A big-time film event in small-town, rural Wisconsin seems counterintuitive.
Organizers say they’ve had to convince some that, yeah, it’s for real — and yeah, they’re serious.
Ian Teal, director of the Weyauwega International Film Festival, has heard the question, “Why Weyauwega?”
It’s a simple enough answer.
“Because we can and because we think we have a great venue,” Teal said. “If you take the time to get to Weyauwega, we’re going to make it worth your while.”
The Ninth Annual Weyauwega International Film Festival will screen more than 50 films at the Gerold Opera House during its run from Nov. 13 through Nov. 16. Films will represent at least 15 countries and the festival will once again showcase some of the finer filmwork produced here in Wisconsin.
And it’s indeed a great venue.
The old vaudeville house was built in 1915, and like many venues of the era, moved into cinema. Today, the renovated theater is owned by Wega Arts, which has has incorporated its full history into its programming from the film festival to original stage productions. It features a full bar and a menu from Wega Bistro.
The festival has grown in reputation among the film community.
The festival received more than 300 submissions this year. Teal said the goal was to create a schedule of films of artistic significance. They’re movies that people aren’t going to find on Amazon, Netflix or at their nearby cineplex.
The event will give fans the opportunity to interact with filmmakers and actors.
In building the event, there’s a sense of responsibility in serving as a matchmaker between artists seeking audiences and audiences looking to find those jewels that lie beneath the radar.
“There are more films that I would have shown if I could have fit them into the schedule,” Teal said.
And as for Weyauwega’s festival more specifically, there’s responsibility in bringing to light the great work produced here at home.
“I would say it’s as good as anywhere,” Teal said. “In terms of people making movies on a shoestring budget, there are a lot of excellent movies coming out of Wisconsin.”
This year’s festival has a number of highlights.
Friday’s program is once again dubbed “Psychofest,” a night of horror and thrillers in honor of Robert Bloch, who wrote the novel Psycho while living in Weyauwega. Bloch, inspired by the nearby Ed Gein murders in Plainfield, sold the novel to Alfred Hitchcock who turned it into a classic film in 1960.
Psychofest will include a screening of The Field, a supernatural thriller filmed in Manitowoc. Directed by UW Milwaukee Film Teacher Tate Bunker, the film stars Veronica Cartwright of Alien, Barry Bostwick of The Rocky HorrorPicture Show and Mark Metcalf, whose resume includes Animal House, Seinfeld and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
“It’s well done and it’s beautifully shot,” Teal said,
Filmmakers and actors including Metcalf will be in attendance for the 7:30 p.m. screening.
Saturday is just as big.
It starts with a 10 a.m. filmmaker’s seminar; a round table discussion on the elements of a good documentary.
Dan Sallitt’s festival hit “Fourteen,” the story of two young women and 10 years of their close but troubled friendship, will show at 2:30 p.m. Stars Tallie Medel (The Unspeakable Truth) and Norma Kuhling (Chicago Med) will be in attendance.
Parasite, a South Korean film directed by Bong Joon Ho, will be the final feature of the festival with an 8 p.m. showing on Saturday. It was the winner of the 2019 Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival.
“We’re pretty excited about that,” Teal said. “It’s one of the best movies I’ve seen in years.”
Thursday night features the documentary “Decoding the Driftless” at 7p.m. which tells the unique history of the Driftless region of Southwestern Wisconsin and neighboring areas in Minnesota. The Louisiana thriller “Lost Bayou” screens at 8:15 p.m.
The festival’s opening night reception on Wednesday includes a complimentary pasta buffet at 6:30 p.m. At 7 p.m., film historian Dr. Jack Rhodes will introduce the festival’s classic feature of the year — Billy Wilder’s “Double Indemnity” of 1944 starring Barbara Stanwyck and Fred Macmurray.
“Barbara Stanwyck delivered a ridiculous, knockout performance,” Teal said. It’s film noir at its best.”
Day passes are $18 and are good for any one whole day come and go as you please.
Festival passes are $45. They’re good for all four days and also include one free popcorn and drink of your choice. Tickets can be purchased here.
The full festival schedule can be found at wegafilm.com.