The Milwaukee Film Festival (http://mkefilm.org) features movies from all across the globe, but they also have a program, Cream City Cinema, that celebrates local filmmakers. Thursday, Oct. 3 was a special day for the film festival as Cream City Cinema's The Milwaukee Show showcased twelve short films from local filmmakers. The Oriental Theatre played host to this sold-out show which ran from 7-9:30 p.m.
Milwaukee Film Artistic & Executive Director Jonathan Jackson acted as an MC of sorts, welcoming the audience and introducing Dear Milwaukee Executive Producer Jack Turner. Turner introduced a new "Dear Milwaukee" short directed by last year's Filmmaker-in-Residence Award winner Chris James Thompson. After this short and sponsor videos ran, the twelve short films commenced with Jackson conducting short interviews with the filmmakers between films.
The Milwaukee Show opened strong with "Spectacle!", a short film that jumps the borders of time and genre. This tongue-in-cheek short features silent film, noir, musical, animation, futuristic, and independent-style clips. These segments demonstrate the stand-out styles and how they differ, and so it makes sense that multiple directors would be needed to create each part. Andrew Swant, WC Tank, Erick Ljung, Kurt Raether, and Carol Brandt each took part in directing a segment of this crowd-pleasing short film.
Brian McGuire's "The Quiet City" and Harrison Browning's "Pluto and the Vessel" followed in a more limited narrative, experimental fashion. "The Quiet City" is an experimental short film following a woman walking through a city. This film didn't tell a story so much as it showcased a film-making technique eliciting an eerie, abandoned feel which, while interesting, can drag on after a few minutes. "Pluto and the Vessel", while different in that it follows a narrative of sorts, creates the same eerie, "trippy" feeling. While the narrative is somewhat lacking, Browning's admittedly unplanned sound and editing are his strong suits in this animated science fiction horror short.
The audience was relieved from the unconventional when Michael T. Vollman's "Before You." This adorable tribute to his daughter functioned as a kind of letter of address by way of film. This sentimental, at times humorous, short film had the audience "aw"-ing throughout the entire experience.
Jessica Farrell's "USPS" followed "Before You" as the first direct documentary, much in the style of a "Mr. Rogers" educational clip. "USPS" follows an employee of 30 years at the United States Postal Service as he explains the process of sending such an insurmountable mass of mail from one building, as well as how each employee plays a role in a kind of domino-effect work environment. Farrell captures the vast post supply and speed of shipment, but doesn't quite manage to grab interest for those who don't share her fascination with USPS.
Another touching tribute followed with Andrew Gralton's "Cinders". This short documentary follows Gralton's mother, who was diagnosed with frontal lobe dementia at 48-years-old in 2003. The film uses current footage of his mother functioning with his extensive help interspersed with footage of her former, younger self. In this way, he deftly opens the audience's perspective of his mother in representing her humanity and still-present spirit despite her condition. "Cinders" showed incredible bravery in taking on such a challenging topic with the skill and tact necessary to create a respectful, honorary tribute to his mother.
The Milwaukee Show took a lighter turn with Heather Hass's "Begong Ava, Begong Hele" and Anna Sampers's "Margaret Hue Would Like to go to Mars". "Begong Ava, Begong" is a music video set to the music of Altos. Director, animator, and editor Hass plays trumpet in Altos, and expertly synchronizes the music with her animated drawings in a way that creates a fantastical film accompaniment to Altos's powerful music. "Margaret Hue Would Like to go to Mars" was definitely a crowd favorite. Inspired by the Mars One program (http://www.mars-one.com/en/), Sampers created a mock application to move to Mars. Much like a "Big Brother" audition tape, this short film is very simplistic and only focuses on the subject speaking to the camera. In a Siri-type voice, Margaret kept the audience laughing as she explained how things like her past living in a shed and cleanliness would make her the ideal applicant for inhabiting Mars.
Cecelia Condit's "Within a Stone's Throw" shifted gears to a more artistic short film, expertly displaying the scenic Irish countryside. This short film has minimal dialogue and displays the same scene divided into three parts at different times. While this short film can feel repetitive at times, Condit does a remarkable job of creating a visually stunning film in an unconventional way.
Karim Raoul's "Water Ice Snow" followed "Within a Stone's Throw", which was a documentary surrounding the I Am International Foundation. The artist leading the project travels to Mongolia to help young students explore identity through art and self-portraits. This short film expresses the importance of art and attention for young children. And while, this film was well done in explaining and showing the importance of the project from start to finish, it went on a while longer than necessary and could have gone without some of the scenes outside of the classroom.
Zijian Yan's "The Glitch" closed The Milwaukee Show with a futuristic drama about a "pleasure-bot" who is tried for murder after killing a human because of attempted rape. While this film was very well done and presented stunningly crisp, clean images, it was extremely reminiscent of "I, Robot" (2004). However, while it lacked in originality, "The Glitch" excelled in visuals and technique, and seemed to be a crowd favorite.
For more information about The Milwaukee Film Festival, visit http://mkefilm.org.