Sunday, April 6, 2008
This weekend it began to look like spring might arrive in Wisconsin. All but the biggest snow piles have melted; robins are hopping the lawns; tulips and daffodils are up about two inches, and the Wisconsin Film Festival was back in Madison for the tenth year. We have been taking in the festival for six or seven years, and this year did not disappoint. There were 220 offerings scattered around eight venues, and the hardest part was choosing what we wanted to see and figuring out a schedule that would allow us to hike from screen to screen and still allow enough travel (and eating) time. So many movies, so little time!
Every year it gets easier. I've been taking a painting class in Madison once a week, so a month ago I was assigned the job of getting the printed schedule from the Isthmus newspaper. We haggled over the films we thought would be good, then ordered tickets online, a big improvement over driving 40 miles to the box office, standing in line, and hoping to get the films we wanted. When we both were working Thursday night was out, but now that we're retired the entire schedule was there to choose from.
We ended up seeing two films after on Thursday, and four on Saturday. We decided, based on the films we enjoyed most previous years, to choose all documentaries, though due to circumstances beyond our control we ended up seeing a foreign bio-pic on Genghis Khan. It may be that I am getting too old to see four films in one day. It isn't the miles of pounding pavement that is wearing me down (I've learned to wear hiking shoes), it's the sitting. By 10:00 PM Saturday night my back and posterior were feeling their age.
Here's what we saw:
British Television Advertising Awards: This was an hour of award winning television commericals from the UK, and it was my husband's favorite. Whether they were pitching Guinness, Marmite, or were a public service spot about drunk driving or child abuse, all were entertaining, provocative, or both. I laughed out loud at a live action version of the introduction to The Simpsons.
Garbage Warrior: This is part of a series, Tales from Planet Earth, and tells the story of Mike Reynolds, a New Mexico architect who builds homes from things like plastic and glass bottles and old tires. His goal is to build self-sustaining homes that are off the grid, needing no power lines, or water or sewer hook-ups. The documentary showed his "earthship" homes, and showed the difficulty he had in getting official approval for these nontraditional dwellings.
Mongol: We didn't buy tickets for this one, but we used vouchers the festival gave us when one film ran so late that we missed the one for which we had tickets. Still, we enjoyed this historical action epic about young Genghis Khan.
Naked on the Inside: This was my most memorable film. The documentary introduced men and women with body image issues. There was an artist who had breast cancer, a gang member with tattoos, a fat woman who is also an artist's model, a man with no legs, a former model with an eating disorder, and a transgender person. Each one reveals him or herself to the camera, clothes on, and clothes off. It was very moving.
The Pixar Story: Nothing less than the history of digital animation as it grew from hand-drawn cartoons. My husband and I both really enjoyed this, and try to see animation festivals whenever we can. We were pleased to have seen all the Pixar films, including the very early shorts.
The Unforeseen: Another documentary about the relationship between development and preserving the natural environment. This one was about a west Texas developer named Gary Bradley who was cashing in on the building boom of the 1970's and who ran into all sorts of problems when he tried to develop a subdivision near a park in Austin. As the story unfolds it becomes clear that Bradley isn't the ultimate bad guy, and we become gradually aware of the power of money to sink both private entrepreneurs and public interest groups. Fascinating and depressing.
The other interesting thing we did this weekend was to attend a charity dinner. A local peace group sponsored the event as part of the "Night of a Thousand Dinners," which raises funds to clear landmines for the UN. This group was supporting Bosnia. A local restaurant served chicken soup, a spinach cheese pie, homemade sausage, yogurt, and dessert. Each table had a map of Bosnia, and each place mat had information about the Adopt-A-Minefield program, which raises funds to clear minefields so that the land can once again be used for farming, and for building. Monies also go to assist survivors, which these days are mostly civilians and children, with medical and emotional issues. It was a fun and easy was to raise money for a worthy cause.