Reflecting on MFF2015 and Looking Forward to the LGBT Film/Video Festival

The 15-day Milwaukee Film Festival is in the books. Here are the top five films of the Milwaukee Film Festival and five to look forward to for this weekend’s 30th Annual Milwaukee LGBT Film/Video Festival.

The two week whirlwind of the Milwaukee Film Festival is behind us, and the recuperating process has begun, but it’s safe to say that this was another wildly successful year for the festival. Reports released today show that attendance rose 10 percent from last year (with an additional venue in the Avalon it’s hard to say if these numbers exceeded, met or fell short of expectations – I would bet on the former) and attendance continues to astonish me. So much of my local movie-going life consists of attending new releases and repertory screenings alike where a paltry audience has shown up, so to see (for example) a sold out audience packing the Oriental’s main house (and balcony) on a Tuesday evening to check out The Shining is truly remarkable. And this extends to their general screening schedule as well – seeing a theater half-full or more on a weekday morning is a welcome sight. Film is ultimately a communal experience, the opportunity to take a journey with a group of strangers, and the MFF continues to show there is a market for such a thing in the Milwaukee area.

If anything, I would like to see more classic cinema brought into the festival programming in years to come. Without stepping on the toes of the Wisconsin Film Festival (who does a tremendous job bringing in a wide variety of classic cinema every year), there certainly appears to be an appetite for seeing classics on the big screen, and the MFF’s commitment to showcasing at least a few 35mm films each festival is only possible insofar as one programs older cinema.

While some may wish for more prestigious fare being brought to our doorstep by the festival, the curatorial aspect of what the staff of Milwaukee Film accomplishes each year never ceases to impress me. I attended 25 screenings during this year’s festival, and there was only one I didn’t like – and that was the festival’s big prestige get in Youth. It was a fine year for the MFF, and hopefully it augurs many more years of robust attendance and wonderful programming to come.

My Top Five Festival Flicks

  • Gueros
  • The Look of Silence
  • Call Me Lucky
  • Finders Keepers
  • Nina Forever

But when one festival door closes, another festival door opens, and while the 15-day MFF has concluded, it now makes way for the 11-day Milwaukee LGBT Film/Video Festival, now celebrating its 30th year. A robust collection of films make up the schedule this year (with two screenings at the Oriental Theatre, one on the 4th floor of the Golda Meir Library @ UWM, and the rest taking place in the UWM Union Cinema). To help you sift through the more than 30 options you’ll have over the course of the festival, I thought I’d point out five selections that interest me:

  • From This Day Forward (10/15 @ 7:30 p.m., Oriental Theatre)

A documentary from filmmaker Sharon Shattuck chronicling her father’s transition after coming out as transgender (and Shattuck’s mother, who chose to stay with her despite this momentous personal change); this Midwestern documentary is the perfect opening night choice for this year’s festival. At a time when the transgender community has finally broken through into the mainstream, this is an apparently warm, empathetic portrait of one family’s unique journey.

  • Tab Hunter Confidential & Polyester – in Diorama! (10/17 @ 7 p.m., UWM Union & 10/23 @ 11 p.m., UWM Union, respectively)

I was lucky enough to experience both of these films earlier this year as a part of the Wisconsin Film Festival and I’m extremely gladdened to see them both coming our way as part of the LGBT festival this year. Tab Hunter’s story is a delightful one, despite the darkness inherent in an early career spent forced into the closet (Hunter, a 1950s matinee idol, was romantically linked to Natalie Wood, Debbie Reynolds and Sophia Loren in the press) – and filmmaker Jeffrey Schwarz (I Am Divine, Vito) tells his story ebulliently.

John Waters’ Polyester, a camp classic (starring both Hunter & Divine), is the cherry on top – a 35mm screening where the first 100 in attendance receive Odorama cards to recreate the original cinematic experience? There can be nothing better!

  • Stories of our Lives (10/22@ 7 p.m. – UWM Union Cinema)

Much like the MFF, the LGBT festival has a series of shorts programs to offer and while this isn’t technically a part of those (very worthwhile) programs, this series of short films about the lives of gays and lesbians in Kenya, where homosexuality is criminalized, is important. This cinematic act of defiance helps shine a light on the plight of those not afforded the same luxuries we are. It looks fantastic.

  • The Girl King (10/24 @ 7 p.m. – UWM Union Cinema)

And finally, a Queen Kristina biopic from Mika Karuismaki (brother of Aki). We’ve already gotten one iconic take on Sweden’s 17th century ruler (courtesy of Greta Garbo), but certainly there’s room for one more. And there’s always room for sumptuously filmed costume drama in my life.

Quick Links

Festival attendance up 10% over last year, according the Journal-Sentinel (and Romeo is Bleeding takes home the MFF audience award).

Pan was (deservedly so, by the way) a historically significant flop this past weekend.

On The Marquee

Tuesday, October 13: The See the Sky with the Naked Eye

7:00 p.m. @ UWM Union Cinema (FREE)

Tuesday, October 13: The Hobbit – The Battle of the Five Armies Extended Edition

7:30 p.m. @ Select local Marcus Theatres (Click here for tickets)

Wednesday, October 14: Planetary

7:00  p.m. @ UWM Union Cinema ($5 gen ad/FREE for students & members)

Wednesday, October 14: The Birds

7 p.m. @ Select local Marcus Theatres (Click here for tickets)


Thursday, October 15 through October 25: The 30th Annual Milwaukee LGBT Film/Video Festival begins and continues!

Click here for showtimes/venues/pricing

Thursday, October 15: Heart like a Hand Grenade

7 p.m. @ Landmark Downer Theatre

Thursday, October 15: The Shining

10 p.m. @ Select local Marcus Theatres (Click here for tickets)

Friday, October 16: Woodlawn, Goosebumps, Beasts of No Nation, ***CRITIC’S CHOICE*** Bridge of Spies & ***CRITIC’S CHOICE*** Crimson Peak all open locally

Check local listings for showtimes/pricing

Friday, October 16 through Sunday, October 18: 101 Dalmatians

10 a.m., 12:30 p.m. & 3:00 p.m. @ Select Marcus Theatres (Click here for tickets)

Sunday, October 18: My Fair Lady 50th Anniversary

2 p.m. @ Select local Marcus Theatres (Click here for tickets)



Tom Fuchs is a Milwaukee-based film writer whose early love for cinema has grown into a happy obsession. He graduated with honors in Film Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and has since focused on film criticism. He works closely with the Milwaukee Film Festival and has written reviews and ongoing columns for Milwaukee Magazine since 2012. In his free time, Tom enjoys spending time with his wife and dogs at home (watching movies), taking day trips to Chicago (to see movies), and reading books (about movies). You can follow him on Twitter @tjfuchs or email him at