UW Mini Indie Film Festival Day 4: “To Kill A Man” and student shorts

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Sunday is the final day of the UW Mini Indie Film Festival at the Union South Marquee, and the festival is finishing off with a modest pair of screenings at Union South, 1308 W. Dayton St. Both screenings are free and open to the public; visit union.wisc.edu/film for details.

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Free UW Mini Indie Film Festival kicks off with “In a World . . .” and “A Field in England”

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Now that everyone’s had a couple of weeks to rest their eyeballs after the Wisconsin Film Festival, the UW-Madison’s Wisconsin Union Directorate’s Film Committee gets us back in our seats with the sixth annual Mini Indie Film Festival.

The festival runs Thursday through Sunday in the Marquee Theatre at Union South, 1308 W. Dayton St. This year has a very strong lineup of new independent cinema, most of which hasn’t played in Madison before, including the new film by Michel Gondry (“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”), Ben Wheatley (“Kill List”) and the Madison premiere of the Oscar-nominated foreign film “The Broken Circle Breakdown.” All the films are free (yes, FREE) and open to the public, but there’s no ticketing — just make sure you show up early enough to get a seat.

Here’s what’s on tap for Thursday:

“In A World . . .” (7 p.m.) — My full review is here. Lake Bell’s debut as writer and director (as well as star) initially seems like a laugh-out-loud romcom set in the world of Hollywood voiceover artists, and it’s certainly that, and very funny. But there’s a smart and subtle feminist message woven in there as well, as Bell’s character navigates a male-dominated industry where women use baby-girl voices to get noticed. So, yeah, she falls in love and all that, but the film’s really about women finding their authentic, non-baby-doll voice.

A Field in England” (9:30 p.m) — Ben Wheatley’s films seem to delight in packing one genre inside another — “Down Terrace” hid a crime drama underneath its miserablist family comedy, “Kill List” nestled a cult horror film within a hitman thriller, and “Sightseers” gave us a mild, schlubby character who also happened to be a serial killer. “A Field in England” may be his strangest mash-up yet, a 17th-century war film that plays like “Waiting for Godot” on magic mushrooms — because the characters spend a good chunk of the film on magic mushrooms.

 

Mini_Indie Film Festival brings more indie goodness to Madison this weekend

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Well, you’ve had a week to recover from the cinematic splendors of the Wisconsin Film Festival. Time to refill the popcorn bucket and head back into the theater, because the Wisconsin Union Directorate’s Mini_Indie Film Festival runs Thursday through Sunday at Union South’s Marquee Theater, 1208 W. Dayton St. The student-programmed festival brings a whole new raft of documentaries, foreign films and indies to the screen, all for free.

Here’s a day-by-day rundown of what to expect. Visit union.wisc.edu/film for more information.

Thursday

God Loves Uganda” (7 p.m.) — This clear-eyed documentary looks at the impact of Christian missionaries in the Third World, both the good that they do and the potential harm, with a particular look at how homophobic philosophies have spread in Africa.

Caesar Must Die” (9:30 p.m.) — Like a harsh opposite version of Joss Whedon’s “Much Ado About Nothing,” this docu-drama brings Shakespeare into contemporary times with stunning black-and-white photography. Only this time, the actors are inmates at a maximum-security prison in Italy, incarcerated for murder, drug dealing and mob activity. For them, theater is not “therapeutic,” but a way for them to tap into their deepest, sometimes darkest currents in a way that blurs the distinction between real life and theater.

Friday

Revolutionary Optimists” (5 p.m.) — This documentary looks at an organization that empowers and educates poor children in India, as well as focuses on a few children trying to rise above their dire circumstances.

Searching For Sugar Man” (7 p.m.) — This Oscar-winning documentary, about a long-lost songwriter named Rodriguez and the fans who search for him decades later, is a true crowd-pleaser, both a mystery tale and an ode both to obscure musicians who toil for their craft, and the fans who love them. Plus the soundtrack is dynamite. Here’s my full review.

