Here\'s A Sneak Peek Of Some Of The Films Playing The 2016 Wisconsin Film Festival

Along with birds chirping, snow melting and that strange naked feeling of walking outside for the first time without a heavy coat, one of the first signs of spring in Madison is the release of the Wisconsin Film Festival schedule.

The 2016 Wisconsin Film Festival schedule will be released on March 17, with tickets going on sale for the festival at noon on March 19. Those who can’t wait that long should attend the “First Look at the Festival” premiere party at 7 p.m. on March 16, which will unveil some of the titles and give patrons the chance to buy early-bird tickets before anyone else.

This year’s lineup will include a film on the conservative assault on higher education (including in Wisconsin), new movies by filmmakers Whit Stillman and D.A. Pennebaker, and documentaries on everything from tickle fetishes to Madison’s Smart Studios.

The festival runs April 14 through 21 at theaters throughout Madison, including University of Wisconsin-Madison venues like the Marquee Theatre and UW-Cinematheque, Sundance Cinemas and, for the first time in the festival, the Barrymore Theatre.

Programming director Jim Healy and other festival staff have been busy acquiring films at acclaimed festivals like the Toronto Film Festival and Sundance Film Festival, as well as going through submissions from Wisconsin filmmakers. Based on an early peek at some of the titles, it looks like it’s going to be a terrific event.

Here are a few of the movies that will play at this year’s Wisconsin Film Festival:

Hunt For the Wilderpeople” — The big opening night film at the Barrymore Theatre will be New Zealand director Taika Waititi’s follow-up to his hit vampire mockumentary “What We Do In the Shadows.” The film follows a disgruntled 13-year-old from the city who goes on the run from the authorities with his uncle (Sam Neill of “Jurassic Park”). Hilarity and car chases ensue.

Love & Friendship” — The new film from writer-director Whit Stillman (“Metropolitan,” “The Last Days of Disco”) is a period comedy of manners adapted from an early Jane Austen novella.

Starving the Beast” — Wisconsin is one of several states featured in this documentary about how Republican-controlled legislatures are waging war on public universities. Expect a lot of discussion about this one.

The Smart Studios Story” — Local filmmaker Wendy Schneider spent over six years working on this all-star documentary about the nondescript little studio on East Washington Avenue that was ground zero for much of the 1990s alternative music scene.

Unlocking the Cage” — This offbeat documentary from the legendary D.A. Pennebaker (the Bob Dylan documentary “Don’t Look Back”) looks at humans who want to give chimps at least partial human rights.

Tale of Tales” — The first film in seven years from Italian director Matteo Garrone (“Gomorrah”) is an English-language film that interweaves stories of three kings from three kingdoms, each dealing with a strange and terrible curse.

The Club” — Following the success of “Spotlight,” there should be lots of interest in this film from Chilean director Pablo Larrain (“No”) about abusive priests sequestered together in a halfway house.

Tickled” — This very strange documentary from New Zealand follows a filmmaker who starts looking into the world of online tickle fetish sites, and finds more than he bargained for.

Louder than Words” — This documentary looks at a deaf parents who have to adjust when their children get cochlear implants allowing them to hear for the first time.

Love Witch” — The Wisconsin Film Festival will likely host the U.S. premiere of this film that’s a wry but affectionate tribute to melodramas of the 1950s and 1960s.

The festival will also include an assortment of classic films, including the 1981 war film “Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence” in honor of its star, the late David Bowie; a documentary on Ingrid Bergman; and a selection of rare Robert Altman films.

For more updates, visit wifilmfest.org.

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Here's a sneak peek of some of the films playing the 2016 Wisconsin Film Festival
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