It’s Flyway time! Here’s a quick guide.

More fun info below! Read on!

Q: Hey, I see that there's an opening night party on the 10th, and an opening night film on the 11th. Can I have lots of fun at both?

A: You sure can! The opening night kick-off party on Thursday the 10th is the wonderful community potluck you've come to know and love over the past twelve years. Like last year, it's at the beautiful Twin Bluff Farms up the hill from Stockholm.

  • If you bought a Full Festival Pass, you're in.

  • Tickets are still available (but space is limited), so buy yours at the link below!

  • OR, if you're a chef-like person, you can volunteer to bring food and get in free! But you need to contact food wrangler Judy Krohn first, to see if food is still needed.


As for the opening night film on Friday the 11th, you don't want to miss this festive frolic at the Flyway's newest venue, the Broadway Theatre in Wabasha! The film is Well Groomed, "an endearing look at an odd subculture of outsider art" (Playlist) –– that subculture being the world of competitive creative dog grooming. Say what?

The film's producer, Justin Levy, will be at the screening to introduce the film and to answer your questions, such as, "What th----???"

The film starts at 9:00, which you might think is kind of late for this neck of the woods, but the film is preceded by the annual Flyway Awards Ceremony at 8:00, and also beer.

Q: Did you say "beer"?

A: We did. Wabasha's ever-amazing Turning Waters Brewing Company will provide special Flyway brews for the pre-film reception at the Broadway! Get this: they're making a "Fluffy Rainbow Unicorn Pale Wheat Milkshake Ale," as well as the more traditional-sounding Chocolate Milk Stout and Take 2 IPA. Beer lovers will go crazy, and non-beer-drinkers will say, "Well, perhaps just a taste." :-)

Q: What if I still want to have more Friday night fun after the awards ceremony, reception, and screening?

A: After the film, there's an afterparty at the Wabasha VFW, just up the street (138 East Second Street). Wabasha is ALL IN, people.

Q: What movies should I see on Saturday and Sunday?

A: Whoa. That is too hard a question. All the Flyway movies were selected by teams of both professional film programmers (e.g., Jim Brunzell III) and community film aficionados, led by extremely-film-knowledgeable Stockholm resident Tracy Tabery-Weller. In other words, there's something for everybody in this film lineup.

You should look through the film descriptions, open your mind to new experiences, and click on the word TICKETS under each film description of your choice!

Q: Any other parties I should know about?

A: How about the Saturday Night Street Dance? With live music by Milwaukee's own Zach Pietrini Band, and special guest Lucija Vaicius? You should definitely know about that. It starts at 10 PM Saturday, in front of the Flyway Minema at 408 Second Street, Pepin (between Lake & Main Streets).

Q: Shoot, now I want a Full Festival Pass or a Six-Pack Binge Pass. Is it too late to get one?

A: Probably not? But check quick, because they're almost sold out.

Q: I probably have other questions but I can't think of them right now. What should I do??

A: Don't fly(way) into a panic! Peruse the website. Query us on Facebook. Send us an email. It's all good.

See you real soon!

Clockwise from top left: RIGHT TO HARM, by Matt Wechsler and Annie Speicher; SONG LANG, by Leon Le; EXTRA ORDINARY, by Mike Ahern and Enda Loughman; CHANGING THE GAME, by Michael Barnett.

Clockwise from top left: RIGHT TO HARM, by Matt Wechsler and Annie Speicher; SONG LANG, by Leon Le; EXTRA ORDINARY, by Mike Ahern and Enda Loughman; CHANGING THE GAME, by Michael Barnett.

May I please buy tickets to the Flyway films now?
— Yes. Yes, you may.


Get ‘em while they’re hot — supplies are limited!

Shout-out to the amazing and wonderful sponsors of Flyway 2019! Click here for more.

New Flyway Film Festival poster design hails from the psychedelic sixties

June 28, 2019 —The Flyway Film Festival has a reputation for its eye-catching annual poster designs. For this year’s festival, taking place October 10-13, 2019 along the shores of Lake Pepin, the design is pretty groovy. You might even say it’s far out.

The logo design is the result of a collaboration between Flyway executive director Diana Masters-Penegor and Twin Cities graphic designer Jon Hunt. The design features a bright red flower with a film reel as its center and a strip of film as its stem. The colors and font call to mind 1960s psychedelic artists like Peter Max. This year, after all, is the 50th anniversary of Woodstock. 

The idea came to Masters-Penegor when she was reviewing the data on the Flyway Film Festival’s audience and volunteers. Many people in the local audience are part of the wave of artists and musicians who moved to the Lake Pepin area in the 1970s and 1980s.

