Emerging Voices in Milwaukee Film Festival Competition Program

Distinct style, unique voice, challenging content.

Who says art isn’t a competition? Tell it to the eight filmmakers eligible for $10,000 Herzfeld Award from the Milwaukee Film Festival for the film that “exemplifies the festival’s spirit.”

The winning Competition program film will be chosen by a yet to be announced jury.

Competition films, said festival artistic and executive director Jonathan Jackson, are by first or second time directors and have “a distinctive style, a unique voice and more challenging content.”

They represent “emerging voices we think will be around for a long time.”

The films in the Competition program are:

–The Russian Woodpecker (USA, Ukraine/ Chad Garcia) Documentary examines an eccentric performance artist’s relationship to the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Director Chad Gracia grew up in South Milwaukee and the film won the international documentary prize at the Sundance Film Festival.

–Cartel Land (USA, Mexico/Matthew Heineman) Documentary embeds you with two groups at the front lines of the drug wars and the border war between the US and Mexico.

–Embrace of the Serpent (Colombia, Venezuela, Argentin/ Ciro Guerra) Mystical drama about an aboriginal community with echoes of Fitzcarraldo and Apocalypse Now.

–Imperial Dreams (USA / Malik Vitthal) Father-son drama and coming of age story about a young ex-con, played by John Boyega, adjusting to freedom in Watts. Boyega stars in the upcoming Star Wars movie.

–Krisha (USA/Trey Edward Shults) Feature length version of short that played at the 2014 festival, about a Sixtysomething woman reunited with her family for the first time in over a decade over Thanksgiving. Won the jury prize at the South By Southwest festival.

No One’s Child (Serbia/Croatia/Vuk Rsumovic) Drama based on a true story about a feral child sent to an orphanage where he becomes caught up in the Balkan War. Some compare it to Truffaut’s Wild Child.

–Uncertain (USA/Ewan McNicol, Anna Sandilands) Tribeca Film Festival award winner is a character study set in a small Texas town on the brink of disappearing. A real life Beasts of the Southern Wild.

— Violet (Belgium, Bas Devos) The emotional landscape of a teenager who witnesses the murder of a friend. Visually epic, emotionally intimate film, some of it shot on 65mm, deserves to be seen on the big screen.

The Milwaukee Film Festival, which is presented by the Journal Sentinel, runs Sept. 24 through Oct. 8. The Competition program is presented by the Heil Family Foundation and is sponsored by Beans & Barley. Tickets go on sale Sept. 9 for members, Sept. 10 for the public. The physical festival program guide will become available Saturday at Cathedral Square Park and at the festival’s website on Sunday.



Duane Dudek is a Milwaukee native. For more than 30 years, he was film critic and television columnist at the Milwaukee Sentinel and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. He continues to apply his expertise at DuaneDudek.com.