APPLETON – Like a teenager driving solo for the first time, the Wildwood Film Festival is growing more mature in its 16th year.
Don’t worry, there’s still a wide range of films to be shown — from comedies to documentaries to horror flicks with creepy clowns — but the annual celebration of filmmaking with Wisconsin ties is wading into the waters of social awareness. Using the film “Halfway” as a springboard, the opening night of the two-day festival will feature a community conversation about race.
“The goal is to help people gain a broader perspective about what it’s like to be different in the community they live in,” said Josh Dukelow, host of the “Fresh Take” radio show on WHBY and moderator for the Friday night town hall event. “And how each of us can play a role in making it easier for those who are different, being welcoming and included in things and making this a better destination for business, for talent and, for people who already live here, making life more pleasant and more connected.”
The “Fresh Take” Town Hall, “Exploring Race and Recidivism,” will get the 16th annual Wildwood Film Festival started at 3 p.m. Friday March 10 at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center in downtown Appleton. The two-hour discussion will serve as a preface of sorts for “Halfway,” a feature-length film shot in southwestern Wisconsin, which will be shown at 8 p.m.
Produced by and starring Quinton Aaron, who famously portrayed Michael Oher in “The Blind Side,” “Halfway” is the story of a black man released from prison adjusting to a new life in the urban (and very white) Wisconsin town of Montfort. The film’s trailer will be shown at the start of the town hall to set up the discussion.
“(The trailer) captures a moment in the film that really just shines a light on how communities can be unwelcoming,” Dukelow said. “We’re also going to talk about the notion of the revolving door of the criminal justice system, how easy it can be once you’re out to end up back in prison.
“That’ll be one aspect of the conversation, but we’ll also talk about how art and culture can help connect people and community and make it more welcoming and inclusive. There will be a lot of themes going on — it’s going to be a wide-ranging conversation.”
A panel of speakers with diverse backgrounds will be a part of the town hall, including Rayon Brown, manager of diversity and inclusion services at Fox Valley Technical College; Paris Brown, Lawrence University admissions counselor; ESTHER Prison Reform Task Force member Bill Van Lopik; and photographer Mark Ferrell.
Dukelow said he expects the event to play out almost like a live version of his radio show.
The Saturday lineup for the festival plays out much like in past years. A 9 a.m. workshop for young filmmakers will be housed in the Redwood Room of the Radisson Paper Valley Hotel. The short film sessions begin at 1 p.m. and continue at 3, 6 and 8 p.m. The final batch features six works aimed for an adults-only audience. In all, 27 short films will be shown — each with a Wisconsin connection, whether it be a native behind or in front of the camera or the film having been shot in-state.
“We always pride ourselves in being able to offer a little something for everybody,” said Jason Buss, who founded the festival in 2001 with buddies Tom Thorne and Craig Knitt.
Among this year’s offerings are a documentary from an Oshkosh filmmaker on the experience of Vietnam veterans during an Old Glory Honor Flight that took place during EAA AirVenture.
Buss said one of his favorites from the 2017 crop is a horror thriller called “Taste,” produced and starring an actress from Wausau. He said it’s one that will leave the audience scratching their heads — in a good way.
There’s also “Gags,” a 17-minute horror movie from a Green Bay filmmaker, that’s part of the 8 p.m. set. That film might ring a bell for those who remember the creepy clown that was photographed in Green Bay last year and turned out to be a promotional stunt for the movie.
A 10 p.m. wrap party follows the final screening and runs until midnight in the lobby of the PAC.
The festival has been able to slowly grow over its 16 years, Buss said, thanks to an increase in community engagement. That's one thing he said was a huge plus this year, more so than in the past, from Dukelow's involvement in the town hall — he pitched the idea — to a team of sponsors jumping on board to help make it happen.
It all came together thanks to the help from numerous individuals and entities in the Fox Valley, he said, and it feels a little like catching "lightning in a bottle."
"It feels really good," Buss said.
Original Source: Postcresent.com
Shane Nyman , USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin - Published 8:39 a.m. CT March 4, 2017 | Updated 10:35 a.m. CT March 4, 2017