“I started thinking about the cool people around here who really revitalized this area, people who came of age in the 1960s, and these images came to mind,” said Masters-Penegor. “It was a group of forward-thinking hippies of one sort or another. I didn’t consciously think about 2019 being the 50th anniversary of Woodstock, but that ended up being kind of a happy accident.”

She shared this idea with her friend Jon Hunt, a Twin Cities artist known for his album cover designs. 

“Jon and I both love '60s psychedelic artists,” said Masters-Penegor. “I admire Jon’s designs for bands and record album covers, and I knew that he’d come up with something different from anything we’d ever done before.” 

Hunt loved the assignment.

“Diana had only to mention "flower" and "sixties" and immediately my thoughts went to the folks at Push Pin Studios, the revolutionary New York design and illustration studio that gave us geniuses like Milton Glaser, Seymour Chwast, and John Alcorn,” said Hunt. Push Pin, founded in 1954, was instrumental in defining the look of the 1960s with its ubiquitous poster art.

“I was really into the '60s starting in high school -- I read everything I could about psychedelic art,” said Hunt. “All those dudes like Rick Griffin and Mouse/Kelley (who created designs for the Grateful Dead) are my favorites. That whole era of music and art and fashion is pretty much my favorite stuff in the universe.”

The result of all this creative inspiration is the “flower power” design for the twelfth annual Flyway Film Festival. The design will appear on posters, t-shirts, and other Flyway paraphernalia available at the October 10-13 festival. The Flyway has featured a new graphic design each year since its inception in 2008. Previous contributors include award-winning area artists Jan Eckhart, Peter Seitz, and Gaylord Schanilec.

“We’re confident that the 2019 design will appeal to Flyway audiences from all generations,” said Masters-Penegor, “whether or not they ever used the term 'far out’ in a sentence.”

Tickets and passes for the Flyway will be available soon. 

Flyway Film Society gets IRS approval as tax-exempt nonprofit organization

December 15, 2018 —The Flyway Film Society is delighted to announce that we have been approved by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for 501(c)(3) designation as a tax-exempt organization. 

This status has been declared effective with the organization’s date of inception, March 16, 2018. All direct donations to the Flyway Film Society and Flyway Film Festival are fully tax-deductible.

Tax-deductible donations from our patrons and sponsors go directly to support Flyway Film Festival's mission to bring the best in independent film to the Lake Pepin area of Wisconsin and Minnesota for the purposes of cultural enrichment, community-building, arts education, and to inspire the next generation of filmmakers, as well as to support our programming vision for the Flyway.

To make a tax-deductible donation, please click here ==>.

[Please note: If you are an Internet Explorer user, you will need to use an alternate browser to donate to the Flyway. Because IE is no longer supported/updated by Microsoft, our eCommerce system is not compatible with Internet Explorer. Sorry for the inconvenience!]

The 2019 Flyway Film Festival runs October 10-13 in Pepin, Stockholm, and Alma, Wisconsin. Hope to see you there! 

Flyway Film Festival announces Diana Masters-Penegor as new Executive Director

November 27, 2018— Based in the idyllic bluff country of Pepin, Wisconsin, the Flyway Film Festival is pleased to announce that Diana Masters-Penegor will step in as the organization’s newest executive director. Having served as Festival Operations Manager from 2008-2015, Masters-Penegor will fill the position that long-time communications director and panels programmer Lu Lippold occupied on an interim basis.

“I was happy to sit in as interim executive director in 2018, and I’m thrilled that Diana has agreed to take over in 2019 and beyond,” said Lippold. “She’s got the experience and organizational skills to keep the Flyway moving forward.”

Pioneered in 2008 by Rick Vaicius and Masters-Penegor, the Flyway Film Festival soared onto MovieMaker Magazine’s prestigious list of “25 Coolest Film Festivals in the World” in 2014. Masters-Penegor was an integral part of that achievement.

“I’m excited and honored to be asked to lead the festival on the next leg of its journey,” she said.

As a top-notch researcher and organizer, Masters-Penegor has worked on film programming, hospitality, volunteer training, venue management, ticketing/box office, community outreach, and special events since the Flyway’s inception. Her history and experience make the migration into the executive director role as natural as the iconic Mississippi River flight corridor for which the festival is named.

After re-incorporating under the name Flyway Film Society, founding board members Mary Anne Collins-Svoboda, Scott Wolf, Trevor Porath, Tracy Tabery-Weller, Allison House, Diana Masters-Penegor, and Irene Wolf turned a collective eye toward community, where local focus groups quickly revealed a universal desire for inspiration. The board responded by pausing the festival’s submission process, opting instead to curate this year’s two-day event with films characterized by hopefulness and visions for a better tomorrow.

