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  The Milwaukee Film Fest comes just once a year, kind of like Christmas, which is what it feels like for film lovers like me. The 10-day festival showcases 173 feature films and shorts, and the13-person staff calls upon more than 500 volunteers to pull it together. To celebrate the massive undertaking, Milwaukee Film is […]

 

The Milwaukee Film Fest comes just once a year, kind of like Christmas, which is what it feels like for film lovers like me. The 10-day festival showcases 173 feature films and shorts, and the13-person staff calls upon more than 500 volunteers to pull it together. To celebrate the massive undertaking, Milwaukee Film is hosting an event of equally grandiose proportions to kick off the fest. Following the opening film Blue Valentine, the opening night party will span the vastness of Discovery World with music, interactive technology, spa services, cocktails and more.

The essentials:

When: Thursday, Sept. 23 from 8:30 p.m.-1 a.m.
Where: Discovery World, 500 N. Harbor Dr.
Cost: $10 (buy tickets online or at the door), or get in free with your Milwaukee Film Festival Pass or ticket stub from Blue Valentine (6 p.m. showing at North Shore or 7 p.m. showing at the Oriental)

Sweetening the deal, you get two free drink tickets for Grey Goose vodka, Blue Moon beer or Domain Napa wine, and free apps from Bartolotta Restaurant Group in addition to food for sale.

 

The lay of the land:

On the main floor of Discovery World, DJ Jordan Lee from Radio Milwaukee will be spinning. There will also be an area were you can navigate the festival guide and plan your experience on giant touch-screen HD monitors with an application developed by Stamm Technologies and see select trailers for films in the festival.

 

In the upstairs Pilot House – where you can experience breathtaking views of the city – the Four One Quartet will create a special soundtrack of new music compositions based on soundtracks from films in this year’s festival. The group of Milwaukee-based artists is comprised of members from bands Collections of Colonies of Bees, Decibully, Volcano Choir and Made of Oak. There will also be visual depictions of the films as the quartet performs from 8:30-11:15 p.m.

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Villagers (Irish singer songwriter Conor O’Brien) will perform first in the outdoor tent at 9:30 p.m. and Nation Beat (folkloric Brazilian rhythms with classic American roots) closes the event at 11:30 p.m. Nation Beat actually performed at last year’s Global Union, but due to torrential rain, many people weren’t able to see the entire performance. This will be a perfect encore so that Milwaukeeans can get down to their infectious sound. Also, Milwaukee’s favorite Global-music-loving DJ Marcus Doucett will be spinning prior to both musical acts.

If this is all too much for you to handle, take a break at the Neroli Salon & Spa Relaxation Bar for a massage or a mani on the main floor of Discovery World.

 

 

For a while, Milwaukee was one of only two of the top 50 markets that didn’t have a major film festival. After just two years, artistic and executive director Jonathan Jackson believes the Milwaukee Film Fest is on par with festivals that have been presenting for 30-40 years. Jackson takes pride in selecting the opening night film himself. He describes Blue Valentine as hands-down the best American independent film he’s seen all year. “It’s unique – it’s not a softball to the audience, but it’s one of the best, most honest tortured love stories and captures two of the finest performances of the year.” Those performers are well-know actors Ryan Gosling (Half Nelson) and Michelle Williams (Wendy and Lucy, Brokeback Mountain) who Jackson calls “the future of Hollywood.”

I asked Jackson for tips or insider fest secrets. He reveals: “If you don’t see a short film, you’re missing out. We put a lot of time and energy into getting the shorts because there aren’t many outlets for them, and they are done by the up-and-coming filmmakers.”

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The festival runs Sept. 23-Oct. 3. For more information, including a full schedule of events, visit milwaukee-film.org. Even if you don’t wait for the fest all year like me, be sure to check out the opening night on Thursday – it promises to be a grand affair.

 

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