Milwaukee Film Festival: Marshall Curry; Debra Granik; Wesley Morris; Zucker, Abrahams, & Zucker, In Attendance

Winters Bone01

It makes a film festival much more enjoyable when one can listen and learn from the filmmakers. This year Milwaukee Film Fest is bringing in some fine filmmakers for panel discussions.  Marshall Curry; Debra Granik; Wesley Morris and Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker will be present to discuss some of their films. You will not want to miss out. I know I will be there.  Read on to learn more.

Two award-winning directors, a Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic, and Hollywood comedy legends will be in attendance!!!

The 2014 Tributes lineup: two-time Oscar-nominated documentarian, Marshall Curry (Racing Dreams, Street Fight), Oscar-nominated director and writer, Debra Granik (Winter’s Bone), Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic, Wesley Morris, and the three Hollywood comedy kingpins who originally hail from Milwaukee, David Zucker, Jim Abrahams, and Jerry Zucker (also known as “ZAZ”).

The Milwaukee Film Festival’s annual tributes celebrate the work of individuals who have contributed greatly to film culture through efforts in differing areas of the film world. Each tribute includes both a live appearance from the tribute’s recipient(s) and a screening of a film. In the case of Granik and Curry, their latest film is paired with a past one, exemplifying the scope of their work.

Each honoree will participate in an extended question and answer session following their featured films(s). Granik will also lead the panel “Working with Actors” in which she will discuss and demonstrate her process for auditioning and working with actors on set.

“We have a spectacular group of diverse honorees this year: two of the greatest film storytellers of our time–Marshall Curry and Debra Granik–whose documentary and narrative films have been vastly influential, along with the Pulitzer Prize winning film critic and presenter of our State of the Cinema keynote lecture, Wesley Morris, and finally, the legendary comedy team Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker,” explains Jonathan Jackson, Artistic and Executive Director for Milwaukee Film.

Returning to the Milwaukee Film Festival this year with his outstanding new documentary Point and Shoot, is director Marshall Curry. Curry’s Racing Dreams was the Opening Night film at the first Milwaukee Film Festival in 2009. Both Curry and Granik come to Milwaukee having just received major awards at two of the nation’s best film festivals: Curry’s Point and Shoot won the Best Documentary Award at the Tribeca Film Festival while Granik’s Stray Dog received the jury award for Best Documentary at the Los Angeles Film Festival.

Jackson continues, “It is exciting to have such a high-profile filmmaker as Marshall Curry return to our festival. We have grown quite a bit since that 2009 film festival and I can’t wait for him to come back and see what he helped inaugurate.”




Marshall Curry is one of the most important documentary filmmakers of our time, and he is an important person to Milwaukee Film. In 2009, his film Racing Dreams was the first to grace our festival screens on Opening Night at the inaugural Milwaukee Film Festival. Curry made his directorial debut in 2005 with Street Fight, a documentary that followed the campaign of the then-unknown Cory Booker, garnering his first Oscar nomination. Since that time, Curry directed If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front which tells the story of a radical environmentalist who faced life in prison for burning two Oregon timber facilities and won Curry his second Oscar nomination. Point and Shoot, Curry’s latest offering, is a documentary about a young Baltimore native who sets off for adventure and finds himself as part of the Libyan rebel army fighting dictator Muammar Gaddafi. Of Curry’s films, S.T. VanAirsdale (Movieline) said, “From vérité campaign-trail flashes in Street Fight to intimate dinner-table powwows in Racing Dreams to the candid, point-blank interviews in If a Tree Falls, his films take keen and unique advantage of both access and timing… getting down to the business of communicating without distraction, discrimination or guile. At heart, the films seek to detail the spectrum of grace.”

Marshall Curry is scheduled to attend selected screenings.

Point and Shoot

(USA / 2014 / Director: Marshall Curry)
Matthew VanDyke’s incredible personal odyssey from restless Baltimore native to Libyan rebel taking up arms against dictator Muammar Gaddafi is chronicled in the newest film from Oscar-nominated director Marshall Curry (Racing Dreams, MFF 2009). From his status as a young man diagnosed with OCD fresh out of graduate school, to his momentous international travel (a self-described “crash course in manhood”) that led him on a motorcycle trip across Northern Africa and the Middle East, to his eventual placement smack in the middle of the Arab Spring and Libyan revolution, VanDyke’s camera was always on—up until his capture and terrifying half-year spent in solitary confinement. This is a remarkable, sweeping story Curry tells in full.