“We had a tremendously positive community response to our film program this year,” said board co-chair Trevor Porath “We will continue to carry that forward by reaching out into the community for input on our 2019 vision and strategy.”

Kicked off each year by a gourmet, potluck-style opening night party, the Flyway has always been supported by enthusiastic volunteers from the community. It’s something Masters-Penegor truly appreciates.

“Being a rural-based festival without some of the ready resources a more urban festival might have, we literally could not exist without the buy-in and support of our community,” she said. “We’re lucky to have both a beautiful destination and friendly, welcoming people.”

Filmmakers have taken notice.

“Over and over filmmakers have told us how engaged and appreciative the audiences are and how exciting it is to see a rural community with such a genuine love of independent film,” said Porath.

Encouraged by this year’s overwhelming support and success, the board of directors has decided to double the length of next year’s festival from two to four days.

“We’re all looking forward to riding this momentum,” said Lippold, who will continue to work with the Flyway in various other capacities.

Masters-Penegor is looking forward to the upcoming year.

“It’s my hope that my lifelong love of film and years of experience across multiple areas of the organization will allow me to shape and nurture the Flyway’s growth in a truly holistic way,” she said.

Make your launching plans. Official festival dates are scheduled for October 10-13, 2019.


It’s Flyway time!
Eleventh Annual Flyway Film Festival
Friday, October 19 - Sunday, October 21

Check out the list of films and buy tickets —> RIGHT HERE!

Check out the fun parties —> RIGHT HERE!

Find a place to stay —> RIGHT HERE!

Scroll through all the awesome movies, BELOW!

Many thanks to our generous sponsors:

Want to download the entire magnificent print program? CLICK HERE

Looking for an easy-to-read schedule grid? CLICK HERE

Press Releases and Announcements

“Wild Nights with Emily” offers a surprising, humorous take on poet Emily Dickinson

October 5, 2018— How does a reclusive, nineteenth-century “lady poet” like Emily Dickinson become the subject of a zany lesbian comedy? It takes a little brazen creativity, a lot of scholarly research, and the inspired casting of SNL comedian Molly Shannon as Dickinson, with Minnesota actress Susan Ziegler as her lover.

Wild Nights with Emily,” written and directed by Madeleine Olnek, will screen at the WideSpot Performing Arts Center in Stockholm, Wisconsin at 6:30 PM on Saturday, October 20th, as part of the 11th Annual Flyway Film Festival. 

Dickinson scholar Dr. Erika Scheurer, from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, will lead the post-screening discussion, along with Susan Ziegler and Elizabeth Dickinson, a descendant of Emily's uncle.

Olnek, an award-winning filmmaker, playwright, and Guggenheim Fellow, used Dickinson’s letters and poems to paint a much more cheerful portrait of the poet than that of a reclusive spinster afraid of having her work published.

The film makes a convincing case that Dickinson had a lifelong love affair with her childhood friend and sister-in-law Sue, only to have her true identity erased by Mabel Todd (Amy Seimetz), a meddling acquaintance who became Emily’s posthumous publisher. 

Dr. Scheurer, who not only teaches seminars on Emily Dickinson but also organizes 13-hour marathon readings of all Dickinson’s 1,789 poems, said she was impressed with how the film brings to life the scholarship on Dickinson's intense relationship with Sue.

"The film brings front and center the witty, lively Dickinson that we find in her letters," said Scheurer, “and it shows Sue's crucial role in Dickinson’s writing.”

Sue is portrayed by Susan Ziegler, a familiar face from film and television (Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23 (2012), TiMER (2009) and Hello, My Name Is Doris (2015)), also known for her theater work in New York and Los Angeles. She grew up in Minneapolis and met Olnek during their years at New York University.

“I’m grateful to be a part of this project and to work with Madeleine again,” Ziegler said. “The reaction we’ve gotten to the film has been amazing. This story is finally being told, and it has meant so much to so many.” 

Emily and Sue in Kitchen Wild Nights.jpg

Olnek became interested in the topic after reading an article about how advances in science have shed light on historical figures, including Emily Dickinson.

“Infrared technologies are restoring erasures to her papers,” Olnek said in an interview with Variety. “What was being uncovered in these erasures were things she had written about Sue.

“And then there were all these other letters Emily wrote to Sue that were just sitting there. The image of Emily Dickinson as this recluse spinster was so big in people’s minds, they couldn’t see the letters for what they were.”

Ziegler is pleased that she’ll be in town to present the film to the Flyway audience on October 20th.

