may-day-paradeThe ninth annual Flyway Film Festival, which kicks off this Wednesday and runs through Sunday, is proud to present films by filmmakers who hail from all over the world. But the greatest pride comes from highlighting filmmakers who live nearby in Wisconsin and Minnesota.

The subject matter of this year’s crop of regional films ranges from the hyper-local to the supernatural. Most of the films were shot in the Midwest, although several are by Midwesterners who have moved on to sunnier climes.

Some highlights of the program:

  • The Tell: 2 Chefs, by Melissa Butts (8 minutes; screens with Documentary Shorts Program, Friday 10/21 at the Sheldon Theatre in Red Wing, 7PM / Sunday 10/23, Noon, at the WideSpot in Stockholm)\

The two chefs in this beautifully shot short documentary are Twin Cities food truck mavens Carrie Summer and Lisa Carlson, who opened a restaurant in the small Wisconsin river town of Bay City several years ago. Award-winning director/producer Melissa Butts’ short film is a meditative tale of food, love, and acceptance.

  • The Legend of Swee’ Pea, by Benjamin May (80 minutes; screens 10/22, 3:30PM, at the WideSpot in Stockholm)

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.

Director Benjamin May is a St. Paul diagnostic radiologist. “Swee’ Pea” is his first film. Currently in its festival run, it has received audience and jury awards across the country.

  • White Doe, by Louie Fisher (11 minutes; screens with Student Shorts, 10/22 at the Sheldon in Red Wing, 4:30PM / 10/23 at the Big River Theatre in Alma, 3:00PM)

A family’s dark past is drawn to light when a man’s obsession gets him arrested, and his estranged daughter must bail him out of jail. The film was shot near Cadott, Wisconsin.

Louie Fisher grew up in Pepin and attended the film program at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, from which he recently graduated. In addition to presenting his film during the Student Shorts program, Fisher will address the crowd at the Flyway Kickoff Gala on Wednesday, October 19 at the Villa Bellezza Winery.

  • Minnesota 13: From Grain to Glass, co-directed by Norah Shapiro and Kelly Nathe (75 minutes; screens Friday 10/21 at the Big River Theatre in Alma, 8PM / Saturday 10/22, 1:30PM, at the WideSpot in Stockholm)

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. Norah Shapiro’s award-winning documentary “Miss Tibet: Beauty in Exile” screened at Flyway 2015. She is based, along with her Flying Pieces Productions, in Minneapolis; Kelly Nathe recently returned to Minneapolis after living in Los Angeles. It was Nathe’s Minnesota ties, specifically ties to Stearns County, that helped birth the idea for “Minnesota 13: From Grain to Glass.”

  • Promise in the Sand (work in progress), by Jim Tittle (20 minutes plus discussion; Saturday 10/22 at the Sheldon Theatre in Red Wing, 1:00PM)

“Promise in the Sand” is a work-in-progress update to Red Wing filmmaker Jim Tittle’s 2013 documentary “The Price of Sand.” The 2013 film exposed the dangers of frac sand mining through stories of rural Midwesterners whose lives and properties were disastrously affected. Now, three years later, Tittle and producer Wendy Johnson are visiting familiar places to compare predictions with reality. Jim and Wendy will present a rough cut of scenes from the new film, and a discussion will follow.

  • Elf Help, by Megan Brooks (15 minutes; screens with Friday Night Shorts, 10/21 at the Villa Bellezza in Pepin, 9:30PM)

Editor/writer/director Megan Brooks has lived in the Twin Cities and in Buffalo City, Wisconsin, and she now works as a film editor in Berkeley California. Her quirky short film tells the story of a struggling couple who see an eccentric relationship counselor to help them break up.

  • How to Make a Mask, by Mike Rivard (30 minutes; screens with Documentary Shorts Program, Friday 10/21 at the Sheldon Theatre in Red Wing, 7PM / Sunday 10/23, Noon, at the WideSpot in Stockholm)

Minneapolis director Mike Rivard has been filming the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theater’s annual May Day Parade for almost all of its 40-year history. This short documentary looks at issues that have been raised by the iconic South Minneapolis parade from 2006 to the present.

  • Great White Storm, by Jon Maichel Thomas (13 minutes; screens with Friday Night Shorts, 10/21 at the Villa Bellezza in Pepin, 9:30PM)

A man and his young son cross a dangerous white wasteland to obtain fire, a once plentiful resource. When the father succumbs to the elements, his son must collect the fire and work feverishly to breathe the fire and their world back to life.

Jon Maichel Thomas is a Minneapolis artist. When not making movies, he is the CEO of the technology company Dark Matter and runs the digital agency Studio Collective.

  • Church of Felons, by Jordan Mederich (87 minutes; screens 10/22, 1:00PM, at the Villa Bellezza in Pepin)

Osceola, Wisconsin native Jordan Mederich tells a true story of four multi-offense felons looking for a second chance after a life of addiction, loss, and redemption in Polk County, Wisconsin. This film questions our perception of addiction, crime and a furious, fed-up, unforgiving judicial system, with a church in the middle of a cornfield at the center of it all.

Films begin on Thursday, October 20th and run through the 23rd, with an opening night party on the 19th. 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. A list of films is available on the Flyway website,

Photo: Mike Rivard’s ‘How to Make a Mask” tells the story of the iconic annual May Day Parade in South Minneapolis.