Broken” (9:30 p.m.) — This British drama appears to follow in that country’s miserablist tradition, showing the hard and often unfair lives of middle-class Brits living on a suburban cul-de-sac. Impressive newcomer Eloise Lawrence plays 11-year-old Skunk, who observes some painful goings-on in the lives of the adults around her. She has a sweet relationship with her father (Tim Roth, nicely understated) and a friendship with a developmentally disabled boy across the street, as well as with her teacher (Cillian Murphy).

But a widower also leaving on the block, Mr. Oswald (Rory Kinnear) brings a note of chaos; in the opening scene, he brutally beats the disabled boy after one of his daughters falsely accuses him of molesting her. Everyone else on the block is too afraid to stand up to Oswald or his three bullying daughters, and the film starts to tilt towards tragedy. Kinnear, best known as Bill Tanner, the Basil Exposition of the recent James Bond movies, is unrecognizable and terrifying as the brutal Oswald, who uses his grief as an accelerant poured over his anger to verbally and physically attack any one he perceives as a threat.

Fortunately, director Rufus Norris tries to balance the encroaching darkness with lighter moments, especially in the warm relationship between Skunk and her father, and the film ends up being a more well-rounded portrait of suburban ennui than expected, with young Laurence more than capably carrying the film on her shoulders.

“John Dies at the End” (midnight) — Don Coscarelli is known for making gonzo horror movies, such as “Bubba Ho-Tep,” in which a geriatric Elvis battled an ancient mummy. But he may have topped himself with this one, spoilerrific title and all, about two teenagers defending humanity from a new drug.

Saturday

Deflowering of Eva Van End” (2 p.m.)  — This Dutch comedy has been compared to “Little Miss Sunshine,” telling the story of a dysfunctional family that is upended when a German boy comes to stay with them for an exchange program.

An Oversimplification of Her Beauty” (4:30 p.m.) — Jay-Z is one of the executive producers on this drama, focusing on a couple whose relationship is teetering between friendship and romance, seen through the perspective of the man.

Breakup at a Wedding” (7 p.m.) — Madison is getting an early look at this mockumentary comedy, which purports to be the wedding videos for the disastrous nuptuals between a couple who end up calling it quits before the ceremony even starts. But since the flowers are bought and everyone’s RSVPed, why not go through with it anyway?

This movie should be mandatory viewing for anyone stressing out about their own impending wedding, as mishap piles upon mishap, from the groom’s plans to switch his best man at the last minute, to the bride’s half-assing her personal vows, to a fight with a rival wedding party over free booze at the reception. Not all the jokes stick the landing, and I was pretty annoyed at the videographer’s voiceover explanations at the beginning (the last thing a movie that shows people acting ridiculous needs is a narrator saying “Aren’t these people acting ridiculous?”).

But the film is genuinely funny, from the OCD bride to the distracted groom, and manages to inject just enough sweetness among the cynicism about the outrageous expense and lavishness of modern weddings. Writer-producer Anne Martemucci will be at the screening and will talk about the film afterwards.

Rust and Bone” (9:30 p.m.) — This searing romantic drama from Jacques Audiard (“A Prophet”) is a gritty look at a relationship between a street fighter (Matthieu Schoenarts) and a whale trailer who has lost her legs in a tragic accident (Marion Cotillard). It’s a film that avoids cliches and provides complex, not always likable characters with a shot at redeeming themselves. My full review is here.

Sound City” (midnight) — Foo Fighter’s Dave Grohl made this celebratory documentary about the legendary analog recording studio, the birthplace of many classic albums but a dinosaur in the age of digital recordings.

Sunday

Student Short Film Competition (2 p.m.) — The films of UW undergraduates and grad students will be shown.

“Laurence Anyways” (4 p.m.) — A French Canadian professor tells his girlfriend he wants a sex-change operation in this drama, which spans 10 years of their relationship.