“I can’t tell you how excited I am to help introduce ‘Wild Nights with Emily’ at the Flyway, and to experience the festival myself,” she said.

Flyway Film Festival Announces Four Short Film Programs!

September 12, 2018— The 11th annual Flyway Film Festival today announced its lineup of 30 remarkable short films, selected from a cross-section of regional, national, and international filmmakers.

The Flyway, which runs from October 19-21, will present four different short film programs, along with 16 feature-length films, at three locations along the Mississippi River in Wisconsin. The venues are the Big River Theatre in Alma, WideSpot Performing Arts Center in Stockholm, and The Minema in Pepin. The feature-length films, which were announced in August, can be found on the Flyway website.

 The short films will be presented in four programs: documentary, narrative, “late night,” and a special local issues program.

“In selecting films for this year's festival, we were looking for surprising stories about the human experience,” said Mira Lippold-Johnson, an Austin, Texas-based filmmaker who helmed the short film selection committee. “Each of these stories communicates something unique, personal or new.”

The films are organized into screening programs based on type of film as well as content.

“Every short film stands on its own, but I hope that the context given by the other films in the program adds meaning and significance,” said Lippold-Johnson. “It's my hope that when you walk out of these screenings, you'll feel like a different person than when you went in.” 

Full festival passes for unlimited screenings and parties are available now through October 1st for $120. Six-ticket “binge passes” are $65. Tickets for individual films ($12, or $8 with a student discount) will be available on October 3rd, as well as tickets for the opening night party.

The films included in the four shorts programs are:

Documentary Shorts: “In Our World” (1:30 PM Saturday 10/20, Minema)

How are we defined by the world around us? How do we define our own worlds? These documentary short films explore issues of individual identity, cross-cultural communication and the ways in which we create our own realities. 

In Our World, directed by Kyja K-Nelson (2 minutes) 
Witches are evil. Ghosts are evil. Fire girl is evil. A non-fiction travelogue led by 5-year old Unna Katla.

Scent of Geranium, directed by Naghmeh Farzaneh (5 minutes) 
Immigration is a new chapter in one's life, a chapter with unexpected events that can take one's life down paths different from the one imagined. This film is an autobiographical account of the director's experience with immigration.

Café De Temporada, directed by Luisa Santos (13 minutes) 
Four Nicaraguan kids move to a Costa Rican coffee farm with their families to work during their summer break. They spend the majority of their day helping their parents pick and sort coffee, but their adventurous spirit takes them on unusual breaks.

 This Little Piggy Went to Market, directed by Jeanine Fiser (15 minutes) 
This documentary captures a slice of Central Californian life as it follows Austin Blomquist, a 15-year-old pig farmer, from the field to the county fair, where Austin is determined to be crowned this year’s “Grand Champion.” 

Stems, directed by Ainslie Henderson (2 minutes) 
A eulogy to the short lifespan of stop motion animation puppets.

Beneath the Ink, directed by Cy Dodson (13 minutes) 
As society's belief systems are changing or even reverting in time, Ohio tattoo artist Billy Joe White is challenging his community by saying, "Bring me your mistakes." The film is a timely look at hate and racism in one Appalachian community that reveals heartfelt stories of change and redemption.

Language Lessons, directed by Lucy Kreutz (5 minutes) 
Faced with the global refugee crisis, many people feel they don’t know how to help. But a group of women who speak both Arabic and English found a way to make a difference -- even with limited time and resources.

 Xiaolu, directed by Xiaolu Wang (3 minutes) 
A young Chinese woman's journey of reclaiming her birth name after a year of using an English name.

 Kinderchomper, directed by Mike Scholtz (17 minutes) 
A mild-mannered artist from Minnesota leads a double life as a baby-eating professional wrestler in Japan.

 The Traffic Separating Device, directed by Johan Palmgren (14 minutes) 
A traffic separating device is installed in the middle of Stockholm, Sweden, intended to keep cars out and only let buses pass. It turns into a tragicomic disaster as cars continue to go there and get destroyed every week.

 Strawberries Will Save the World, directed by Yoko Okumura (6 minutes)
Yuko's love for strawberries knows no bounds and she believes they will save the world.

Narrative Shorts: “To Be Free” (11:00 AM Saturday 10/20, Big River Theatre)

What does it mean to be free? From an aspiring newscaster in North Carolina to a young Chinese immigrant in 1950s Texas, the characters in these narrative short films strive to define themselves on their own terms. 

To Be Free, directed by Adepero Oduye (12 minutes) 
In a tiny after-hours club, singer Nina Simone finds a way, for one moment, to be free.

