Wisconsin Film Festival Sponsors ‘Inside Islam’ Film Series April 2nd-5th

The Wisconsin Film Festival is hosting a film series entitled “Inside Islam.” Tickets are $7 each and can be reserved by visiting the Festival’s webpage.

    Thursday, April 2nd

5pm at Wisconsin Union Theater
On a Tightrope
documentary
(Norway , Canada, 2007, 70 mins)
In Uyghur, Mandarin with English subtitles
digital video
Wisconsin Premiere
Directed By: Petr Lom

Synopsis: “There’s an orphanage in the Chinese province of Xinjiang where the children study tightrope walking along with their math and reading. The region is home to ethnic Uyghurs, the largest Muslim minority in China, and tightrope walking (dawaz) is a very old tradition here. Continuing this tradition is a way to maintain their identity in a nation where their quest for religious and political autonomy is crushed by the government. But for the kids, four of whom are featured, the tightrope is an exciting challenge and a reason to hope for something good in the future. They all know the fame of Adil, the greatest tightrope walker ever. Maybe some day they can be as good as Adil? For now, just getting the courage walk the rope is enough. Some of them have been abandoned by their families who have too many mouths to feed, and with the tighrope these youngsters are learning confidence, independence, and accomplishment.”

From 'The Song of Sparrows'

From 'The Song of Sparrows'

7:30pm at the Chazen Art Musuem
The Song of Sparrows
narrative
(Iran, 2008, 96 mins)
In Farsi with English subtitles
digital video
Wisconsin Premiere
Directed By: Majid Majidi

Synopsis:”The gently comic film opens in simple but stunning pastoral Iran, where an unassuming ostrich farmer, Karim (Berlin Film Festival Best Actor Winner Reza Naji), struggles to support his family, leading a simple and contented life in a small house. In a string of bad luck, Karim’s daughter loses her expensive hearing aid, and an ostrich runs away from the farm, which causes Karim to be fired. However, his financial woes are short-lived when Karim, who had traveled to Teheran in order to repair his daughter’s hearing aid, stumbles upon an easy way to make money quickly in the bustling city: he inadvertently gives a man a ride on the back of his motorbike in return for a fee, a relatively good sum which prompts him to continue his taxi service on a regular basis. Every day Karim rides into town, bringing back home all kinds of rummage – old furniture, car parts, etc. — and soon finds himself entangled in a world of hustle, materialism, and greed. The people and material goods start to transform Karim’s generous and honest nature, much to the distress of his wife and children. It is up to those closest to him to restore the values that he had once cherished, and Karim must find a way to reconcile his new life with the old. But director Majid Majidi never strays far from appreciating the humor in Karim’s situation, and the film maintains a buoyant sense of hope. This comes in large part from Karim’s son, who is determined to muck out the old covered well and raise fish for sale. And there’s still an ostrich on the loose…”

    Friday, April 3rd
From the film 'Football Undercover'

From the film 'Football Undercover'

5pm at the Orpheum Main Theater
Football Undercover

documentary
(Germany, 2008, 86 mins)
In German, English, Farsi with English subtitles
35mm
Directed By: Ayat Najafi

Synopsis: “A German young women’s club soccer teams learns that the Iranian National Women’s Team (yes, there is one) has never played against another team, that it is only permitted for them to train indoors, and that even women are not allowed to watch them in the stadium. Many of the women on BSV AL-Dersimpor in Kreuzberg, Germany, are themselves Muslim, but they still can’t imagine what it is like to play soccer wearing a headscarf. They dedicate themselves to getting to Iran to play a friendly match. In a film as much about red-tape bureaucracies both East and West as it is about the sport — long-sleeved shirts are required, but since it is summer in Iran none of the shops have them — we learn the stories of several of the players. Culminating at the stadium filled with cheering women while the male German coaches, not allowed inside, pace outside like expectant fathers, Football Under Cover shows us that the desire for self-determination and equality is here, and that change is possible. Winner, Teddy and Audience Award, Berlin Film Festival; winner, Freedom Award, L.A. Outfest; 2008 Tribeca, Silverdocs festivals.”

5:30pm at Monona Terrace
Stand-Up: Muslim American Comics Come of Age
documentary
(USA, 2007, 54 mins)
digital video
Directed By: Glenn Baker, Omar Naim

Synopsis: “Stand Up: Muslim American Comics Come of Age explores the emergence of five comedians in the wake of 9/11, showing how they use humor to take on stereotypes about Muslims and terrorism. At a time when people of Middle Eastern origin were advised to lay low, they all chose to stand up and crack jokes. From false arrests to death threats, the comics face challenges from both majority America and within the Muslim community. Loaded with provocative performance footage, Stand Up provides an inspiring chronicle of these artists’ struggle to enter the American comic mainstream. Director Glenn Baker says: “Ranging from devout Muslims to secular provocateurs, these comics embody the diversity of America’s large Middle Eastern population. Following in the footsteps of Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor, George Lopez, and Margaret Cho, they are using stand-up comedy to make a case for their inclusion in the American public square. Their stories offer unique insights into an alternate take on the American Dream; but mostly they’ll make you laugh.””

