Driftless Film Festival


Director: Jed Schlegelmilch

Sometimes the journey to a happy ending means treading through the sorrows of our past. Join a man as he spends 10 days revisiting an unimaginable horror from his childhood for the first time. Nearly 17 years after his brother’s death, Absence/Presence is the truly raw, emotional and ultimately life affirming experience that comes from finding the courage to stare into the depth of the most devastating event of your life and still ache to know more.

Angels & Goblins

Director: Cole James Meredith

Sarah Lambert is a semi-famous actress fleeing her career and fortune in L.A., returning home after many years to reconcile relationships with her friends and family. She returns to find a city on the brink of collapse, filled with mysterious figures and lost souls who wander the streets like ghosts. But there is something sinister slithering under the skin of these people, something which may cause Sarah to face her past in a way she could have never imagined …

Angels & Goblins was directed by WI native and Viroqua resident Cole Meredith, who shot the film all around the Driftless region.


Director/Writer: Tom Geraty

Hidden deep within the heart and memory of a devoted family man named Dan McBurney resides a dark and painful secret. When this man discovers a child-abductor lives in a house across the the street from his storage facility, a door is opened to his haunted past and hopeful future, and vigilantism walks in.

The child abduction takes a piece out of the collective heart and soul of a community. Dan is that “perfect storm” of what can happen when that collective pain finds expression in one man. His world begins to unravel as those closest to him discover his plight; that of a man who is willing to risk losing what he loves most in order to redeem that which has already been lost; childhood, innocence, a brother.


Director: Mike Diedrich

The story of the men who chase baseballs and dreams on the streets outside Wrigley Field.

For almost a century, an ever-changing cast of characters has patrolled Sheffield and Waveland, tracking down batting practice and home run balls that clear the bleacher grandstand. For the men who do it, Ballhawking has a unique and compelling draw: every so often, a ball leaves the bat of a major league ballplayer and clears the fence to land in the glove of a “regular” fan, making him – for that one instant – part of the game. While they’ll catch hundreds of balls in a given season, only one really matters – the elusive World Series walk-off home run ball.

Flash forward to 2004, where this iteration of Ballhawks continue the pursuit of baseballs and the struggle to overcome the passersby, real life and each other. But this year is different, because after decades of disappointment the Cubs are relevant again, and have a real chance to bring the playoffs to the North Side of Chicago. A looming bleacher expansion also threatens to change Ballhawking outside of Wrigley forever – making each ball that leaves the yard even more precious.

Bonsai People

Director: Holly Mosher

What if you could harness the power of the free market to solve the problems of poverty, hunger, and inequality?
Bonsai People celebrates Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammed Yunus’ extraordinary humanitarian work, which started when he simply lent $27 to 42 people out of his own pocket.

As the founder of Grameen Bank, Yunus pioneered microcredit, the innovative banking program that provides poor people – mainly women – with small loans they use to launch businesses and lift their families out of poverty. In the past thirty years, microcredit has spread to every continent and benefited over 100 million families. His Grameen Bank currently lends to one out of every 1,000 people on earth and with a 98% rate of return – unheard of in the financial world.

A Cadaver Christmas

Director/Writer: Joseph Zerull

Twas the night before Christmas and all through the Lab, not a creature was stirring, except for the cadavers!’ When a biology professor’s Christmas Eve experiment goes horribly awry, it’s up to the university’s janitor to mop up the mess…But dealing with the undead may be a job even the best janitor can’t keep under control… and where else to recruit help but at the local bar!

This soon-to-be Christmas classic is a delightful blend of holiday gore and zombie cheer, guaranteed to bring a smile to your face when you’re not turning away in disgust- just like holidays with the family. A cross between “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “Night of the Living Dead” – A Cadaver Christmas tells the story of an unlikely band of heroes given the task of saving the world from an army of living corpses that are quickly recruiting new members. The dead have been given the gift of life this Christmas, and it’s up to the janitor to take it back!