Preschool Poets: A Poem Play, directed by Nancy Kangas & Josh Kun (1 minute) 
Delanie imagines a world locked in routine. Parents work two jobs. They can’t come home because they work a double. Even the pleasure of a hot tub has a time limit. The films in Preschool Poets: An Animated Series are based on poems composed and spoken by preschoolers from Columbus, Ohio’s east side and animated by artists from around the world.

First Generation, directed by Jeannie Nguyen (9 minutes) 
A short that explores the boundaries of self-expression and what it’s like growing up in America as a first generation Asian-American in the late 90's.

Acid Test, directed by Jenny Waldo (14 minutes) 
A teenage girl drops acid and goes home to her parents, sparking a hallucinogenic family meltdown.

Family Happiness, directed by Alice Englert (15 minutes) 
The Wells orphans, Romilly and Fiona, are having a family gathering -- just the two of them. A former pop idol is selling religious paraphernalia outside Romilly’s building. Fiona has an older boyfriend who wants her to be home before he takes his sleeping pill and she doesn’t miss their dad. In short: they’re a mess.

El Aguacate, directed by Darwin Serink (11 minutes) 
Coworkers Rosa and Raul always take their lunch breaks together, sharing Rosa’s homemade dishes and an avocado from Raul’s tree. With hopes of companionship and possibly of love, Raul finally gets the courage to ask Rosa for a date. But when the day finally arrives, unexpected tragedy occurs.

The Future Is Bright, directed by Courtney Powell (10 minutes) 
In 1979, a local newscaster prepares to cover an anti-KKK protest in Greensboro, North Carolina, and realizes that she may never be ready for the events to come.

Preschool Poets: Bullets, directed by Nancy Kangas & Josh Kun (84 seconds) 
Brayden asks for a calmer world, without the chaos of tornadoes, hungry wolves and guns with bullets. The films in Preschool Poets: An Animated Series are based on poems composed and spoken by preschoolers from the near east side of Columbus, Ohio and animated by artists from around the world. “Bullets” is animated by Stas Santimov.

 June, directed by Huay Bing Law (13 minutes) 
A Chinese wife tries to fit in at her husband's graduation party at a Texas university in 1955.

 Sexxy Dancer, directed by Jessica Makinson (6 minutes)
A woman down on her luck gets a lift when a friend lends her a Sexxy Dancer for the week.

Late Night Shorts: “We Are In A Dream” (9:00 PM Saturday 10/20, WideSpot)

Not your average after-dark shorts. From over-the-top comedy/horror to bizarre portraits of the dark side of human nature, these films will freak you out in surprising ways. 

 Pie, directed by Adria Tennor (11 minutes) 
Carol invites Annette over for homemade pie and coffee, and after much prodding she divulges her special secret and scandalous ingredient. It’s Sweeney Todd meets Thelma & Louise via Stepford, Connecticut.

 Lady Lillian, directed by Amber Johnson (7 minutes) 
A dark comedy about a tarot reader/psychic whose rambling and somewhat absurd conversations with clients become self-fulfilling prophesies.

Catherine, directed by Britt Raes (12 minutes) 
A tragic comedy of a sweet little girl who grows up to be a crazy old cat lady.

 Hús, directed by Kyja K-Nelson (90 seconds) 
A meditation on emigration, immigration, house, and home.

 End of the Line, directed by Jessica Sanders (15 minutes) 
Oscar-nominated, Sundance and Cannes winner Jessica Sanders based this short on writer Aimee Bender's surrealist short story about a lonely man who goes to the pet store and buys a tiny man in a cage. Starring Simon Helberg (Big Bang Theory, Florence Foster Jenkins) and Brett Gelman (Stranger Things, Lemon).  

We Are In A Dream, directed by Henna Välkky and Eesu Lehtola (6 minutes)
Based on personal recordings of people narrating their nightmares, we race through their unconscious desires and fears.

 Augenblicke, directed by Kiana Naghshineh (4 minutes) 
A woman walks home at night. She is overwhelmed from behind by a stranger. Three perceptions of only one truth: hers, his and ours.

 Pumpkin Movie, directed by Sophy Romvari (10 minutes) 
When two long-time friends call each other over Skype to continue their annual Halloween tradition of carving pumpkins together, they swap stories of negative encounters with men.

Hair Wolf, directed by Mariama Diallo (12 minutes)
In a black hair salon in gentrifying Brooklyn, the local residents fend off a strange new monster: white women intent on sucking the lifeblood from black culture.

Local Issues: “This Land” (11:00 AM, Sunday 10/21, Minema)

In this special program of “long shorts,” two brand-new documentary films highlight the beautiful Flyway region.

