2023 Milwaukee Film Festival: Day One “Mom & Dad’s Nipple Factory”

It’s been a long road back for the Milwaukee Film Festival after being forced to go virtual in 2020 and 2021. 2022 was a return to live screenings while still climbing out of the Covid pandemic, with a robust virtual option. The program for 2023 is clearly aiming for a robust in person festival with some modest virtual options.

The Milwaukee Film Festival always wishes to start with a feel good film to set the mood for the festival. This year’s selection was MOM & DAD’S NIPPLE FACTORY which had as a bonus a Wisconsin connection with the story focussed around Eau Claire.

The synopsis provided by Milwaukee Film describes the film thusly.

“After his wife Randi survives breast cancer and a mastectomy, Brian Johnson, a serial entrepreneur and tinkerer, embarks on an extraordinary journey to help her feel complete. From a bedroom
in Eau Claire, WI, director Justin “Justinsuperstar” Johnson’s parents pursue the perfect prosthetic nipple, transforming what began as an intimate labor of love into a “factory” with the power to change thousands of survivors’ lives in this fascinating tale of resilience, dignity, and family.”

It would have been very easy to make the subject matter, a conservative and religious husband and wife run a small business making prosthetic nipples, into a joke. I won’t say making a warm, earnest, and heartfelt film out of the material was harder, but it’s definitely more rewarding. Part of what makes it rewarding is that it’s personal. Right down to the director being the son of the Mom & Dad of the title. It’s a good deed that a husband wanted to do for his wife in the aftermath of a mastectomy to make her feel whole again. And, from there, it branched out into a way to help others feel whole too. A good deed that led to hundreds if not thousands of other deeds.

In particular, it’s also about a son coming to appreciate his father. Brian Johnson is a classic stoic introvert and has his eccentricities, all the way to putting the television his kids watch on a timer. But the film is also about the son discovering his father at his most loving, and his problem solving side being put to real use. Arguably discovering his father’s inner artist too. The film is something of a thank you to him, culminating in many of the women his prosthetics have helped saying thank you on video to the man who seems the most unlikely to be a help. There are some jokes along the way, but ultimately what you come away remembering is that it’s a personal love letter.

MOM & DAD’S NIPPLE FACTORY plays one more time at the Milwaukee Film Festival screening on Friday, April 21, 2023 at 12: 30 pm at the Oriental Theatre. The 2023 Milwaukee Film Festival runs from April 20, 2023 until May 4, 2023. Tickets can be purchased via MKEFILM.ORG.