Street Fight

(USA / 2005 / Director: Marshall Curry)

One of the greatest political documentaries of all time, Street Fight chronicles the very first political campaign of now-U.S. Senator Cory Booker as his grassroots campaign takes on the deeply entrenched political might of four-term incumbent Sharpe James for the mayoral seat in Newark, New Jersey. With the poverty-stricken streets as their battleground, 32-year-old Rhodes scholar/Yale Law School grad/Star Trek nerd Booker remains decent and straightforward despite the intimidation tactics and dirty politics (including claims that Booker’s background somehow makes him “less black”) employed by Sharpe. An edge-of-your-seat thriller even if you’re familiar with how this race ends, Street Fight is a wildly entertaining, modern-day Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.




Debra Granik is the Academy Award-nominated director and co-writer of Winter’s Bone, which was

nominated for four Oscars, including Best Picture, and won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. Granik’s first feature film, Down to the Bone, was awarded the Best Director prize at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival. She is known for her amazing work with actors, essentially launching the careers of both Vera Farmiga and Jennifer Lawrence. Her work is known for an instinctive, collaborative style that Granik describes as “late-breaking global neorealism.” Granik’s most recent offering, the documentary Stray Dog, began with a chance encounter while scouting and casting Winter’s Bone. Granik met Ron “Stray Dog” Hall in the Biker Church of Branson and cast him as the film’s estranged father, Thump Milton. Of her work she says, “The question I’ve had for most of my life is, ‘How are you coping?’ Some people have these small, positive schemes for survival, a kind of strength that I am attracted to, maybe because I’m prone to the blues.” In Hall she found a worthy subject—one whose humor and lack of self-consciousness had the potential to make the plight of Vietnam vets accessible to a broader audience.

Debra Granik is scheduled to attend selected screenings and events.

Stray Dog

(USA / 2014 / Director: Debra Granik)
Ron “Stray Dog” Hall, Harley-Davidson biker, Vietnam veteran, husband, and father, receives a portrait every bit the equal to his substantial personality from Debra Granik, director of the Oscar-nominated Winter’s Bone. Defying expectations at every turn, Stray Dog tells a story of rough edges that give way to an expansive and tender heart as we see Ron equally at home shooting the breeze with his battery mates as they sip moonshine as he is opening up to his therapist or traveling to military funerals to pay respect to those he never met. A welcome corrective to rural stereotypes, Stray Dog is a slice of unforgettable Americana.

Winter’s Bone

(USA / 2010 / Director: Debra Granik)
Winter’s Bone is an Oscar-nominated pitch-black slice of Ozarks noir following a young woman’s journey to protect her family no matter the cost. Seventeen-year-old Ree (Jennifer Lawrence, in her breakout role) discovers that her father has skipped bail, threatening the house he used as collateral, and leaving them homeless. Armed only with the knowledge of his involvement in the local crystal meth trade, Ree and her Uncle Teardrop (the mesmerizing John Hawkes) aim to find him despite the ever-increasing resistance to their inquiries. Told with incredible authenticity, this tale of family loyalty features a heroine for the ages, with minimalist setting and dialogue that add to its mythic flavor.

***(I think anytime a filmmaker has the opportunity to explore the casting process and working with actors in set the filmmaker should take it. Auditioning and working WITH talent is one of the most critical aspects of a director’s job. It is equally important for others to understand and appreciate as well. I will see you there – Rex)***

Working with Actors
Access the process of one of today’s foremost directors as Oscar nominee Debra Granik (Winter’s Bone, Stray Dog) discusses and demonstrates her process for auditioning and working with actors on set. This is not to be missed by any filmmakers who plan to cast actors or actors who want to get into films.




In 2012, upon winning the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism, Wesley Morris explained his attraction to film as an artistic medium with the following words: “Movies are visual, aural, they involve people, and life, and ideas and art, they are so elastic. They can hold anything, withstand everything, and make you feel anything. Other arts can do that, but movies are the only ones that can incorporate other media into cinema.” With those words, one can see easily why Morris earned this award—his writing is effortless, yet whip-smart, exuberant, yet precise. He is able to write about mainstream films as well as art house cinema, always compelling the reader toward a more nuanced understanding of the work at hand. Since 2013, Morris has been a cultural critic for the website Grantland; prior to that he wrote film criticism for The Boston

Globe (where he received his Pulitzer), San Francisco Chronicle, and San Francisco Examiner and contributed to Slate, Ebony, NPR, and Film Comment. Milwaukee Film is honored to present this tribute to Morris for his distinctive voice and remarkable career as a critic. As part of his visit, Morris will deliver our annual keynote address on the “State of Cinema,” followed by a presentation of Michael Haneke’s film Code Unknown: Incomplete Tales of Several Journeys.