Promise in the Sand, directed by Jim Tittle and Wendy Johnson (25 minutes) 

When frac sand mining came to Wisconsin, promoters promised good jobs with no down side. Five years later, the price of sand dropped, mines closed and reality set in. “Promise in the Sand” is a look at what happens when a mining boom goes bust. 

 Decoding the Driftless, directed by Jonas Stenstrom (62 minutes)

This documentary takes you on a wild ride through the air, across rugged landscapes, through a secret underworld, and across time itself to explore and decipher ancient clues of our own "Driftless Region" -- a unique ecosystem found only in parts of Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, and Illinois. Cinematography by six-time Emmy-winning wildlife photographer Neil Rettig.


# # #



Flyway Film Festival Announces Feature Film Lineup!

August 17, 2018— The Flyway Film Festival is pleased to announce its feature film selections for the eleventh edition of the festival, which will take place October 19-21, 2018.

The eclectic array of independent films will screen at three locations along the Mississippi River in Wisconsin: Big River Theatre in Alma, WideSpot Performing Arts Center in Stockholm, and The Minema in Pepin.

“Our programming team scoured the current festival circuit for the most intriguing films, the smartest up-and-coming directors, and a mix of topics that will resonate with our audiences,” said Flyway interim executive director Lu Lippold. “We're really excited to premiere these top-notch films in Wisconsin."

Full festival passes for unlimited screenings and parties are available now for $120 here. Six-ticket “binge passes” are $65. Tickets for individual films ($12, or $8 with a student discount) will be available soon, as well as tickets for the opening night party.

The Flyway’s annual celebration of cinema draws film enthusiasts and filmmakers to the Western Wisconsin region along the scenic shores of Lake Pepin, an area of the Mississippi River that widens into a lake. In its eleven years, the festival has attracted national attention from industry professionals and has been named one of MovieMaker Magazine’s “Twenty-five Coolest Film Festivals in the World.”

All the feature films will be Wisconsin festival premieres. The national/international selections are:

Amateurs (Dir. Gabriela Pichler): In this Swedish comedy/drama, a city council initiative to create a promotional video for their small industrial town prompts two teenage schoolgirls to create their own rival project. But while the council’s puff piece tries to airbrush out any hint of poverty and remove any non-white people from the frame, the phone footage opus created by the teenagers captures the true spirit of the community, for better and for worse. ScreenDaily calls it “a feisty delight, combining fizzing energy with finely-crafted characters and a light-footed approach.”

A Fine Line (Dir. Joanna James): Well-known women chefs and restaurateurs describe the challenges they faced on their way to celebrated careers in an industry where fewer than 7% of restaurants are helmed by female chefs or owners. The film focuses on the story of Valerie James – the director’s mother – who’s a small-town restaurateur and single mom on a mission to do what she loves, while raising two kids with the odds stacked against her.

Home + Away (Dir. Matthew Ogens): Part coming-of-age story and part sports documentary, this stunning, beautifully shot film follows the lives of three students -- Erik, a soccer player, Shyanne, one of the school’s best wrestlers, and Francisco, a hard-throwing pitcher and third baseman -- who cross the border every day from their homes in Juarez, Mexico to attend high school in El Paso, Texas, where they look to sports as a path toward success. 

Life in the Doghouse (Dir. Ron Davis): Ron Danta and Danny Robertshaw, both in their 60s, live on a horse farm in North Carolina, where they train show horses. They also operate Danny & Ron’s Rescue, which has saved more than 10,000 abandoned dogs in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Now their home is occupied by the menagerie of dogs that they have rescued, mainly from animal shelters who would have had to exterminate them otherwise. Their story is “one of those documentaries that will touch the heart of the coldest of souls” (We the People).

Little Woods (Dir. Nia DaCosta): In a North Dakota fracking town, Ollie (Tessa Thompson) is nearing the end of her probation after being caught running prescription pills over the Canadian border. She’s ready to start anew when, after her mother dies, she learns that her estranged sister Deb (Lily James), is pregnant and about to be homeless. Writer-director DaCosta’s debut is “an emotionally-charged small-town thriller that weaves themes of economic downturn and the opioid crisis into its intimate story of two sisters just trying to get by” (Cara Cusamano, Tribeca).

People’s Republic of Desire (Dir. Hao Wu): In China, live streaming has become the most popular online entertainment. This “provocative and unsettling” (Variety) documentary takes us into a bizarre digital universe, where marginally-talented young performers earn as much as $150,000 a month by live-streaming to millions of viewers who seek the comfort of virtual relationships, and where China's super-rich lavish virtual gifts on their favorite performers every night. The film won the documentary competition at this year’s SXSW Film Festival.

