Sunday, September 13, 2015

2015 Award Winning Films

What an incredible year, with 530+ submitted, 53 films picked and shown over Sept 11th and 12th, this is what won. We would like to thank all the filmmakers who took the time to send us their films because it was a difficult selection process, we would also like to thank the judges for doing the hard work. The scores were very close this year. We must thank our sponsors because without them there wouldn't be a festival. And much gratitude to Comedy Sportz for allowing us to be at their establishment when our venue, the Milwaukee Art Museum pulled our date. 

Also, credit must be given to MKE Production Rental for supplying us the AV equipment. Lastly, I must acknowledge those that assisted this weekend, our volunteers Jeff and Julie, our photographer Darianne Edwards, our Marketing Director Krystal Hardy, the hosts Natasha Nafrini, Mikal Floyd-Pruitt, Anthony Myers, our designer Stacy Callies, Glen Popple our tech guy, Bill Qurimbach the co-director and finally Rubin Whitmore II who pulled together our new program, Voices Heard. For the first time local multi-cultural filmmakers in our community have an outlet for their work. All in all a great year, with sell out shows on Friday and filled to capacity shows Saturday night. 
Here are this year's winners:


 This category had a tie.


Cast: JoLane Lentz, Amie Barsky, Carlo Ramierz, Paul Whittmann, Justin Wade, Kevin Larsen and Rajan Dharni


And our first Voices Heard event curated by Rubin Whitmore II had their own awards:

See you next year!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

MSFF 2015 Voices Heard Judges

We are pleased to announce the judges for our inaugural presentation of Voices Heard.


James Causey
(Journalist | JSOnline)


Dr. Demond Means
(Superintendent | Mequon/Theinsville School Dostrict)


George Tillman, Jr.
(Hollywood Director)


Marcia Wright Tillman
(Acting Coach)

Sierra Shea (Festival Coordinator | 48hr Film Project-Madison)

Dr. Chia Vang

(Professor UW-Milwaukee Hmong Cultural Studies)


Alma Velez

 (Corporate Development | American Heart Association)

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

2015 Judge: Craig A. Knitt

Craig A. Knitt is an award winning artist, filmmaker, teacher, performer, writer and creator who is current employment has him engaged in an exciting educational endeavor that is part of a national Arts-based pilot between the Boys & Girls Clubs of America and the Wallace Foundation. The past three years Craig has been a volunteer for the Sundance Institute and the Sundance Film Festival where he's gotten the chance to se the festival from behind the scenes. He is also one of the founders of the Wildwood Film Festival, a festival dedicated to Wisconsin film talent. 

When Craig is not busy teaching visual art to the young artists of Green Bay he is busy creating film projects or performing Improvisational Comedy with ComedyCity - DePere and DinnerTime Comedy. He has many short and feature length concepts in the works and he hopes to develop a TV series that will be completely created using the resources of our fine state.

2015 Judge: Kathy Fehl

Kathy Fehl

She worked in New York during the eighties and half the nineties, writing and directing plays. Fourteen of her plays were produced in small theaters. She directed new works by John Ford Noonan, John Patrick Shanley, Katharine Houghton, and produced a play written and directed by John Sayles. She also directed classics including Brecht, Strindberg, Beckett, Joyce and Shakespeare. Kathy started an outdoor theater at the 79th Street Boat Basin, on the West side of Manhattan. The site looked out through arches at the Hudson River. 

Along with Ian Teal, Kathy wrote, directed and produced a feature film, Mint Julep (, featuring Angelica Page (Torn), David Morse, John Mezzacappa, Susan Aston and James Gandolfini. This was shot in North Carolina and New York, and edited in Wisconsin. In 2007 Fehl & Teal started Wega Arts and bought and began renovating the Gerold Opera House in Weyauwega, WI. The organization, at, is dedicated to developing new material in theater and film.

VOICES HEARD 2015: Death After Life

Death After Life by Rubin Whitmore II
Running Time: 10 minutes
Screening Time: Friiday, Sept 11th 8:30pm 

Race Drama/ Urban

Synopsis to follow.

