Wisconsin Film Festival 2021

The Wisconsin Film Festival is completely virtual this year. Viewers have their choice of over 100 films, ranging from short films to feature-length films. The festival runs through May 20th and passes may be purchased by visiting the festival website.

In the words of Jim Healy, Director of Programming, and Mike King, Senior Programmer: “Now that we are all finally regaining our sanity and hope, let’s invest our mental energy into films that awaken and reward our attention and humanity. Let’s remember what it feels like to discover fresh, inspiring, and truly original global cinema—whether from 2021 or 1934. With any luck, we’re going to start seeing people in real life (and real theaters) again soon. We might as well have an interesting movie to talk about.”

Here are three Wisconsin films that Northwoods News staff have curated as recommendations to inspire you to take part in the 2021 festival.


Becoming Geppetto

Surrounded by farmland in a small town in northern Wisconsin, father and son luthier duo, Bruce and Matt Petros make world-renowned acoustic guitars. These guitars have been played around the world by music giants like Paul Simon, and this documentary showcases the quiet lives that create some of the most skillfully handcrafted instruments available. Becoming Geppetto gives us an intimate and serenely meditative front-row seat to the Petros’s guitar making process, as well as a look into their family life and history (guitar making went from Bruce Petros’s hobby as an aimless college student to a successful and sustaining family business). As a bonus, the film is frequently and delightfully punctuated by wonderful musical performances on those ornate, resonant Petros guitars. (Write-up by Brody Coning.)


Operation Wolf Patrol

This urgent documentary highlights the efforts of a team of wolf conservationists, known as Wolf Patrol, who are attempting to monitor the activities of wolf hunters in Northern Wisconsin. These activists have no power or institutional support for their efforts, but are nonetheless dedicated to curtailing the unethical, often punitive practices of local hunters. The film uses hidden camera footage to reveal the use of trained dogs to chase down big game animals. These dogs are often killed in the process, which motivates hunters to exact revenge on local wildlife. The revenge hunting of wolves is illegal, yet there is little that these activists can do to curtail this behavior, beyond making themselves a presence in areas where hunters typically set-up camp. As these environmentalists keep a watchful eye on the hunters and their prey, they are in turn watched and threatened by angry hunters and local law enforcement who have been emboldened by “anti-harrasment” laws put in place to protect hunters and their sport. The film also delves into the backstory of Wolf Patrol’s controversial founder Rod Coronado, including the act of eco-terrorism that landed him in prison, and his efforts to adopt more peaceful activist practices. This story has an added immediacy now that the grey wolf was removed from the endangered species list in October of 2020. This is tough but necessary viewing for those who wish to understand what is at stake with current Wisconsin hunting laws and practices. (Write-up by Pauline Lampert)


Swing Country

In this endearingly homespun documentary focusing on the run-up to the 2020 National Election, filmmakers follow Wisconsinites from the Fox Valley area who work to swing Wisconsin back to blue: Lee Snodgrass, a candidate for state assembly fights for her election as well as the top of the ticket. Brandon Yellow Bird Stevens, Vice Chairman of the Oneida Nation, pushes his community to vote in record numbers to showcase the power of the Native vote. Keith McGillivray hears that the local Democratic office is short on signs and launches his own sign making operation. (Write-up by Brody Coning.)