Fordson: Faith, Fasting, Football & The American Dream

Director: Rashid Ghazi

Follows four talented high school football players from the working class Detroit suburb of Dearborn, Michigan as they gear up for their big senior year rivalry game during the last ten days of Ramadan, a month when Muslims traditionally fast every day from sunrise to sundown. The film begins on September 11, 2009 and concludes at the end of Ramadan ten days later. The story takes place at Fordson High School, a public school built by Henry Ford in 1922 that was once all white, but now attracts a 98% Arab-American population.

As the Fordson team readies itself to play its affluent, cross-town rival, the film depicts a community that is desperately holding onto its Islamic faith while struggling to gain acceptance in post 9/11 America. Fordson documents not only the players’ outer struggle to overcome the hunger and thirst of fasting as they prepare for the big game, but also their inner struggle to reconcile their Arab heritage with their American birthright. It is an inspirational story of an immigrant community’s resilience, that attempts to answer the question, “Who is an American?” Through the eyes of the team, their coaches, and their fans, Fordson offers an unprecedented glimpse inside the lives of a community that is home to the largest concentration of Arabs in any city outside of the Middle East, and their determination to hold on to the American Dream.

Ghost Player

Director: Joe Scherrmann

In 1989, Hollywood went to Iowa to shoot the FIELD of DREAMS. Little did anyone know this blockbuster would spawn a comedic baseball show starring local ballplayers that would have an 18 year run and travel the world. GHOST PLAYER tells the story of how this zany team and baseball moved audiences around the world and changed the players’ lives forever. From Dyersville, we follow the Ghost Players around the world as warm hearted, comedic ambassadors of the best that the American Heartland has to offer – baseball, tomfoolery, and good old-fashioned family fun. We see them bring the comfort that only baseball can give to men and women stationed in the military in the far-flung corners of the world. But most of all, we witness how America’s favorite pastime and a Hollywood movie set gave one group of men a second chance to live the life as they’ve always dreamed.

Green Fire: Aldo Leopold And A Land Ethic For Our Time

Director: Steve and Ann Dunsky

The first full-length, high-definition documentary film ever made about legendary environmentalist Aldo Leopold, Green Fire highlights Leopold’s extraordinary career, tracing how he shaped and influenced the modern environmental movement. Leopold remains relevant today, inspiring projects all over the country that connect people and land.

If A Tree Falls

Director: Marshall Curry

In December 2005, Daniel McGowan was arrested by Federal agents in a nationwide sweep of radical environmentalists involved with the Earth Liberation Front—a group the FBI has called America’s “number one domestic terrorism threat.”

For years, the ELF—operating in separate anonymous cells without any central leadership—had launched spectacular arsons against dozens of businesses they accused of destroying the environment: timber companies, SUV dealerships, wild horse slaughterhouses, and a $12 million ski lodge at Vail, Colorado.

With the arrest of Daniel and thirteen others, the government had cracked what was probably the largest ELF cell in America and brought down the group responsible for the very first ELF arsons in this country.

Incredibly Small

Director/Writer: Dean Peterson

Anne and Amir are an unlikely pair. Amir is an escalator attendant by day and aspiring sculptor by night. Even though he has never sculpted anything before, he hopes to one day fulfill his lifelong dream of making a marble bust of Charles Barkley. Anne comes from a well-to-do family and just started law school where she spends most of her days studying. Against the odds they decide to move into a shabby 300 square foot apartment and try to start a life together.

But things don’t exactly go as planned. The combination of their small apartment, their threateningly charming neighbor next door and unexpected visitors from the past make them realize that maybe they aren’t as perfect for each other as they previously had thought.

At once both singularly funny and painfully poignant, Incredibly Small is equal parts Woody Allen, John Hughes, and Eric Rohmer. Shot in Minneapolis, MN over the course of 14 days in the summer of 2009 with an independently financed micro budget, Incredibly Small exemplifies the true spirit of independent film.

The Interrupters

Director: Steve James

Tells the moving and surprising stories of three Violence Interrupters who try to protect their Chicago communities from the violence they once employed. From acclaimed director Steve James and bestselling author Alex Kotlowitz, this film is an unusually intimate journey into the stubborn persistence of violence in our cities. Shot over the course of a year out of Kartemquin Films, The Interrupters captures a period in Chicago when it became a national symbol for the violence in our cities. During that period, the city was besieged by high-profile incidents, most notably the brutal beating of Derrion Albert, a Chicago High School student, whose death was caught on videotape.

