Intro to the 2020 Festival

Upon receiving one of his many, much-deserved awards this year, Bong Joon Ho declared, “Once you overcome the 1-inch-tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films.” The Wisconsin Film Festival, of course, has taken this maxim to heart for 22 years running—diehards may recall that we celebrated Bong’s genius with a complete retrospective eleven years ago. This year, you can even take a deep dive into the subtitle itself with a special presentation on the history and evolution of those sentences flashing along the bottom of the screen, an often-overlooked piece of the puzzle that makes our festival possible. But, all due respect to the master, our subtitles are more like eighteen inches high. Still, you can clear that barrier. We believe in you.

Elections naturally have a way of taking up all the oxygen in the room (and, unfortunately, Bong can’t win them all). Political campaigns can make for great cinema—this year’s spectacularly entertaining Opening Night film belongs in the hall of fame—but keeping up with them can be more than a little exhausting, especially as the day-to-day grind stretches into month-to-month. The relentless alpha competition, the purported black-and-white certainty over complex issues, the endless recriminations, is this really what we’re about?

Let the Wisconsin Film Festival be your respite, a weeklong oasis of subtlety, ambiguity, beauty, and other virtues that you won’t find on a debate stage. Call it self-care, call it being human again, just take a few days to recharge your batteries (we’ll give you a pass the morning of April 7 to vote). It’s a wide world out there—experience it through the lives of people you have nothing in common with, be it language, gender identity, class, or ideology. Take a breather from the moral high ground and see a film whose protagonist is utterly irredeemable—and all the funnier for it. Bask in awe of a film’s aesthetics and nothing else. Be moved to tears by a film’s story, and also cop an interior design idea from the hero’s home decor. Bail on this young decade altogether and exclusively attend films set or made in the previous millennium. Get into an argument with your friends and neighbors over something fun and ultimately meaningless for once. Cast a vote for our audience choice award based purely on impulse, without feeling like the weight of the freaking world is resting on your ballot. Change your mind. It feels great.

Jim Healy, Director of Programming
Mike King, Senior Programmer