Wednesday, February 01, 2006


The Black Point Film Festival was a project created out of frustration. In a country full of corporate run multiplexes, small towns like Lake Geneva, Wisconsin were lacking in anything outside the mainstream. Art house films that included Documentaries, Foreign language and small Indie films never came to town until they were released on DVD.
Upon returning home from the Sundance Film Festival in January 2000 and being stranded in numerous airports due to weather, David Malsch would spend his waiting time in airport lounges in-between flights. By the time he finally flew back into Milwaukee, he was a drunk and full of ambitions on starting his own independent film festival.
With Lake Geneva being a premier location for a venture like this, David enlisted the help of his wife Lisa and close friends Richard Paro and Jo Anna Schwenning. Together they created what would become the Black Point Film Festival, the first and only Independent Film Festival in the state of Wisconsin.
The festival opened in April, 2002 to amazing numbers. All the promoting and work that went into the first year paid off with sold-out shows and packed after parties. They screened over 80 films in just under 3 days and put Black Point on the map for film festivals in America.
In April 2003, the success of the first year doubled the second year. Screening less films than the first year but better films attracted filmmakers from all over the world to compete in what was slowly becoming a festival to be noticed. The Parties were bigger, the films were better and the audiences were great.
In their 3rd year, the festival hooked up an with indie music label out of Chicago named Machine Records. This marriage of film and music was the perfect ingredient to vault this festival forward. With great films and even better parties at night that now included the best in independent music Black Point reached a new level.
One of the great things about Black Point was the involvement with world renowned film Critic Michael Wilmington. Michael was the festivals board of advisor(s) and helped promote and run the festival. His film expertise and support of the festival was inmesureable. He helped introduce and conduct Q&A's and did great seminars and talks about the past and future of film.
In 2005, the festival hit a snag by losing two of the founding directors. This put the bulk of planning and programming on David and Lisa. The biggest mistake Black Point made was by not going non-profit like they should have in the beginning. Since the festival had been finaincially supported by the founders alone, money was beginning to be a major hurdle in the future of the festival. A lack of support from the city officials of Lake Geneva also began to make things harder to continue. On May 1, 2005 the Black Point Film Festival had to end it's run on the final day of it's 4th year.
Festival founder and executive director David Malsch considers Black Point to be the proudest thing he had ever been a part of. The loss of the festival broke his heart and drove him over 2,000 miles away from it. The idea of staying in Wisconsin and not doing the festival was far too painful than he wanted to admit. In it's brief exisitance Black Point proved that in a society forced fed pop music and mainstream movies, there was a massive audience of people who appreciated and demanded smart independent cinema and music.
While David refuses to ever completely kill off his festival, the hopes are that someday, somehow Black Point can live again. The lessons learned and the experiences alone have changed not only those involved but proved the importance of alternative media in a community. The festival began and ended with frustration but the memories and accomplishments were anything but.