film festival tourism


The Wisconsin Film Festival

Festival Logo

Festival Logo

Why Go? A good selection from the festival circuit screened in a friendly college town atmosphere.

Festival Website:

Festival Description

Begun in 1999 under the auspices of the University of Wisconsin, this Madison-based festival has thrived under the energetic leadership of Meg Hamel, who has been in charge since 2005.

Meg Hamel

Meg Hamel

Timing: four days at the beginning-middle of April

Dates for 2012: April 18-22


Over 200 films are screened, including some of the top titles from the fest circuit augmented by selected revivals and a focus on local filmmakers.

Filmmaker Turnout: Only local auteurs will show up.


Can be purchased online at a cost of $12 each, with a discount for multiple purchases. Many screenings fill up, but ticket holders ordinarily don’t have to wait in line.

Screening Schedule

Screenings begin at 5pm on Thursday, 3pm Friday, and  11am on Saturday and Sunday.

The crowd outside the Orpheum Theater during the Festival

The crowd outside the Orpheum Theater during the Festival

Festival Venues

Ten venues are used, ranging from the cavernous Orpheum to the gleaming new Contemporary Art Museum Theater (where sightlines, unhappily, are less than optimal). The new Sundance multiplex, located in the Hillside Shopping Mall, some distance from the main theaters, was added in 2012.

Orpheum Theater

Orpheum Theater

Madison Museum of Contemporary Art Theater

Madison Museum of Contemporary Art Theater

Special Guests

A few local filmmakers


Madison, both a college town and a state capital, strikes some people as a place locked in a sixties time warp. But you’ll find the atmosphere friendly and laid back. Several picturesque lakes add to the scenic charm.

Madison's state capital building

Madison's State Capital building

Getting There

The Van Galder Bus Line runs from Chicago’s O’Hare airport to the Wisconsin Union, just down the street from all the festival venues.

Getting Around: You can easily walk to everything.


  • L’Etoile is the best in town and is not far from most of the festival theaters.  Co-owners Tory and Tracy Miller are promoters of Alice Waters-style local ingredients prepared with simplicity and care. The surroundings are sleek and ultramodern. 1 N Pinckney St, Madison, WI 53703  (608) 251-0500.
The Millers in L'Etoile's dining room

The Millers in L'Etoile's dining room

  • Cosi, part of an Italian-themed fast food chain, is right across the street from the MMCA. It’s cheap, pleasant, and the food is quite good.  250 State St, Madison, WI 53703 (608) 257-2140


Taliesin, Frank Loyd Wright’s home, is about an hour’s drive west and well worth touring.



The Festival Year by Year


Best Films I Saw

  • Revanche. A thinking person’s thriller from Austria’s Gotz Spielmann.


  • Three Monkeys. Turkey’s Nuri Bilge Ceylan has created a searing portrait of a family on the edge. Elegantly shot in desaturated digital video and movingly performed by a stellar cast.
Three Monkeys

Three Monkeys

Unexpected Pleasure

The vintage short film extolling the virtues of Wisconsin used as the festival logo.


2010 Program Book

Best Films I Saw:

  • My Year Without Sex. Sarah Watt’s worthy followup to her 2005 Look Both Ways features a  suburban Melbourne wife and mother facing some of life’s big questions as she recovers from a near-fatal illness. Postmodern-ish chapter titles may strike some as a bit on the cute side, but they lighten the mood of this thoughtful study while drawing attention to its status as a metaphysical conundrum rather than a simple slice of life exercise as some commentators have claimed.

My Year without Sex

  • Barking Dogs Never Bite. It appears that the artistry of Bong Jun-ho (The Host, Mother)  emerged fully formed with this, his first film. Initially released in 2000, its sly commentary on guilt and redemption is cast in the form of a black comedy. Not recommended for PETA members.

Barking Dogs Never Bite


2011 Program Book

Best Film I Saw: How I Ended This Summer (Kak ya provel etim letom) A taut psychological thriller with sociological overtones from Russian auteur Alexi Popogrebsky.

How I Ended This Summer

Shock and Awe: Subtitles. Why do filmmakers persist in using white letters which often can’t be deciphered?


Best Film I Saw. The Deep Blue Sea. Terrence Davies’ exquisite big-screen adaptation of Terrence Rattigan’s play is anchored by Rachel Weitz’ heartrending turn as an upper-class woman entangled in a fatal passion for a working-class charmer amid the ruins of post-World War II London.

The Deep Blue Sea

Unexpected Pleasure. The plush new Sundance Cinemas, where many of the screenings were held.

The Sundance Multiplex

Comments are off for this post

Comments are closed.