Films Spanning the Globe

Eau Claire World Film Festival moves to Pablo Center for third year

Stephanie Janssen |

FILMS FROM NEAR AND FAR. Among the flicks screening during the Eau Claire World Film Festival are Decoding the Driftless (left) and American Mirror starring Susan Sarandon.
FILMS FROM NEAR AND FAR. Among the flicks screening during the Eau Claire World Film Festival are Decoding the Driftless (above) and American Mirror starring Susan Sarandon (below).

The Eau Claire World Film Festival had no ordinary beginning. It started when Chris Herriges, one of two principal organizers, made a feature film called The Vase. He submitted the film to a number of different film festivals and didn’t make it into one. 

“I said to myself, ‘I’ll be damned if I don’t start a film festival then,’ ” Chris Herriges said. 

“I said to myself, ‘I’ll be damned if I don’t start a film festival then.’ ” – Chris Herriges on founding the Eau Claire World Film Festival after other festivals wouldn’t accept a film he made

When the festival started, Chris and Dan Coffeen received many great submissions, and, determining that they wanted the festival to be international, accepted works from Australia, Brazil, the Middle East, and Germany. Another focus of the festival is on regional filmmaking and student filmmaking. Because of this, they accepted submissions from many parts of Wisconsin and the Twin Cities, with one being made locally in Eau Claire and one made by a UW-Stout student. 

American Mirror
American Mirror

Here are some of this year’s titles:

  • Strange Tenants - Ska’d for Life is a documentary about the band Strange Tenants, a popular Australian Ska band, and their history. 
  • Love Them First is an award-winning documentary made by KARE 11 TV in Minneapolis centered on Lucy Lane Elementary School in North Minneapolis. It tells the story of a dedicated principal that believes wholly in the students. 
  • The Weaver Girl and the Cowherd is a cute short film based on a Chinese folktale. It was made by fourth-grade classes at Crestwood Elementary School in Madison. The students used stop-action animation, wrote the script, and narrated the film while the fifth-grade classes composed and performed the music.
  • American Mirror: Intimations of Immortality is an engrossing tale that reflects on today’s society and the obsession with taking photos. It centers on a portrait artist who creates lasting images of different people. The film stars Academy Award-winning actress Susan Sarandon. 
  • Decoding the Driftless is a breathtaking documentary made by a resident of La Crosse. The film focuses on the beauty of Mississippi River Valley region of southwestern Wisconsin, which was untouched by the last glaciers. It includes various forms of aerial photography done by a geologist from Norway who travels the world documenting interesting geographic locations. 
  • Search Engines is a sassy Hallmark-style film from director Russell Brown. This film stars many well-known actors such as Connie Stevens, Joely Fisher, Daphne Zuniga, and Natasha Gregson Wagner. “The premise is that all of these people are visiting over Thanksgiving weekend and somehow their Wi-Fi for their phone goes down so no one has cell phone access,” Herriges said. “It’s also about how they struggle to survive without having their phone.” 
  • Purple Haze is a stimulating classic film directed by David Burton Morris back in 1982. His wife, Victoria Wozniak-Morris, wrote the screenplay for the film. This film won the grand prize at Sundance in 1983. Morris and Wozniak-Morris will offer a Q&A after the film. 

Chris hopes that guests attending the latter film can immerse themselves in the late ’60s spirit and classic rock tracks, and maybe wear a tie dye shirt to the film. 

“It’s about a young guy who quits college and comes back home to the Twin Cities, trying to decide what to do with his life, and it’s 1969, totally hippie culture, and lots of parties,” Herriges said. “For the soundtrack, somehow they got all of these great records from the ’60s in it so you got like Jefferson Airplane, the Jimi Hendrix Experience and Buffalo Springfield. All these great bands.” Chris hopes that festival patrons will come away with a wider view of the world, humanity, and the culture from the region.

For film trailers, ticket prices, and show information, visit The festival runs Nov. 8-9 at the Pablo Center at the Confluence, with the first three hours free.