Film festivals can either cast a wide net or focus on a particular subject. The Milwaukee Film Festival, coming to Milwaukee, Wisconsin October 17-31, is an example of the former; the Freeland Film Festival, coming to Green Lake, Wisconsin September 13-15, is an example of the latter.
What subject does the Freeland Film Festival cover? It’s a subject both ultra-specific and all-encompassing:
A global storytelling platform featuring films about people, wild animals and ecosystems that are facing daunting challenges. These are stories of hope and inspiration. An annual weekend festival that includes films, panels, live music, local food, and workshops presented to the public, critics, students, aspiring filmmakers, and activists.
“Our festival is a niche festival with a purpose that is especially poignant today due to the climate crisis the world is facing, and some of the setbacks we’ve been seeing in global wildlife and habitat regulation,” says festival producer Dawn Borchardt. “These issues have been all over the news the last couple of years, and the stories we share not only address these issues, but provide some answers for when the audience wants to know ‘what can I do to help.'”
In 2018, more than 1,200 attendees showed up for the inaugural Freeland Film Festival, enjoying more than 30 events over a three-day weekend. (The overall Freeland organization describes itself as a “frontline counter-trafficking organization working for a world that is free of wildlife trafficking and human slavery.”) This year, various venues will screen 50 films, ranging from opening-night selection Children Of Bal Ashram (which tells the story of a couple that cares for boys rescued from child labor) to the partly animated Liyana (“A Swazi girl embarks on a dangerous quest to rescue her young twin brothers.”) Panel discussions, workshops, and live music round out the bill. Oh, and a screening of the 1973 Charlton Heston vehicle Soylent Green (part of the festival’s “Classics with a Conscious” series).
“I’m super excited with this year’s program,” Borchardt says. “We have several of our 2018 filmmakers excited to come back with new work, like Mariah Wilson who’s back with her new feature Silent Forests about forest elephants. I’m personally looking forward to a couple of films that have been fest favorites on the circuit this last year: Liyana, Tigerland, and Kifaru. I saw the premiere of Kifaru in one of Slamdance’s small screening rooms and was blown away. Tigerland premiered at Sundance this year, and Liyana was a festival favorite at the Palm Springs International Film Fest. We are so lucky to be able to share an amazing program like this at a new and still pretty small film festival.”
About the “pretty small” thing. Once again, Freeland Film Festival will take place in picturesque Green Lake, Wisconsin (pop. 1,000-ish). A 90-minute drive from Milwaukee, it’s a perfect location for a nature- and activist-focused film festival.
“Green Lake is a relatively unknown oasis in the heart of Wisconsin,” Borchardt says. “We want people to come to this small town and enjoy the serenity while taking in our program. We hope that this can be a new destination film festival.”
And it wouldn’t be a film festival without a special guest or two. This year, Dr. Quinn herself, Jane Seymour, will be on hand to receive a Lifetime Inspirer Award. Seymour is the founder of the philanthropic Open Hearts Foundation, and is currently producing a film about abused women. Seymour and her daughter, Katie Flynn, will also unveil a new app at the Freeland Film Festival.
“While at a conference in Aspen this past spring, our festival director Steve Galster met Jane Seymour who was there representing her Open Hearts Foundation,” Borchardt explains. “Her org and Freeland are teaming up together to produce a new app created to help revolutionize volunteerism. Her and her daughter, actress Katie Flynn, will be introducing this app at our panel ‘Rewarding Goodness: Can the Technology Revolution Help Save the World?’ on Saturday Sept. 14 at 1 p.m.”