The film’s main subjects work for an innovative organization, CeaseFire. It was founded by an epidemiologist, Gary Slutkin, who believes that the spread of violence mimics the spread of infectious diseases, and so the treatment should be similar: go after the most infected, and stop the infection at its source. One of the cornerstones of the organization is the “Violence Interrupters” program, created by Tio Hardiman, who heads the program. The Interrupters — who have credibility on the streets because of their own personal histories — intervene in conflicts before they explode into violence.

Light: The Father Jay Samonie Documentary

Produced and Directed by: Ritch Wedeking and Paul Schmaltz

It started on May 27,1937: a colorful symphony of rising lights, green, pink, yellow, orange, blue, floating upward from the cemetery. As a young child of seven, Jay Samonie had just experienced the first of many visions he would witness during his lifetime. After embracing his “calling”, a story in itself, Father Jay Samonie served as a Catholic priest for over 50 years, helping the poor and destitute. During this time, Father Jay enjoyed daily communication with his Spirit Guides, experienced numerous visions and explored reincarnation. Father Jay has been described as having an aurora about him and as magical. He has likewise been described as a heretic. In the world of religion and faith, there can be a fine line between visionary and controversy. Father Jay Samonie transcends the forces that divide the spiritualists and the fundamentalists through bringing people together with his vision and grace. His personal odyssey explores his extraordinary experiences with miracles and healings, and is a testament of unrelenting faith and the pursuit of understanding a higher power. Light, the true-life story of Father Jay Samonie, opens the door to a mystical world.

Love And Valor: The Intimate Civil War Letters

Director: Charles Larimer

A tremendously moving story of a Union soldier and his wife during the Civil War, Love & Valor, The Intimate Civil War Letters is based on the book of the same name, which was featured by the Smithsonian in the month after 9/11. Ritner, a Union captain from Iowa, was a teacher, farmer and abolitionist before the war. The movie tells of their devotion to each other, patriotism, loneliness, anguish at the death of loved ones, and slavery. Emeline raising four small children, managing the family farm, dealing with other women in town. Jacob witnessing death of family and friends, participating in great adventure, seeing new lands, changing views on the South.

Lovely By Surprise

Writer/Director : Kirt Gunn

A truly unique and visually stunning take on meta-fiction, Lovely By Surprise follows the journey of novelist Marian Walker as she attempts to finish her first novel.

Facing the age-old problem of writer’s block, Marian seeks advice from a mentor and ex-lover. His seemingly innocent advice to kill the book’s protagonist unleashes chaos in her life as a willful protagonist escapes from her novel and appears in the unresolved corners of her past. At turns funny, lyrical, dark and mysterious, this enigmatic film explores past and present, art and reality, life and death, ultimately revealing the strength and beauty of the human heart.

An Ordinary Family

Director: Mike Akel

A humorous drama about one family, two brothers and a really big problem. Thomas Biederman is blindsided when his estranged brother, Seth, shows up unannounced to the annual family vacation… with his boyfriend.
Despite a well meaning attempt to surprise everyone, things do not go as planned, throwing Thomas and the family into an awkward weeklong vacation where everyone has problems and no one wants to talk about them.

Pro Wrestler

Director: Kenneth Johnson

So what exactly is “real” and “fake” in the world of professional wrestling? Yes it does label itself as a legitimate sport, but it actuality the matches are predetermined and most of the moves are planned out. So does that necessarily mean that all of wrestling is “fake?” Follow Kenny Johnson, during his directorial debut, as he embeds himself in the world of independent professional wrestling. Along the way, he tells the stories of five unique performers at very different points in their careers and lives. Discover what is real to them and why they do it.

Rhythm Of The River

Director: Dave Erickson

A documentary about life along the lower Wisconsin River, originally filmed for public television. The DFF screening will include 30 minutes that will not be seen on TV, including the story of APT coming to Spring Green in 1980, cedar strip canoe building by Dave Roeder, fish art by Bill Weege and Port Andrew’s Tippesaukee, founded 1838, the oldest European settlement in Richland County. In addition to Tippesaukee, downriver residents will see local highlights of the river such as the Blue River Barrens.