Thrasher Road (Dir. Samantha Davidson Green): When an accident strands pregnant Chloe and her geriatric dog, Thrasher, on the highway home from broken dreams in L.A., unwelcome rescue comes from her estranged dad, Mac, who takes them on a disastrous detour toward a second chance. This gentle comedy/drama was shot on Super16 film on location in 20 states across the country. It recently won the "Spirit of Independent Filmmaking Award" at the Stony Brook Film Festival in New York.

Wild Nights with Emily (Dir. Madeleine Olnek): Olnek’s dramatization of the little-known side of writer Emily Dickinson's life, in particular her relationship with another woman, has been heralded as “entertaining and thought-provoking” (IndieWire) and “warmly funny” (Hollywood Reporter). It stars Molly Shannon as Dickinson and Minneapolis native Susan Ziegler as her beloved sister-in-law. Ziegler will attend the screening for a Q+A, along with other special guests.

In addition to the national and international films, the Flyway is extremely proud to showcase Minnesota and Wisconsin filmmakers in their Wisconsin premieres:

Don’t Get Trouble in Your Mind: The Carolina Chocolate Drops’ Story (Dir. John Whitehead): Ranging from the historical to the deeply personal, this documentary tells the story of three African-American musicians from the hip-hop generation who embraced a traditional 19th-century folk genre and took it to Grammy-winning heights. Minnesota director (and Wisconsin native) Whitehead followed the band from their meteoric rise through their breakup, making for an emotionally satisfying journey as well as a spectacular musical one.

Farmer of the Year (Dir. Kathy Swanson and Vince O’Connell): After selling the Minnesota family farm, 82-year-old Hap Anderson (Barry Corbin) feels old and in the way. He tries to recapture his youth by setting out to attend his 65th WWII reunion in California, road-tripping with his unemployed granddaughter (Mackinlee Waddell) in a dilapidated Winnebago while desperately trying to find a date to impress his old army buddies. Co-writer/director Swanson is from Tyler, Minnesota, where the film was shot.

Risking Light (Dir. Dawn Mikkelson): This deeply moving film explores the process of forgiveness through individuals who overcome tragedy by channeling their anger and grief into endeavors that make the world a better place. Wisconsin director Mikkelson followed the stories of Mary Johnson, a Minneapolis woman whose son was murdered; Debra Hocking, a victim of government-sanctioned genocide in Tasmania; and Kilong Ung, who survived the terror of the Cambodian Khmer Rouge, to create a film that “provides the solace and hope we need” (Bay Area Mercury News).

Science Fair (Dir. Cristina Costantini and Darren Foster): In this uproarious documentary by Wisconsin native Cristina Costantini, nine high school students from disparate corners of the globe navigate rivalries, setbacks, and hormones on their quest to win the prestigious International Science and Engineering Fair, or the "Olympics of science fairs," as one student puts it. USA Today says, “‘Science Fair’ is so funny and so moving, it almost seems too good to be true.”

Time for Ilhan (Dir. Norah Shapiro): This lively, inspiring film follows the 2016 Minnesota House of Representatives campaign of Ilhan Omar, a Somali immigrant who attempts to unseat a 43-year incumbent and other challengers. Minnesota director Shapiro tells an often-surprising story about “immigrants who embrace American ideals, and who are sometimes disappointed by them” in this “exciting and entertaining documentary” (Film Journal International). Omar's dramatic political story continues, following her win in the Democratic primary in Minnesota’s Fifth Congressional District last Tuesday.

TransMilitary (Dir. Gabriel Silverman and Fiona Dawson): Around 15,500 transgender people serve in the U.S. military (notably the largest transgender employer in the U.S.), where they must conceal their gender identity because military policies ban their service. This personal, emotionally compelling documentary, which received the 2018 SXSW Audience Award, chronicles the lives of four individuals defending their country's freedom while fighting for their own. Minnesota native Jamie Coughlin produced the film.

The closing night film will be a reprise of Alex Karpovsky’s 2008 mockumentary “Woodpecker,” which screened during the inaugural Flyway Film Festival eleven years ago. In this tragicomic blend of fact and fiction, fanatical birdwatchers have descended upon a small town in the Arkansas bayou in hopes of finding the extinct Ivory Billed Woodpecker, resulting in a film that “will have you simultaneously laughing and performing mental gymnastics to unravel its many layers"(Austin Chronicle).

In addition to the feature films, the Flyway will offer four programs of short films, which will be announced in early September, as well as a children’s program. 

