepticism as the project becomes increasingly influenced by ego and ambition. A fascinating documentary that shows the humanity behind the science.
DIR Noah Hutton
PROD Kellen Quinn, Taylor Hess, Jesse Miller
SCR Noah Hutton
THE LAST MATINEE (Al morir la matinée)
Argentina, Uruguay / 2020 / 88 min / Spanish with English subtitles
Giallo is alive and well in Uruguay. A murderer is stalking the audience of a rundown movie theatre in Montevideo. As the viewers are savagely picked off one by one, the heroic projectionist decides to save the day and face this deranged killer. A movie made for movie lovers, you’ll have a blast finding references to filmmakers like Dario Argento and Bigas Luna. Bathed in blood and neon, The Last Matinee never pulls a punch. WISCONSIN ONLY
DIR Maximiliano Contenti
PROD Maximiliano Contenti, Lucía Gaviglio Salkind, Alina Kaplan
SCR Maximiliano Contenti, Manuel Facal
USA / 2020 / 76 min / English
Luchina Fisher’s documentary is an empathic and engaging portrait of Gloria Allen. Once a mainstay in the drag ball culture on Chicago’s South Side in the 1960s, Gloria would persevere through traumatic violence to emerge as a leader and matriarch in her community that gives unconditional love. Her creation of a charm school for young transgender people would inspire a hit play, Charm, chronicling her journey as a Black, septuagenarian, trans icon and elder.
DIR Luchina Fisher
PROD Luchina Fisher, Yvonne Welbon, Zainab Ali, Lorna Grisby
SCR Luchina Fisher
THE PINK CLOUD
Brazil / 2021 / 105 min / English, Portuguese with English subtitles
A mysterious and toxic pink cloud has enveloped the Earth and everyone is forced to hide indoors. Giovana ends up hunkering down with a one-night-stand, but little does she know that he will be her companion for years to come. Taking the quarantine lifestyle to the extreme, you’ll laugh and cry at all-too familiar situations. This dystopian drama hits so close to home, you won’t believe it was filmed in 2019.
DIR Iuli Gerbase
SCR Iuli Gerbase, Vicente Moreno
United Kingdom / 2021 / 90 min / English
US Premiere! A punk mash-up of archival footage, animation, and interviews, this documentary chronicles the outlaw dyke culture of the UK in the 1980s. A collective of artists, activists, sex workers, and outcasts, Rebel Dykes retells the pioneering struggles of sexpositive, BDSM leather dykes as they not only fought against a conservative government and religious oppression, but other lesbians who became transphobic “sex police.” This is an unapologetic history about the dykes who paved the way for our rights today.
DIR Harri Shanahan, Sian Williams
PROD Siobhan Fahey
USA / 2020 / 84 min / English, German, French with English subtitles
This is the true story of six people, picked to live in a dome on a lava field in Hawai’i…Red Heaven tells the true story of an experiment designed to inform NASA’s path toward human exploration of Mars. Asking what the limits of human isolation might be, these experiences of a year in isolation will ring familiar to us in 2021, but also help us envision the lives of astronauts in fascinating ways.
DIR Lauren DeFilippo, Katherine Gorringe
PROD Lauren DeFilippo, Katherine
SISTERS WITH TRANSISTORS
United Kingdom / 2020 / 86 min / English
Narrated by Laurie Anderson, Sisters With Transistors is a masterful archival documentary that restores the centrality of women to the origins of electronic music. Featuring Clara Rockmore, Delia Derbyshire, Suzanne Ciani and more, this story of how we hear demonstrates how new devices opened music to the entire field of sound and how changing the modes of production also transformed the very terms of musical thought.
DIR Lisa Rovner
PROD Anna Lena Vaney
TOM PETTY, SOMEWHERE YOU FEEL FREE
USA / 2021 / 89 min / English
OPENING NIGHT! Combining never-before-seen 16mm archival footage and new interviews with colleagues, director Mary Wharton assembles a deep study of Tom Petty as an artist, tracing the creative process for his seminal album, Wildflowers. Fueled by all the hits you know and love, this unvarnished and intimate tribute to an artist gone before his time is not overly mournful but serves as a powerful testament to and document of his creative process.
DIR Mary Wharton
PROD Peter Afterman
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