It was right around this time last year that I was heading down to the picturesque Flyway Film Festival in Pepin and Stockholm, Wisconsin as a juror. I’ll be heading down there this weekend, October 18-21, not as a juror this year, but as one of the programmers for the festival. Flyway—now in its fifth year—may be tucked away in the two small towns, but once you arrive, you feel at home and welcomed to their wonderful safe haven.
The 700 townsfolk are friendly, the quaint shops are alive with energy and positivity, and more and more visitors are attending the festival as a long holiday from the Twin Cities, Chicago, Madison, and even the East Coast. This year’s slogan, “Fall Into It,” is accompanied by an image of a woman falling in what looks into a pile of leaves; while it looks dangerous, it nicely suggests the idea of “falling” into something unexpected.
Festival founder and director Rick Vaicius has raised Flyway into a festival of not only movies but also events and shindigs with film industry folks. Spending time last year with independent film producer and now, the director of the San Francisco Film Festival, Ted Hope, was one of the highlights of any festival I’ve attended in recent memory.
I've seen most of the films playing at Flyway this weekend, and there are quite a few standouts. There is a great Minnesota/Wisconsin showcase that has always been particularly strong in the program and this year features two Minnesota-made movies that have played in the Twin Cities; if you missed them the first go-round, this could be your last chance to see Stephen Gurewitz’s Marvin, Seth and Stanley (Saturday, October 20, 2 p.m.) and Peter McLarnan’s The Sound of Small Things (Sunday, October 21, 4 p.m.). Both films at their core are about starting over and reconnecting either with your family or loved ones.
In Gurewitz’s film, two brothers take their father on a road trip to bring the family closer, even if it means being at each other’s throats most of the trip. Gurewitz’s screenplay has plenty of laughs, especially from Marvin—played by Gurewitz’s real-life dad. Marvin, Seth and Stanley never gives in to clichés and depicts a charming if sometimes difficult family dynamic that anyone can relate to and appreciate.
McLarnan’s film may not have as many laughs at MSS, but does deliver quite a knockout punch and will leave you wondering what just happened. Sam and Cara are newlyweds and are struggle as their marriage has hit the wall, partially because Cara has recently lost her hearing. Sam begins to see his old friends and former flames. The Sound of Small Things is an original and heartbreaking film and one that will linger in your memory long after you have left the theater.
Flyway has also developed a knack for finding some great American and foreign independent films. Some of the highlights include fest opener Journey to Planet X (Friday, October 19, 7 p.m.), a documentary on two scientists by day, filmmakers at night, who are trying to work on their latest sci-fi short film, Planet X: The Frozen Moon (Saturday, Oct 20, 8 p.m.) and have now started working with the latest technology to advance their filmmaking careers. Director Josh Koury will be present for Journey to Planet X and director Troy Bernier will be present for Planet X: The Frozen Moon.
Dreams of a Life (Saturday, October 20, 7:30 p.m.) is one of the most unbelievable and haunting documentaries you may ever see; director Carol Morley’s film will give you goosebumps. Morley uncovers the story of 38-year-old Joyce Vincent, a popular and attractive woman living in London; the story unfolds as Joyce’s body is found in her apartment, where it had been for three years, leaving friends and family wondering where she had gone.
Closing the festival and hot off the trail from last month’s Toronto International Film Festival is director Grace Lee’s topical documentary Jeanne From Des Moines (Sunday, Oct 21 at 5:30 p.m.). Jeanne wants to take her country back and confronts many of the Republican party leaders and followers across the great state of Iowa.
See an MTN panel discussion with local filmmakers including Stephen Gurewitz (May 2012) and read Jim Brunzell's coverage of the 2011 Flyway Film Festival.