Wisconsin Film Festival returns with all-virtual lineup

MADISON, Wis. — After a year off due to the pandemic, the Wisconsin Film Festival is back with a slew of films ready for enjoyment.

The annual festival kicks off Thursday, but with a new twist: all of this year’s films will be streamed online. With more than 100 short and feature-length films, there’s sure to be something for every cinephile to enjoy.

“When I first started going to the festival as an attendee I was nervous cause I was nervous because I was like ‘This place might be too cool for me,'” Ben Reiser, the festival’s outreach and community engagement manager, said. “It’s nice to see the occasional art film but I don’t want to work that hard when I’m watching a movie. This festival doesn’t only show sort of classy foreign films with subtitles, it shows goofy funny entertaining stuff but maybe not the same goofy entertaining stuff that you’re going to find elsewhere.”

Many of the films featured in the festival have some tie to Wisconsin, too.

The director of one of this year’s Golden Badger Award winners, Nathan Clarke, was born in Madison and said the Wisconsin Film Festival is where he learned what a film could really be.

“Film festivals have always been a place where you can be exposed to new and different ways of telling stories,” Clarke said. “Filmmakers from different places that you’re not going to experience on Netflix or Amazon. Especially when they have access to your watch history and are only giving you stuff that they think you want to watch.”

Clarke’s film, “The Passing On” was picked this year’s winners of the distinction. It tells the story of the oldest Black-owned funeral parlor in San Antonio. The other winner, “Iron Family,” is a touching documentary that follows a family in the struggling iron mining region of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

Both films will be available for streaming with purchase of either a single-movie ticket or a festival pass.

A full list of this year’s featured films, ticket information and more details are available on the Wisconsin Film Festival’s website.