Zombies expected for International Summit

Rick Vaicius, who runs the film program at the Lake Pepin Art and Design Center, admits that some people think his programming can sometimes be too serious. So the organizer of the Flyway Film Festival decided to do something about that.

He’s inviting zombies from all over the world to attend the International Zombie Summit in Stockholm, Wis., on October 24.

He says it all got started when his wife and sister went to see “Dead Snow” at the Sundance Festival. It’s the Norwegian film about a community whose zombie problems take a really nasty twist when it turns out they’re are being besieged by Nazi zombies left over from World War II. Vaicius says his wife said afterward it would never show in Lake Pepin, and he said don’t be so sure.

He had recently met Pericles Lewnes, the brains behind Troma Films’ “Redneck Zombies” (tagline: “They’re Tobacco Chewin’, Gut Chompin’, Cannibal Kinfolk from Hell!”), and together they decided to put together a day of zombie films and panels as part of this year’s Flyway Festival.

“We live in interesting and peculiar times, and there is some thought that the type of times that we are living in now is the reason why zombie films have become so popular,” Vaicius says.

He says that people seem to feel some affinity with the struggle represented in zombie films.

“I will say that a fair number of the zombie films that are out there now do have lots of very interesting political undertones,” Vaicius says. “And in particular “Pontypool,” which is another of the films which we will be screening at the weekend, where there is a virus that causes the people in the community to turn into zombies. Although Bruce MacDonald the film maker resists calling them zombies and calls them conversationalists, but the virus is the English language. And I think that is very pointed in its political nature.”

Vaicius points out a lot of early zombie films in the ’30s were French and Italian, but then the genre took hold in the U.S. during the McCarthy era.

“And then of course we have the late ’60s, where George A. Romero’s “Dawn of the Dead” came out in 1968, another interesting cultural and political time in our country,” he says.

Intriguingly many of the films being shown at the summit are from outside the U.S. “Dead Snow” is of course Norwegian, “Pontypool” is Canadian, and “Colin,” a breakout at Cannes this year, was made in Wales.

“That is another really interesting take on the genre, because that’s a film that is actually told from the perspective of the zombie,” Vaicius says, while also pointing out it was reportedly made for just $70.

The summit is attracting attention from all over. The Facebook page for the event has attracted fans from as far away as the Ukraine and the UK.

So how many people will turn up?

“To be quite honest I have no idea,” he laughs. “And our venue is small, so if we have 500 people show up in Stockholm, Wis., 350 of them are probably going to be disappointed, because our venue has 150 seats.”

He says he doesn’t anticipate they will have a problem as he’s assuming people traveling from further away will order tickets online. He’s also hoping people will stick around for the other films in the Flyway Film Festival

There will be what amounts to zombie royalty at the event, in addition to Lewnes as host there will be Ed Bishop, his production partner in Redneck Zombies. Justin Johnson of “Zombie Girl” is anticipated, as is Jeffrey Coghlan the producer of “Pontypool.” The panel will also include Gary King, who was born in Rochester Minn., and is showing his film “New York Lately,” in the full festival, but has been hired to direct a zombie film and so will add a different perspective.

And of course Rick Vaicius is excited about the fans who come down for the event

“What will be really fun is to see if people turn up in zombie make-up. I think it will be really fun to have Stockholm Wi, the tiny village of Stockholm Wi be overrun by zombie movie fans in zombie make-up.”

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