From the film "Dolls: A Woman from Damascus"

From the film "Dolls: A Woman from Damascus"

7pm at Bartell Theater
Dolls: A Woman From Damascus
documentary
(Syria , Denmark, 2008, 53 mins)
In Arabic with English subtitles
Directed By: Diana El Jeiroudi

Synopsis: In a traditional Damascus household, Manal is expected to cherish her excellence as a housewife. Still, she holds a personal goal of returning to work full-time in an office. Her two precocious daughters are filling her time for now, and both of them are absorbed by the constant advertising images of Fulla on children’s TV. Fulla is the ideal Arab Muslim ‘Barbie’ doll, a virgin, decent, covered, who is raised up to become a respectful, obedient wife, and to live the grace of family’s and society’s approval. Plus, she gets to carry her prayer rug in a hot-pink sparkly bag. The complexity of Damascene society traditions are revealed as Manal’s family discourages her from pursuing her dream.


    Saturday, April 4th
From the film "Full Battle Rattle"

From the film "Full Battle Rattle"

11am at Wisconsin Union Theater
Full Battle Rattle
documentary
(USA, 2008, 85 mins)
In English, Arabic with English subtitles
digital video
Wisconsin Premiere
Directed By: Tony Gerber

Synopsis: “Plagued by political assassinations and an organized insurgency, the U.S. Army’s occupation of tiny Iraqi village Medina Wasl is a borderline disaster. Fortunately, these soldiers will get a second chance at bringing the peace: Median Wasl is part of a military training compound located deep in the U.S.’ Mojave Desert. Designed to give cadets an immersive preview of the war experience, the base is a functional model of an Iraqi town, and employs refugee Iraqis to portray its citizens with Method-like dedication. Like a massive role-playing game, it’s all heavily orchestrated, with elaborate backstories and shocking plot twists, but the specter of deployment looms large. At once a frontline combat doc and behind-the-scenes glimpse at one of the oddest theatrical productions going, Full Battle Rattle portrays a “big expensive Laser Tag game” with impossibly high stakes. “An indelible vision of modern war…freaky, amusing and sickening in equal measures.” — David Edelstein, New York. Special Jury Award, 2008 SXSW Film Festival. ”

From the film 'My Marlon and Brando'

From the film 'My Marlon and Brando'

3:45pm at the Majestic Theater
My Marlon and Brando
narrative
(United Kingdom , Netherlands , Turkey, 2008, 92 mins)
In Turkish, English, Kurdish with English subtitles
35mm
Wisconsin Premiere
Directed By: Hüseyin Karabey

Synopsis: “Several superb films at the festival blur the lines between reality and fiction. Our Beloved Month of August and 24 City stand out, joined by My Marlon and Brando. In real life, Hama Ali, a larger-than-life Kurdish actor from Iraq famous locally for his performance as Iraq’s version of Superman, met Ayça on a film set. He and Ayça, a fiery young actress from Turkey, had a brief but passionate love affair before returning to their respective homes in Istanbul and Northern Iraq. Hama Ali sent Ayça charming video love letters, which describe the hellish violence engulfing his country as well as his tender affection towards her. He also sends her clips from comedy films in which he has starred. Increasingly lonely in her own city and misunderstood by those around her, Ayça sets off on a harrowing trip as troops are gathering on the Iraqi border. Playing herself and using material from the real video letters, Ayça is unique and memorable as she makes the journey from cosmopolitan Istanbul, where she smokes and drinks and spends her time at the community theater, to the increasingly more conservative and rural parts of Turkey. At a time when many people were fleeing from East to West in search of safety, Ayça makes the opposite journey, in search of love. The journey takes her through breathtaking landscapes, strange encounters and traumatic times. Winner, FIPRESCI Prize, 2008 Jerusalem; winner, Best Actress, 2008 Sarajevo; winner, Best New Narrative Filmmaker, 2008 Tribeca Film Festival.”

9:30pm at the Chazen Art Musuem
The Song of Sparrows
narrative
(Iran, 2008, 96 mins)
In Farsi with English subtitles
digital video
Wisconsin Premiere
Directed By: Majid Majidi

Synopsis:”The gently comic film opens in simple but stunning pastoral Iran, where an unassuming ostrich farmer, Karim (Berlin Film Festival Best Actor Winner Reza Naji), struggles to support his family, leading a simple and contented life in a small house. In a string of bad luck, Karim’s daughter loses her expensive hearing aid, and an ostrich runs away from the farm, which causes Karim to be fired. However, his financial woes are short-lived when Karim, who had traveled to Teheran in order to repair his daughter’s hearing aid, stumbles upon an easy way to make money quickly in the bustling city: he inadvertently gives a man a ride on the back of his motorbike in return for a fee, a relatively good sum which prompts him to continue his taxi service on a regular basis. Every day Karim rides into town, bringing back home all kinds of rummage – old furniture, car parts, etc. — and soon finds himself entangled in a world of hustle, materialism, and greed. The people and material goods start to transform Karim’s generous and honest nature, much to the distress of his wife and children. It is up to those closest to him to restore the values that he had once cherished, and Karim must find a way to reconcile his new life with the old. But director Majid Majidi never strays far from appreciating the humor in Karim’s situation, and the film maintains a buoyant sense of hope. This comes in large part from Karim’s son, who is determined to muck out the old covered well and raise fish for sale. And there’s still an ostrich on the loose…”