The festival venues are approximately a 60-minute drive from Rochester, Minnesota or Eau Claire, Wisconsin and 85 minutes from the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport along the Great River Road, considered “the prettiest drive in America” (Huffington Post). 

See you at the Flyway!!!

* * *

Keep your eye on that little blue heron -- she's headed for the Flyway!

July 20, 2018-- The 2018 poster design for the Flyway Film Festival features an illustration of one of the many birds that commute along the Mississippi River “flyway” – the migratory path that gave the festival its name.

The film festival, now in its eleventh year, will take place along the shores of Lake Pepin from October 19-21, in the towns of Stockholm, Pepin, and Alma, Wisconsin.

Illustrator Carey DeRam, who hails from Bayfield, Wisconsin, created her illustration of the Little Blue Heron to acknowledge the 100-year anniversary of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA), signed in July 1918 -- one of the oldest wildlife protection laws on the books. The National Audubon Society, National Geographic, BirdLife International, and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology have declared 2018 to be “The Year of the Bird.”

“We decided to highlight the actual ‘flyway’ this year, to emphasize the importance of the MBTA in saving millions of bird lives over the past 100 years,” said DeRam.

Every spring and fall, migratory birds make their way along the Mississippi River, over the towns along the Great River Road where the Flyway Film Festival takes place. Visitors who come for the films are treated to the sight of eagles, herons, pelicans, and the flocks of songbirds passing through on their way south.

DeRam, a self-proclaimed “bird nerd,” researched the Mississippi River flyway before alighting on the Little Blue Heron for her illustration.

“It's a very interesting bird that starts out all white, like an egret, so that it can sneakily feed with other egrets while it's young,” she explained. “It changes colors, first with some dark grey feathers and then to all slate blue. When it's ready to mate, it gets purple plumage on its head and neck.”

Among those who don’t live near the Mississippi River flyway, the film festival’s name has occasionally caused confusion.

“People sometimes misunderstand the name as the ‘fly away’ film festival, or jump to the conclusion that it’s ‘flyover’,” said festival executive director Lu Lippold, referring to the film industry’s condescending habit of calling everything between New York and Los Angeles “flyover country.”

“With our new illustration, we’re hoping to educate people about the actual migratory flyway, as well as to draw attention to the Flyway Film Festival on the wings of this beautiful bird,” she said.

The Flyway Film Festival will begin announcing the films for its October lineup the week of July 23rd.

Flyway Film Festival regroups with new leadership in eleventh year

April 4, 2018-- The Flyway Film Festival has announced that the festival organization will restructure during 2018, with plans to host an event on October 19th- 21st 2018 in Stockholm, Pepin and Alma, Wisconsin.

When the Flyway’s founder and executive director, Rick Vaicius, made the decision to move to the Twin Cities last year, a group of Lake Pepin area volunteers took the reins of the popular annual event. According to incoming Flyway board member Mary Anne Collins-Svoboda, the group is in the process of forming a new nonprofit organization.

“We’re looking forward to putting on a smaller scale event this year,” said Collins-Svoboda. “It’s been a challenge to regroup, and we’ve got a lot of planning and fundraising ahead of us. But we’re well on the way to making the eleventh annual Flyway a fantastic event.”

Lu Lippold, a longtime Flyway volunteer, will serve as interim executive director. She has an extensive background in independent film and film festivals, having worked as a documentary filmmaker, festival event producer, writer, grant administrator and film professor. 

The Flyway Film Festival began in 2008 as an expansion of the successful film series initiated by Rick Vaicius and Diana Masters. By 2014, the Flyway had achieved the status of being on MovieMaker Magazine's prestigious "25 Coolest Film Festivals in the World" list. The festival has attracted such independent film trailblazers as Ted Hope, Emily Best, Xan Aranda, Brian Newman, Jon Reiss and many more.

Despite its shoestring budget, the Flyway grew to encompass a well-attended community gala, an education program, and a four-day festival in the Lake Pepin area towns of Alma, Pepin, Stockholm and Maiden Rock, Wisconsin, and Red Wing, Minnesota. A group of around fifty local volunteers was instrumental in putting the festival together and making it an integral part of the community.

The new organization has incorporated under the name Flyway Film Society. The founding board members are Mary Anne Collins-Svoboda, Scott Wolf, Trevor Porath, Tracy Tabery-Weller, Allison House, Diana Masters, and Irene Wolf. 

Collins-Svoboda is pleased that this group of community members is banding together to continue the Flyway tradition.

"The Flyway Film Festival is extremely important to the Lake Pepin area," said Collins-Svoboda. "We’re proud to continue bringing the best in independent film to this part of the world.”