Director's Bio:

Rubin was born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He is a self-acknowledged public school kid. As an award winning filmmaker with over one hundred film projects, ranging from feature length documentaries to short format music videos. He grew up straddling the urban/suburban diversity of Milwaukee’s deep northwest side, which by the age of 13 inspired him to create a bunch of video shorts in various genres from suspense to westerns and sci-fi. Rubin believes in artistic freedom and shuns imposed censorship yet believes that media holds significant influence over the minds of many and hopes to encourage people to pursue their aspirations in media while molding media more responsibly. Active in the community he regularly works with at risk youth and the future mediamakers of tomorrow. While Rubin actively makes media, he is also is a media instructor and is completing his Masters of Fine Art in Digital Cinema at National University in California. If you ask him what he really does for a living he often says, raising his daughter, Nile.

VOICES HEARD 2015: Grass Between My Lips

Grass Between My Lips by Amardeep Kaleka
Milwaukee (MKE Premiere)
Running Time: 30 minutes
Screening Time: Friday, Sept 11th 8:30pm 

African/ Rural/ Young Adult 

More info to follow.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

VOICES HEARD 2015: D for Dezire

D for Dezire by Bonnie Janelle
Milwaukee (MKE Premiere)
Running Time: 8 minutes
Screening Time: Friiday, Sept 11th 8:30pm 

Drama/ Adult/Urban

Dezire is a young man who learns early how to channel his energy in a positive manner by self teaching him self how to play drums and going against the rhythm of hearing his mother getting abused by his father.


Director's Bio:

Bonnie Janelle is a storyteller, telling your story her way. She was born in Philadelphia Pa and relocated to Milwaukee at an early age with her mother and two sisters. She soon discovered her love to use her imagination and create stories that made friends and family often ask for any new projects. The stories that she began to write were those of the many individuals she came into contact with on a daily basis. Winning a writing contest in Grade school led her to continue writing, which eventually made her want to write a screenplay. Bonnie embraces the essence of women and men who choose not to or cannot tell their story. Everyone has a story to tell and Bonnie Janelle loves to share the stories of those that do not have a voice.

VOICES HEARD 2015: Spare Change

Spare Change by Kenny Lawrence
Milwaukee (World Premiere)
Running Time: 10 minutes
Screening Time: Friiday, Sept 11th 8:30pm 

 Drama/ Adult/Urban

A seemingly privileged and out of place woman finds herself in need of protection by and from the very people she looks down upon daily. As she encounters a host of sketchy characters who seem to recognize her, Kathy-Autumn (Ty Love) grows increasingly frightened by her current situation and lack of memory around who and where she is and why. Struggling to regain her memory, a down on his luck “bum”, Sonny, (Kirk Housey) kindly provides Kathy-Autumn much needed refuge and friendship. While sharing his own life story, Sonny helps Kathy-Autumn recover some of her memories and also see how easily she too could be in the same place as Sonny. The next morning, Kathy-Autumn awakens in the comforts of her living room, hung over and confused. Was it all just a nightmare or did she somehow spend the evening with Sonny learning not to judge a book by its cover?




Director's Bio: 

Born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Ken Lawrence grew up with a deep interest in film. At just 10 years old, he begged his single mother for a kid’s version of the Super 8 Camera for Christmas, and although it took everything she had, she supported her son’s dreams. Ken began filming his own shows with friends; turning every day into a drama, every funny moment into a comedy series. Years later, Ken joined the Plastering/Cement Masons Union to support his family but never forgot about his dreams. The failed economy brought Ken back to film. He is currently studying Motion Picture & Television at The Academy of Art University, has joined several local film groups, and works on a variety of local commercials and events throughout Wisconsin. Ken is also currently working on two web series’ and continues to write and turn his life into future films.

VOICES HEARD 2015: Redemption

Redemption by Jezse Galan
Milwaukee (World Premiere)
Running Time: 22 minutes
Screening Time: Friiday, Sept 11th 8:30pm 

Crime Drama/ Latino/Urban

7 years later Danny, a 25 yr old ex-con, is back at his old stomping grounds. Thanks to his best friend Chavo, he quickly finds that everything isn’t what it used to be. People have changed, some for better and some for worse. However, being back makes Danny struggle to keep from his old ways. But can he stay committed to change before someone makes a decision for him?