The River Why

Director: Matthew Leutwyler

Set on the banks of a wild river, The River Why is the story of 20 year old Gus Orviston, the Mozart of flyfishing, who leaves his big city home in rebellion from his family to live in a secluded cabin on the banks of a wild river. Instead of finding fishing bliss, his desolation drives him on a reluctant quest for self-discovery. In the process he comes in contact with an assortment of eccentric characters who help him in his journey to adulthood. Most of all, The River Why is a love story. The love of a man for the wilderness, and for a beautiful woman who comes to share it with him.


Director: John Henry Summerour

A teenager in rural Georgia stumbles upon a gruesome discovery in the woods, and the fabric of his life unravels as he suffers the secret. SAHKANAGA (pronounced “sock-uh-nogga” and Cherokee for “Great Blue Hills of God”) is a fictional exploration of the 2002 Tri-State Crematory scandal, an event that threatened to shatter a tight-knit community in the Appalachian foothills of northwest Georgia. Shot in Walker County and cast entirely with local actors, many of whom had a direct connection to the real-life story, the film presents an unknowable tragedy from the perspective of one teenager who must grapple with the consequences of secrets and the difficulties of forgiveness.

Sawdust City

Director: David Nordstrom

Fresh out of the Navy, Pete Church returns to his hometown on Thanksgiving to track down an alcoholic father he hasn’t seen in years. Unable to pick up the scent on his own, he calls his older brother Bob who has remained in town building a business and a family. The estranged siblings hit a series of old bars, but while Pete is intent on finding their father, Bob just wants to drink and reconnect with his little brother. Along the way, they’re joined by Gene, a barroom hustler. He promises to lead the brothers to their father (as long as they buy the beer). Desperate, they accept Gene’s half-cocked guidance through the small town dives. As the quest falters, the drinking increases; old grievances arise, and the brothers must face the past and each other. Sawdust City was filmed entirely on location in Eau Claire, WI.

Sweet Little Lies

Director: William J. Saunders

Bess, a lonely, rebellious trailer park teen, steals a car and makes a desperate journey from Kansas to Vegas in search of a father she never knew. Her trip takes her deep into the seedy underbelly of America where she encounters an array of lost-souls, deadbeats and con men, and learns that family can be found in the oddest of places.

Train To Nowhere

Director: Paul Kakert & Colleen Bradford Krantz

When the bodies of eleven Central Americans and Mexicans were found inside a freight car in Denison, Iowa, the nation took notice. Reporters descended on the small farming community, searching for information about how and why this group ended up inside a locked railcar, where they would die horrific deaths.

The documentary, Train to Nowhere; Inside an Immigrant Death Investigation, offers an honest, yet compassionate look at the 2002 deaths of the eleven undocumented immigrants. It takes the viewers from the streets of southern Texas, to the hills of a Guatemalan farm, to the Iowa town where the bodies were found.


Director: Mark Wojahn

A vulnerable and intimate story of a family in Minnesota being torn apart by the stress of their daily lives. Their world is a roller coaster of teen parties, third-degree burns, unemployment, drugs, and marital strife. The central character is the mother, Osla, whose pluck and spirit and will to protect her children helps them rise and overcome their circumstances.

Turkey Bowl

Director: Kyle Smith

Every summer, Jon gathers 10 friends together in his adopted city of Los Angeles to play the Turkey Bowl – bringing a piece of small-town tradition to the urban sprawl – all for the beloved prize for the winning team… a turkey. Friendships flare and fade, jealousy is met with both laughter and pain, old and unrequited love threatens to remain old and unrequited, and all of these undercurrents are revealed in the unique, improvised rhythm of backyard football.


Writer/Director : Eric Williams

Follows the memorable adventures of Brad Williams, dubbed “the human Google” by Good Morning America, only the second person ever studied for an extremely detailed autobiographical memory for events both global and personal, monumental and trivial. Give Brad a date within his lifetime and he can tell you the day of the week, the major news of the day, even what was on TV and what he ate.

Screenwriter/filmmaker Eric Williams follows his brother Brad’s journey through one eventful year, as media coverage of his rare mental gifts makes Brad an unlikely celebrity, vaulting him from small-town anonymity to sudden midlife notoriety.