 Wesley Morris is scheduled to attend the following:

 State of Cinema

Join us for our annual lecture on the “State of Cinema.” Each year we host a distinguished member of the cinematic community to reflect on the current position of the industry and possible futures for the medium. This year we host Wesley Morris, winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Criticism while at the Boston Globe, who now writes on film and culture at The panel will conclude with a brief Q&A, after which patrons are invited to join Morris for a screening of Michael Haneke’s 2000 romantic drama, Code Unknown: Incomplete Tales of Several Journeys.


Code Unknown: Incomplete Tales of Several Journeys

(France, Germany, Romania / 2000 / Director: Michael Haneke)

One of the many masterpieces created over the course of Michael Haneke’s career (Caché, Funny Games, the Oscar-winning Amour), Code Unknown chronicles the fleeting intersection of lives on a bustling Paris street corner. We see the fallout from this brief connection through an actress (Juliette Binoche), her photojournalist boyfriend, a young teacher of African descent, and a Romanian illegal immigrant. Able to wring unbearable amounts of tension from his frequent long takes, Haneke spins an emotionally complex tale of the simple ways in which we misunderstand one another on a daily basis. He spells nothing out and challenges viewers to decode these stories for themselves. Our 2014 Critic Tribute recipient, Wesley Morris, has selected this film to screen at our festival and is scheduled to participate in a Q&A with the audience after the screening.




The filmmaking team Zucker, Abrahams, and Zucker began their fortuitous union at Shorewood High School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. After college at UW-Madison, David Zucker, his brother Jerry, and their friend Jim Abrahams created the Kentucky Fried Theater in the back of a bookstore in Madison with a borrowed videotape deck and a camera. In 1972, they moved the show to Los Angeles, where the trio that would come to be known as ZAZ became the most successful small theater group in Los Angeles history. Their groundbreaking style of outrageous sketch comedy was later immortalized in their film The Kentucky Fried Movie, and a new brand of comedy was born. This style featured hairbrained dialogue delivered by dramatic actors with deadpan sincerity and would earn the trio recognition as Hollywood comedy kingpins. In their illustrious careers, the ZAZ team has worked with actors such as Lloyd Bridges,

Robert Stack, and Leslie Nielsen, to name a few, and cultivated a whole new genre of film. Together, they have been responsible for ‘80s comedy cult classics Airplane!, Ruthless People, and The Naked Gun. Their streak of successful movies included the secret agent spoof and now cult classic Top Secret! starring Val Kilmer. This year Milwaukee Film honors these local legends by screening this 1984 film and welcomes them home with a tribute. The trio recently returned to their native roots by creating commercials in their signature style with the Wisconsin Department of Tourism in conjunction with Laughlin Constable.

Zucker, Abrahams, and Zucker are scheduled to attend the following screening:

Top Secret!
(USA, United Kingdom / 1984 / Directors: David Zucker, Jim Abrahams, Jerry Zucker)

After the wild success of their comedy classic Airplane!, the anarchic trio known as ZAZ (David Zucker, Jim Abrahams, and Jerry Zucker) set their sights on spy films and rock’ n’ roll musicals with the outrageous spoof Top Secret! In this film boasting the screen debut of Val Kilmer as a young secret agent tasked with crossing the Iron Curtain to rescue a scientist, ZAZ packs the proceedings with terrible puns, absurdist sight gags, and all the anachronism and political incorrectness that a breakneck 90-minute run time could contain. We proudly present this comedy classic on its 30th anniversary, in celebration of a film every bit the equal of its predecessor.

Note: All screening and panel times will be announced Saturday, September 6 at the Program Book Launch located at Cathedral Square Park from 9am-6pm.

The 2014 Milwaukee Film Festival runs September 25 – October 9, 2014 at the Landmark Oriental Theatre, Landmark Downer Theatre, Fox-Bay Cinema Grill and Times Cinema. Passes and ticket 6-Packs for the 2014 Milwaukee Film Festival are currently available at discounted rates exclusively online at

Tickets for individual screenings will be available through Milwaukee Film Festival Box Office starting September 10 for Milwaukee Film Members and September 11 for the General Public.


Subscribe and Follow Rex Sikes’ Movie Beat Blog!  Visit often & please share with others!

*** Please also visit Rex Sikes’ Movie Beat Official Website.

Stay up to date with the live shows on Rex Sikes’ Movie Beat. You can join us and listen live as the show records. You can hang in chat and ask questions. All shows are recorded and archived at the official site.

Updates will be posted at this blog,  at the official site,  on the RSMB Friends page on FB,  through twitter and elsewhere.  When you can’t join us live you can still  listen to archived show from official site, from blogtalk radio and you can subscribe to the podcast at itunes.

Over 400 hours of professional filmmakers share their expertise and tips and secrets with you. All discussion may be listened to live and archived from the Official Site too! Check the INTERVIEWS blog.

Rex Sikes’ Movie Beat Official Site


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s