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2017 Milwaukee Film Festival – Day One – STUMPED

Posted on Sep 29, 2017 by | 0 comments

It doesn’t seem that long ago that the last Milwaukee Film Festival happened, but they’re back. The 2017 Milwaukee Film Festival kicked off last night in grand fashion as the fast growing film festival celebrates its ninth year. And Opening Night this year was celebrated with the feature documentary STUMPED.

STUMPED is a poignant, funny, and inspiring look at Will Lautzenheiser  who suffered a quadruple amputation after falling victim to a rare infection. A film professor, he turned around and started doing stand up comedy as a result, with a real gallows humor taking dead aim at his condition. This was the subject of a short film a few years back, but life has taken another turn for will Lautzenheiser as he’s been presented with the opportunity for a transplant of arms and hands.

Obviously, a film on this subject is going to automatically get people on its side. STUMPED director Robin Berghaus distinguishes herself by not settling for just the easy emotional moments here. She digs a little deeper. For instance, she delves into the ethics of a transplant that might be rejected and even if not will subject Will to a lifetime of immunosuppresent drugs that will leave him vulnerable to all manner of complications. She notes that this actually represents a setback for Will in his ability to function for months if not years. And she observes, with quite a bit of empathy, the toll all of this is taking on Will’s partner Angel, as he has to become Will’s almost full time helper with little room for his own life. She also catches the crisis it triggers in Will’s twin brother.

But, most of all, she observes Will and his ability to make the best of a bad situation. To find the laughs. And the silver linings, if it doesn’t work at least the doctors will learn something. None of this is super groundbreaking, but it’s legitimately affecting material. Perfect material for kicking off a film festival on a feel good note. A note that was heightened by bringing all the principals of the film to the Oriental Theatre for a Q and A that was met with a standing ovation.

The good feelings continued afterwards at the Opening Night Party, always a grand time. There’s a new venue this year, the Good City Brewing Company, with the party stretching throughout the building, to the roof patio, and to a big tent in the backyard. The weather was great for a kickoff like this and the Milwaukee Film Festival is quickly becoming an institution and something the whole city can be proud of.


STUMPED will be playing once more at the 2017 Milwaukee Festival. The next screening is Saturday, October 30, 2017 at 4:30 pm at the Downer Theatre. Tickets can be purchased online at the Milwaukee Film Festival website or at box office locations at various venues. The 2017 Milwaukee Film Festival runs from September 28 to October 12, 2017.

Robert Reineke
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