Director's Bio:
Jezse Galan has always had a passion for film. As a young boy, watching films like David Finch’s “Dune”or Ridley Scott’s “Alien” and Tim Burton’s “Batman” captivated his imagination and wanted to become a visual storyteller.

"I think film is first and foremost entertainment. But, all forms of entertainment throughout history have always produce works that last and transcend the concept of entertainment." - Christopher Nolan

VOICES HEARD 2015: Something Under The Christmas Tree

Something Under The Christmas Tree by Danny Villanueva Jr
Milwaukee (MKE Premiere)
Running Time: 4 minutes
Screening Time: Friiday, Sept 11th 8:30pm 

Horror/ Latino/ Youth 

It's Christmas eve and Santa Clause is making his annual gift delivery. Anthony, a young curious boy, watches on as Santa stuffs presents underneath the tree. When Santa leaves, Anthony quickly runs over to the gifts. Little does he know, something evil is watching from under the Christmas tree.

Stage 32

Director's Bio:

Danny Villanueva Jr. is a Mexican-American film writer/director born on April 6, 1989 in Chicago, IL. He studied Digital Filmmaking/Video Production at the Art Institute of Wisconsin in Milwaukee. In 2012, he created a horror themed web channel, How Bizarre, which features segments including short films in or around the horror genre, mini documentaries on destinations with eerie or haunted history, and bite sized crude humor horror themed cartoons. Credits include short thriller film “Don’t Yell at a Sleepwalker” and short holiday themed horror film, "Something Under the Christmas Tree". 

VOICES HEARD 2015: Fight Night, Legacy

Fight Night: Legacy by Hisonni Johnson
Milwaukee (MKE Premiere)
Running Time: 8 minutes
Screening Time: Friiday, Sept 11th 8:30pm 

Sports Drama/ Urban

When former boxer and ex- con Andre Johnson discovers that his health is failing, he returns home to rebuild the life he left behind, but gets an opportunity to build a future and a family.



Director's Bio:
Hisonni Johnson is a Writer, Director, Actor, Cinematographer and Creator. He earned a full academic scholarship to the prestigious University School of Milwaukee, a nationally renowned college preparatory high school. He further distinguished himself by receiving the Presidential Gold Seal for academics and athletics. Johnson studied acting at the University of Wisconsin in the Bachelor of Fine Arts program, but his talent and ambitions did not remain solely in front of the lens. Hisonni studied with acclaimed Chicago photographer David VanderVeen. An impressive portfolio of commercials resulted, along with an affinity for still photography, video and film. He has worked professionally in nearly every crew position there is in both television and film. As a result, his skills as a writer, director and cinematographer have quickly earned him numerous awards and accolades. In the past year, alone, Hisonni has received nearly 100 accolades for his two original television pilots, "Fight Night Legacy" and "Olympia", including a 2013 Streamy Award Nomination and the Grand Prize at the LAWEBFEST. His most recent pilot, "Grayson: Earth One - his own take on the origins of the DC Comic hero, Nightwing - has received great reviews from the likes of Marvels' Stan Lee, The Hollywood Reporter, Deadline Hollywood, The Collider, IGN and countless others.

A series by Hisonni Johnson

Awards for "Fight Night Legacy
 "OFFICIAL SELECTION" California Shorts Fest 2011
"Official Selection" LA Movie Awards 2012
"Best Screenplay" LA Movies Awards 2012
"Awards of Excellence" LA Movie Awards 2012
"Honorable Mention" Texas Black Film Festival 2012
"Official Selection" Vegas Independent Film Fest 2012
"Bronze Bulb" Vegas Independent Film Fest 2012
Headlined Van Indie 2012
Official Selection LA Web Fest 2012
Best cinematography LA Web fest 2012
Best male lead actor LA Web fet 2012
Best overall drama series LA Web fest 2012
Grand prize winner LA Web fet 2012
Official selection Marseille Web fest 2012
Official Selection Web Series Unplugged 2012
Official Selection Riverside International Film Festival 2012
Official Selection IF Quarterly Film and Webisode festival 2012
Best Director IF Quaterly film festival 2012
Best Family Short film IF Quarterly 2012
Official Selection LA Film, TV & Webisode Festival 2012
Best TV Pilot LA Film, TV & Webisode Festival 2012
"Official Selection" Accolade Competition 2012

