bear-with-usThe Flyway Film Festival has announced the official program selections for the October 19-23 festival, showcasing top-notch emerging filmmakers from across the globe.

More than forty documentaries, narratives and short films will screen at four locations along the Mississippi River: the Villa Bellezza Winery in Pepin, WI; Big River Theatre in Alma, WI; WideSpot Performing Arts Center in Stockholm, WI; and the Sheldon Theatre in Red Wing, MN.

Tickets for films are $10 in advance and $12 at the door. Festival passes for unlimited screenings are available on the Flyway website through the ticketing vendor Elevent.

The festival kicks off with a party and awards ceremony at the Villa Bellezza at 6:00 on October 19th. The films begin at 7:30 PM on October 20th with Girl Asleep, a dark comedy by Australian filmmaker Rosemary Myers, and close at 5:00 PM on Sunday, October 23rd with the fairy-tale thriller American Fable, by Anne Hamilton.

According to Flyway programmer Jim Brunzell III, the 2016 films are unusually well-crafted and provocative.

“It’s been a crazy year in independent film,” says Brunzell. “Filmmakers are pushing the boundaries of the form, incorporating animation, new editing techniques, telling stories in new and exciting ways.”

There are fictional and non-fictional explorations of mass murder (Dark NightTower); insightful portraits of characters on the periphery of the political scene (LavoygerPolitical Animals); rueful comedies and dramas about relationships (Donald CriedJune Falling DownBear with Us); and an assortment of short films ranging from musical comedy to LGBTQ issues to classic horror.

“We’re very pleased to have acquired this wide array of subject matter and filmmaking styles for the Flyway this year,” adds Brunzell.

Many of the films’ directors will attend the festival to mingle with the audience and discuss their work.

Between films, visitors to the Flyway Film Festival can meander up and down the river to the film venues, shops, and saloons along the Great River Road. A year-round tourist destination, the area is particularly scenic during the festival, when the fall colors peak and the Mississippi River ‘flyway’ — a route taken by migrating birds — attracts birdwatchers from around the world.

Listed below are highlights from the film lineup. The full festival schedule is on the website at

  • Dark Night, directed by Tim Sutton (narrative feature)

Dark Night enigmatically unfolds over the course of a lazy summer day, as it traces the events leading up to a mass shooting in a suburban multiplex. Abandoning the narrative confines of the true crime genre, the story is told through fragmented moments from the lives of several characters, whose fates are tragically intertwined. As the sky grows darker, the placid surface of daily life becomes disturbed by a lurking and inevitable horror.

  • Refugios, directed by Alejandro Cortés Calahorra (narrative feature)

The puzzle of a toxic relationship, of dependence and exile between a brother and a sister, Pablo and Julieta, and their lifelong friend, Alberto. They seek refuge, internal and external, in old family and new, fleeing to city and country, on the cusp of the implosion of their everyday lives.

Fixated on the possibility of conquering time, two men find inspiration by bringing facets of H.G. Wells’ 1895 novel The Time Machine to life.

The story of an elite moonshine produced in the heart of Minnesota by Catholic farmers during Prohibition, and the modern-day attempts of a micro-distillery to resuscitate the brand as a premium whiskey.

Wisconsin and Minnesota have been struggling with the issue of frac sand mining for years. Opponents of the destructive mining practices have felt confident in their victories – but the sand mines are now coming back with a vengeance. Red Wing filmmaker Jim Tittle presents scenes from a work-in-progress update to The Price of Sand, his 2013 documentary about the frac sand boom.

That Lloyd “Swee’ Pea” Daniels became an NBA player was no surprise — at age 16 he was named ‘the next Magic Johnson” and possibly the best player that had ever lived. That his NBA debut happened at age 25, with bullets still lodged in his chest and a body ravaged by years of crack-cocaine addiction, was a miracle. The Legend of Swee’ Pea tells the story of a dramatic basketball odyssey in which the hero must ultimately confront a life imperfectly lived.

  • Americana, by Zachary Shedd (narrative feature)

Using the style of the paranoid nail-biters of the 1970s to tell a personal story of addiction and its consequences, this modern-day San Francisco noir shadows an alcoholic film editor as he struggles to uncover the truth about his sister’s murder.

Dwelling on his past glory as a prize-winning author, Ryota wastes the money he makes as a private detective on gambling and can barely pay child support. After the death of his father, his aging mother and ex-wife seem to be moving on with their lives. Renewing contact with his initially distrusting family, Ryota struggles to take back control of his existence and to find a lasting place in the life of his young son – until a stormy summer night offers them a chance to truly bond again.

  • Lavoyger, by Rachel Bardin (documentary short)

El Tule Ranch is a private playground for Texas oil barons and powerful politicians, like the Bush family. But the ranch manager, Lavoyger Durham, has discovered over 20 bodies of people avoiding a nearby border patrol checkpoint. A portrait of a man taking a peculiar approach to the Mexican-American border, the film reveals complexities that are usually omitted from political discourse.

For the full festival schedule, click here:

Photo: Director William Stribling’s comedy “Bear With Us” will screen at the 2016 Flyway Film Festival on Saturday, October 22 and Sunday, October 23. Stribling will be at the Flyway to greet audiences and answer questions about his film.