Wisconsin filmmaker's 'Secret Life' uses state as backdrop
LAKE GENEVA Wisconsin filmmaker Genevieve Davis will show her independent art film “Secret Life, Secret Death” Aug. 22 at the Lake Geneva Public Library. The film, which Davis shot in Chicago and Wisconsin without a film crew, bares a secret in the filmmaker’s family history.
The docudrama depicts one woman’s saga, originating in the underworld of gangland Chicago in the 1920s, when Al Capone was just a bouncer in a brothel and women’s stories were not often told.
Davis takes her audience on a search to find the hidden truth about her grandmother. The film is told through a combination of re-enacted scenes by a cast of 80 actors, eyewitness interviews and documentary clips. As a young mother during the Roaring ’20s, Davis’s grandmother fell into a web of crime, bootlegging, corruption, gangsters and intrigue in Chicago.
Through the magic of green screen special effects and experimental film design, her grandmother’s life in the Flapper Era unfolds, with crooks lurking within the backdrop of historic photographs and period locations. It’s the world of Al Capone, Baby Face Nelson and John Dillinger, who appear as minor characters. Davis follows her grandmother’s trail over a period of 30 years. The search ends in no-man’s land in northern Wisconsin in the Great Depression and the shady Hollywood Hotel, which her grandmother ran until her death under mysterious and suspicious circumstances.
“My goal was to tell this compelling story with artistic flash and flair, leading you into a world of seamlessly blended art and history.” says Davis. “My film showcases fascinating antique trains and cars, swank vintage costumes and props and montages of never-before-seen vintage photos of Chicago. Instead of paint on my palette, I creatively layer images from my family’s photo albums, matchbook covers, newspaper clippings, documents and letters to accomplish my storytelling.”
Through an invented language of vintage images combined with live action, the film intends to defy genres. For example, Davis animates vintage photographs of tango dancers to show the thrill of her young grandmother’s love affair at a dance hall. Davis’s artistic hand pixelates these photos, colors and layers them with painted backgrounds and live action close-ups of dancing feet.
“My resulting language of images not only tells the story,” says Davis “but at the same time, creates a visual impression of the times.”
Adding to the visual imagery, the vintage soundscape is designed to evoke both the emotions and the times of the story, comprised of tangos, ragtime, blues, and big bands. The movie features legendary blues singer, Alberta Hunter and 95-year-old theater organist, Bill Ganz, whose mother was a theater organist, in Chicago movie palaces during the silent film era.
Everyone is welcome to attend this free showing of the film.
After the program, Davis will talk about making of her film and her 10-year-long pursuit to uncover the mystery of her grandmother’s story.
If you go
-- What: Film showing of “Secret LIfe, Secret Death”
-- When: 6:30 p.m., Aug. 22
-- Where: Lake Geneva Public Library, 918 W. Main St., Lake Geneva