Valley Maker

Director: Sean Kafer

After completing the construction of a hand crafted barrel raft, filmmaker Sean Kafer travels 1600 miles down the Mississippi River from Prescott, Wisconsin to New Orleans. Capturing Middle America’s backwaters, Valley Maker combines documentary and personal travelogue. The film is a chronological trip of living postcards compiled of forgotten places and present life on the big river.

Vanishing Of The Bees

Director: George Langworthy & Maryam Henein

Honeybees have been mysteriously disappearing across the planet, literally vanishing from their hives. Known as Colony Collapse Disorder, this phenomenon has brought beekeepers to crisis in an industry responsible for producing apples, broccoli, watermelon, onions, cherries and a hundred other fruits and vegetables. Commercial honeybee operations pollinate crops that make up one out of every three bites of food on our tables.

Vanishing of the Bees follows commercial beekeepers David Hackenberg and Dave Mendes as they strive to keep their bees healthy and fulfill pollination contracts across the U.S. The film explores the struggles they face as the two friends plead their case on Capital Hill and travel across the Pacific Ocean in the quest to protect their honeybees. Filming across the US, in Europe, Australia and Asia, this documentary examines the alarming disappearance of honeybees and the greater meaning it holds about the relationship between mankind and mother earth. As scientists puzzle over the cause, organic beekeepers indicate alternative reasons for this tragic loss. Conflicting options abound and after years of research, a definitive answer has not been found to this harrowing mystery.

The Weird World of Blowfly

Director: Jonathan Furmanski

Tells the story of Miami musician Clarence Reid and his alter ego Blowfly, the original dirty rapper. At 69 years-old, with a gold-spangled superhero costume and a catalog of the world’s raunchiest tunes, Blowfly continues to record new material and tour the world, struggling for success and recognition.

Before his X-rated career began, Clarence was instrumental in the Florida soul scene of the 1960s and ‘70s; he wrote Top-10 songs for Miami’s greatest R&B acts, including Betty Wright, Gwen McCrae and KC and the Sunshine Band, and recorded what might be the world’s first rap song in 1965. But for over 40 years Clarence has shocked and grooved audiences with Blowfly’s hilarious and provocative hard-core songs.

Shot over the course of two years, the film follows Clarence today and we see his life, career and philosophy unfold. A revealing portrait of an unheralded man, The Weird World of Blowfly examines Clarence’s personal and professional contradictions, explores his legacy and celebrates his musical and cultural significance as a rapper and soul music legend.

Where Soldiers Come From

Director: Heather Courtney

From a snowy small town in Northern Michigan to the mountains of Afghanistan and back, WHERE SOLDIERS COME FROM follows the four-year journey of childhood friends, forever changed by a faraway war.

A documentary about growing up, WHERE SOLDIERS COME FROM is an intimate look at the young men who fight our wars and the families and town they come from. Returning to her hometown, Director Heather Courtney gains extraordinary access following these young men as they grow and change from teenagers stuck in their town, to 23-year-old veterans facing the struggles of returning home.

Enticed by a $20,000 signing bonus and the college tuition support, best friends Dominic and Cole join the National Guard after graduating from their rural high school. After persuading several of their friends to join them, the young men are sent to Afghanistan, where they spend their days sweeping for roadside bombs. By the time their deployment ends, they are no longer the carefree group of friends they were before enlisting; repeated bombs blowing up around their convoys have led to the new silent signature wound of the Afghan war, Traumatic Brain Injury, and they have all become increasingly disillusioned about their mission.

The challenges really begin to surface when they return to Michigan to their families and communities and try to fit back into their daily routines. WHERE SOLDIERS COME FROM looks beyond the guns and policy of an ongoing war to examine the effect on parents, loved ones and the whole community when young people go off to fight.

Wrestling For Jesus

Director: Nathan Clarke

Wrestling For Jesus is a new documentary released in 2011. A man from rural South Carolina tries to find solace from the demons of his past by starting a Christian professional wrestling league. His goal is to use wrestling to evangelize his neighbors. However his passion and vision for his ministry are tested when his personal life begins to disintegrate.