Is 15-Day Milwaukee Film Festival Too Long?


Seventeen films will be shown Thursday, the last day of the Milwaukee Film Festival.

filmfestcoverThe last film I expect to see is “Cartel Land,” at the Downer, but I could stumble into “Beatles” at the Times.

Counting short films, the festival has presented more than 300 titles at about the same number of separate screenings.

Most people just see a fraction of the films presented by Milwaukee Film. I haven’t counted but I have seen less than twenty. And that’s counting the ones I saw in advance.

There’s plenty of time to do so, however.

The festival’s 15-day running time ranks it among the longest running festivals in the world (although on its opening day the festival only shows one film. This year it was “Youth.”)

Which raises the question: Is the Milwaukee Film Festival too long or am I just cranky after a late night screening of “The Shining?”

The Cannes Film Festival is eleven days, the Toronto and Sundance Film Festivals are ten.

The New York Film Festival, going on right now, tops the group with a 17 day event.

The festival has been 15 days long for the past three years, said executive and artistic director Jonathan Jackson.

“Every year we’ve done it so far, the attendance has been higher the second week,” he said.

“The audience does get fatigued the first few days of the fest. And then I think new audiences catch on. As the festival gets more pervasive…and builds on itself, more new people” attend.

Jackson called the length of the festival “a financial decision. In order to show movies that second weekend we have to rent the cinemas for the second week. And we are already paying for the extra four days” so why end the festival on Sunday. “It literally does not cost us any more. And we’ve already built the apparatus.”

“There’s definitely a toll on the staff,” he said, “but that’s outweighed by growing attendance.”

The festival’s closing night film is “Raiders,” a documentary about a group of youths attempting to remake “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and who return to finish it as adults. It shows at 7 p.m. at the Oriental.




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