Executive Producer RED ONE GROUP Second Unit Director Troy Price

Dio Johnson, Dani Lennon, Ski Cutty Carr, Tania Nolan, J. Teddy Garces, Andrew Keegan, Jack Cullison, Whitney Montgomery, Joseph Sanfelippo, Dan Czerwonka, Beau King, Caslin Rose, Hayden Burton, Michael Sarnoski, Levi Baker, Bryant Trujillo, Manuel Trujillo, Carlos Benavidez

Charlie Perez and Capital Punishment Boxing Club, Beau King and King's Martial Art,s Deryck Santos, J. Teddy Garces, Caslin Katsaros, Agnes Magyari

2015 Films: Diana

Diana by Erin O. Kay
Seattle (MKE Premiere)
Running Time: 8 minutes
Screening Time: Saturday, Sept 12th  2pm

Western/ Fantasy/ Adventure/ LGBT/ Mature

Two travelers search the world for their missing friend and invoke powerful magics to bring her back to life in the short film Diana.

Production Notes:

Shot on beautiful Super 16mm film in the deserts of Eastern Washington State, Diana is a short, simple, and dialog-free story of friendship, discovery, and rebirth. A cast and crew gathered entirely from Seattle’s vibrant and noted film community turned to the now antiquated technology of celluloid to capture the natural beauty of the Columbia Plateau and tell Diana’s strange and compelling story. Starring noted Seattle based cinematographer Ben Kasulke, Seattle based actress Tessa Marie Archer, and Seattle camera operator and grip Mike Astle. Written and directed by Seattle based production designer Erin O. Kay.

Seattle International Film Festival (May 2014)
Seattle, U S A

2015 Films: Pre (view)

Pre (View) by Ryan Klassa
Wisconsin (MKE Premiere)
Running Time: 4 minutes
Screening Time: Saturday, Sept 12th  2pm

Drama/ Thriller

A man obsessed taking photographs of everything around him discovers that his cellphone camera can suddenly show him the world 3 minutes into the future.

2015 Films: Excising The Heart

Excising The Heart by Samuel Karow
Wisconsin (MKE Premiere)
Running Time: 5 minutes
Screening Time: Friiday, Sept 11th 6:30pm 


This visual journey through one barn's demolition offers a reflection on time, decay, and man's ever-changing relationship to nature.

Director Bio: 

Samuel Karow is a video artist based in Central Wisconsin. In 2011 he received his BFA from UW-Milwaukee's Department of Film. Specializing in documentaries, Karow seeks to capture genuine moments of beauty, intimacy, and conflict. When given ample time for discovery, he finds that the ordinary becomes quite extraordinary.

Karow's work has been been exhibited nationally and internationally. His award-winning short film “3 Miles East” was included in the 64th Cannes Film Festival Court Metrage. 

Director’s Statement

Some say a barn is like a cathedral; a vast expanse of space holding back the elements, connecting people to a larger power. A tie to nature. A link to the past.

Every church has its priest. That was the role my grandfather assumed. Raised on a small dairy farm that saw three generations living and working together, he knew such places to be sacred. They represented the heart of a farm, the livelihood of a family.

Only after his death did the barn succumb to ruin. I wish I could have saved it, but it was not mine to save. I never milked a cow, bundled hay, or shoveled manure. No, this was my childhood playhouse. A place of fantasy.

For a time, we kept the barn propped up as an oversized lawn ornament, but soon discovered a thin coat of red paint does little to mend a leaking roof and crumbling foundation.

It takes a truly symbiotic bond for a barn to endure. When this bond breaks, we, the surviving heathens, are forced to choose between slow rot and swift destruction. We chose the latter. This film serves as my personal documentation of the process.