    Sunday, April 5th

6pm at the Orpheum Main Theater
Youssou Ndour: I Bring What I Love
documentary
(USA, 2008, 102 mins)
In English, French, Wolof, Arabic with English subtitles
35mm
Wisconsin Premiere
Directed By: Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi

Synopsis: “Senegalese pop sensation Youssou Ndour has spent the last 20 years in the spotlight as a world-renowned musician and iconic “voice of Africa.” At the height of his career, Youssou became frustrated by the negative perception of his Muslim faith and composed Egypt, a deeply spiritual album dedicated to a more tolerant view of Islam. It was a critical and career-defining moment. Ndour’s brave musical message was wholeheartedly embraced by Western audiences but ignited serious religious controversy in his homeland of Senegal. Combining unprecedented images of Senegal’s most sacred Muslim rituals, vibrant concert performances filmed around the world and intimate access to Ndour and his family, I Bring What I Love chronicles the difficult journey Youssou must undertake to assume his true calling. Youssou Ndour is a voice of hope and tolerance, a modern day moral and political leader whose message transcends music but remains grounded in the universality of faith. Co-produced by Milwaukee filmmaker Sarah Price (American Movie). ”

8pm at the Majestic Theater
My Marlon and Brando
narrative
(United Kingdom , Netherlands , Turkey, 2008, 92 mins)
In Turkish, English, Kurdish with English subtitles
35mm
Wisconsin Premiere
Directed By: Hüseyin Karabey

Synopsis: “Several superb films at the festival blur the lines between reality and fiction. Our Beloved Month of August and 24 City stand out, joined by My Marlon and Brando. In real life, Hama Ali, a larger-than-life Kurdish actor from Iraq famous locally for his performance as Iraq’s version of Superman, met Ayça on a film set. He and Ayça, a fiery young actress from Turkey, had a brief but passionate love affair before returning to their respective homes in Istanbul and Northern Iraq. Hama Ali sent Ayça charming video love letters, which describe the hellish violence engulfing his country as well as his tender affection towards her. He also sends her clips from comedy films in which he has starred. Increasingly lonely in her own city and misunderstood by those around her, Ayça sets off on a harrowing trip as troops are gathering on the Iraqi border. Playing herself and using material from the real video letters, Ayça is unique and memorable as she makes the journey from cosmopolitan Istanbul, where she smokes and drinks and spends her time at the community theater, to the increasingly more conservative and rural parts of Turkey. At a time when many people were fleeing from East to West in search of safety, Ayça makes the opposite journey, in search of love. The journey takes her through breathtaking landscapes, strange encounters and traumatic times. Winner, FIPRESCI Prize, 2008 Jerusalem; winner, Best Actress, 2008 Sarajevo; winner, Best New Narrative Filmmaker, 2008 Tribeca Film Festival.”

From the film 'Sons of Sakhnin United'

From the film 'Sons of Sakhnin United'

8:15pm at Wisconsin Union Theater
Sons of Sakhnin United
documentary
(USA, 2007, 84 mins)
In English, Hebrew, Arabic with English subtitles
digital video
Wisconsin Premiere
Directed By: Christopher Browne

Synopsis: “A sporting moment only to be found in the Middle East: soccer fans chanting “Allah Akhbar” in Palestinian Arabic when their star scored the against-the-odds winning goal in the Israeli Cup final — and the goal scorer was an Israeli Jew. Sons of Sakhnin United covers the journey of B’Nai Sakhnin, the first mostly Arab soccer team to become champions of Israel, in the year after they win the Cup. Now they have to prove that wasn’t a fluke, but more importantly it’s the year where attention is focused on them, and they can use that position to speak about peace and unity. As the Arab Israeli conflict swirls around them, as Israel discusses plans to withdraw from Gaza, and Palestinians come to terms with the death of Yasir Arafat, this mixed team from a small, poor town in the Galilee plays on with the weight of symbolism and expectation on their shoulders. Can the team stand together under the spotlight of the world’s media? Can their captain play for the Israeli national team without being heckled by the team’s right-wing Jewish fans? Can a team playing a game with no more actual consequence than an ending with one winner and one loser, bring people together for 90 minutes and suspend the hatred and animosity that has become a daily feature of their lives? Director Christopher Browne’s first film, A League of Ordinary Gentlemen played at the 2005 Wisconsin Film Festival. “

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