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What Is Family? Film Festival (free)

  • Union South Marquee 1308 West Dayton Street Madison, Wisconsin 53706 (map)

Ten recent feature films offer a compelling exploration of the fraught concept of family. Info

“Madeline's Madeline.”

“Madeline's Madeline.”

For its annual fall weekend film festival at the Marquee Theater in Union South, WUD Film thematically extends the empathetic themes of last November's "Hyphenated-Americans Film Festival" to "What Is Family?" in 2018. The 10 recently released feature films screening here collectively question the evolving notion of family in our current era. While a number of the diverse selections will focus on nuclear and biological relationships in a myriad of urban and rural environments, others are more inclusive and fluid in showcasing how a community, clique, or even a group of coworkers may also emulate and mirror the oscillating moral support and denunciation of a familial unit.

Three selections at What Is Family?—Xavier Legrand's intense domestic thriller Custody (Nov. 1, 9:30 p.m.), as well as Tim Wardle's shocking documentary on estranged triplets ,Three Identical Strangers (Nov. 4, 3 p.m.), and Andrew Bujalski's workplace dramedy Support The Girls (Nov. 4, 6 p.m.)—screened at this past April's Wisconsin Film Festival. A couple others, like Debra Granik's moving survivalist drama Leave No Trace (Nov. 3, 6 p.m.) and Aneesh Chaganty's mobile device-crafted investigative drama Searching (Nov. 3, 8:30 p.m.), had brief theatrical runs in Madison.

Most notable, though, are the few films that will see their local premieres during this fest. They include opening night pick, Summer 1993 (Nov. 1, 7 p.m.), a patient, quietly beautiful, partly autobiographical first feature directed by Carla Simón. The narrative chronicles the trying transition for six-year-old Frida (Laia Artigas), who is forced to live with her aunt (Bruna Cusí) in the seemingly idyllic Catalonia after her mother's tragic death in Barcelona. Additionally, I'm personally looking forward to Friday's late-night selection, Josephine Decker's Madeline's Madeline (Nov. 2, 11 p.m.), a breakout at Sundance early this year, and which recently had a couple screenings at the Milwaukee Film Festival. Recalling Cassavetes' Opening Night (1977), Decker's surreal psychological tale fuses outré, potently animalistic performance art and a fraught mother-teen daughter relationship (Helena Howard and Miranda July, respectively). The transfixing yet volatile mood is augmented further by the stunning avant-garde score by Pulitzer Prize-winning vocalist Caroline Shaw.

For the full What Is Family? schedule, visit the Wisconsin Union's official site. —Grant Phipps

Earlier Event: November 1
The Dead Zone (free)