Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The 2011 Wisconsin Film Festival

The initial run-down of options for the 2011 Wisconsin Film Festival sparked my usual interest and I chose to view three this year (as opposed to five my first year here and two last year). Three is a perfect amount. More than one a day is too much for me.

Here are the films I chose:


“Made in India”

Shorts: “Mary & Bill,” “The Optima Hat Company” and “Style & Grace”

I recommend all of them.


As a Francophile, I always enjoy a nice French film. A lot of the movies featured in Wisconsin’s film festival are documentaries and this was one of the few “cutesy” lighter film options. Catherine Deneuve and Gerard Depardieu star in this comedy that takes place in 1977 (filmed in 2010). While Deneuve’s husband’s umbrella company is striking, she has to take over after being a housewife her entire life. This is an entertaining film - something that doesn’t pull your heartstrings. Lots of funny scenes.

"Made in India"

Couples who cannot afford surrogacy in the states are now paying Indian women to house their babies in their womb. It is much cheaper. And you wonder why. Lisa and Brian, a stereo-typical “American” couple from Texas find a company who will pay Aasia, an Indian mother of three to be their surrogate. This feature length documentary makes the audience feel the human emotions for both the barren couple and Aasia and her family. To see the exploitation and politics that go on give you a glimpse of the desperation that people have for both money and to have a child. This was a very interesting film. And just when you think it is over after all of the challenges that they succumb to, you learn something more that makes you feel even differently walking away from the film.

“Mary & Bill"

As if you didn’t already know, I enjoy exercise. In this documentary, Mary Stoebe is a ninety year old Madison resident. And she is a triathlete. Bill Wamach is an eighty-three year old local who is a high jumper, competing in the National Senior Olympic Games. The two are portrayed doing their routinely disciplined work outs. Mary started doing triathlons at seventy-seven, so what is keeping you? They are in excellent physical shape. While they have suffered from some injuries (Mary is an avid down-hill ski instructor who was injured on the slopes and told not to do her last triathlon, while Bill survived a heart attack), the film was funny and inspiring. They were present for a question & answer session after the film. It’s amazing how healthy they appear. They look better than some people I know in their forties.

“The Optimo Hat Company”

A ten minute documentary on luxury hat making on the South Side of Chicago. It felt like watching an infomercial for the owner’s business. Nothing too exciting.

“Style & Grace”

A black barber shop that has existed in Madison for close to sixty years where Smitty has been cutting hair. Nothing happens and the quality of the film is low budget. As I often say, Madison is not the most diverse city and I felt the depiction of African Americans in this film was unfortunate. But Smitty has a nice community in his shop. While he soothes screaming toddlers who are getting their first haircut, two men are playing checkers at a table in the corner, just hanging out. It’s a nice, forty minute short.

Wisconsin Film Festival, you did it again!

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