Tickets go on sale on Friday, February 19th

 

Thu Feb 27, 2020 – 7:30 pm | Hendricks Arts Center
Sat Feb 29, 2020 – 12:00 pm | La Casa Grande

Small Town Wisconsin

It’s a new world, Wayne… Wayne? WAYNE!!!
Directed by Niels Mueller
Narrative Feature
USA | 105 min | 2020

Wayne Stobierski is the most fun-loving, hardest-living party animal in Rhinelander, Wisconsin (population 7,798). Just ask his favorite wingman, Tyler, who’s seen it all, lived it all, loved it all. Only problem? Tyler is Wayne’s nine year old son.

When Wayne learns the devastating news that he is losing shared custody and that his beloved wingman will be moving far away, he plans a special weekend for his son to remember him by –– a trip to the big city of their dreams Milwaukee, Wisconsin (population 592,025).

Poor Wayne. The moment he’s out of his small town comfort zone, he finds his plans spinning comically out of control. When Wayne passes out drunk before he can find a hotel room, his best friend and chaperone, Chuck, decides to take the gang to Wayne’s estranged sister Alicia’s house.

Wayne is none too happy to wake up and find himself in the middle of an unscheduled family reunion. But there’s nothing quite like family to help find levity in heartache. Surrounded by love — some of it tough, all of it genuine — Wayne finds himself facing down his demons, all while showing his son the most spectacular time of his life.

The moderated Q&A session with filmmakers from:

Small Town Wisconsin, Poster | Niels Mueller, Director

With REPOSSESSION, we set out to create a genre-bending film that defies easy categorisation, slipping across boundaries, shifting between worlds. A work that would repeatedly negotiate the tension between the uncanny and the everyday, with slow-burning dread blending with the foundations of a dark fable, rooted in the minutiae of the Sisyphean grind of life in Singapore.

Grounding the Fantastical in Reality
It was crucial that the fantastical elements be grounded in detailed realism, and the decision to make the film in English—a rarity in Asian film—was absolutely a result of our commitment to that ideal, to accurately reflect the specificity of the lives of one particular segment of Singapore society we were focusing on.

The genesis of the film was similarly grounded in reality, with the protagonist Jim’s situation inspired by several high-profile cases of mass retrenchments in Singapore—some with tragic consequences. The vast majority of those laid off were in their 40s and 50s—a generation that came of age in the midst of Singapore’s meteoric post-colonial rise to an economic powerhouse.

They believed wholeheartedly what they were told: If they worked hard and checked all the boxes indicating success, the Singapore Dream was theirs to reap. Their generation formed the backbone of the Singapore economy, and they grew together with the nation… only to realise far too late that they were mere consumables to be used up and disposed of. That the Singapore Dream was just that—an unattainable dream.

For all its modernity, wealth, and technology, Singapore’s short history of independence and rapid economic development means that much of society continues to subscribe to the conventionally Asian “value” of “face”, which manifests itself in obsession with material indicators of wealth and success.

Appearing affluent and accomplished to one’s peers determines where one lands within the societal hierarchy of this world. It is not just a driving motivation for many; it is an essential component of the identity they construct for themselves.

Compounding the problem is the fact that Singapore is the world’s most expensive city 6 years running, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit’s 2019 Worldwide Cost of Living report. Cars cost almost three times those in the USA, people take out 30-year housing loans just for public housing, and an apartment like Jim’s costs US$1.5 million. Maintaining the illusion of success often means one’s finances are perpetually in a precarious state.

All these in conjunction sparked a series of questions in our minds: What happens when a man is stripped of the very material trappings he defines himself by? How does he reconcile plunging to the bottom of the social ladder with his sense of self-worth? When toxic notions of masculinity and fear of failure mean he can only scream on the inside, and never out loud, how are his perceptions of the world distorted?

Notions of Horror
As much as we were deeply interested in exploring the concrete, universal fears that Jim faces, the horrors of everyday life that transcend language or culture, we were equally keen on examining the very idea of horror itself.

Asian horror has long trafficked in tropes that are by now familiar to global audiences, often having roots in local folklore and mythology, featuring the ubiquity of long-haired female ghosts and other vengeful spirits.

When the nature of the Evil cannot be easily categorised or defined, when it doesn’t adhere to familiar tropes, when there isn’t a clear reason or a face to put to it, how do you deal with it? When it’s insidious and all-corrupting, how do you protect yourself and your loved ones? Or would this simply be an exercise in futility?

Making REPOSSESSION was a journey in which we not only dived deep into the psyche of a flawed and troubled man, but also held up a mirror to a particular society’s fears. Perhaps the greatest horror of all comes from allowing “face” to dictate one’s life…

Niels Mueller, Director | Small Town WisconsinNiels Mueller
Directors

Born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Niels is an award-winning writer and director whose films have premiered to great acclaim at the most prestigious film festivals in the world. Tadpole (Sigourney Weaver, Aaron Stanford), which Niels co-wrote, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and The Assassination of Richard Nixon (Sean Penn, Naomi Watts, Don Cheadle), which Niels co-wrote and directed, had its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival and its North American premiere at The Toronto International Film Festival. Niels is also an accomplished show-creator, writer and producer of network television, including the CBS series The Defenders (Jim Belushi, Jerry O’Connell).

Film Information

Director: Niels Mueller
Country: USA
Year: 2020
Language: English
Runtime: 105 min.
Rated: PG

Credits

Writers: Jason Naczek
Producers: Scott K. Foley, Josh Rosenberg, Hongtao Liu, Niels Mueller

Connect With This Film

Principal Cast

BIFF - Beloit International Film Festival
BIFF | Beloit International Film Festival