posted by Milan on October 2nd, 2012
Chris James Thompson's The Jeffrey Dahmer Files
The psychological scar left by the actions of Jeffrey Dahmer runs the length of our city. As so often happens with actions unspeakable, they become relegated to history and seen as aberrations not worth exploring. The Jeffrey Dahmer Files
looks to reclaim this gruesome moment in our city’s history with an approach seemingly inspired by philosopher Hannah Arendt’s idea of ‘the banality of evil’, the idea (loosely interpreted by myself here, I must say) being that it is comforting to think of history’s atrocities being performed by sociopaths and the insane, but in order to perpetuate these acts they had to be performed in a systemized, organized fashion whose repetition brought them into the realm of the ordinary.
Milwaukee director Chris James Thompson makes this philosophical concept of the banality of evil tangible for a film audience by combining interviews with people whose lives intersected with Dahmer’s, archival footage, and recreations of him going through his daily routine, which allowed him to hide in plain sight while committing his gruesome acts behind closed doors. It’s an audacious move that could sink a lesser film (and still has the power to upset), but when utilized correctly has the power to haunt and inspire new thinking about events people would happily consign to the dustbins of Milwaukee's history.
IFC Midnight recently picked the film up for distribution, so clearly there’s a belief in the provocative power this documentary holds. And if you’re willing to revisit one of the most shocking and painful pieces of Milwaukee’s history, you may find the experience sheds new light on the unimaginable. After the screening, there’s a Q & A with director Chris James Thompson (The Making of The 'Pool'
, MFF 2009). And on Sunday, October 7 at 5 PM, there's a panel discussion at Kenilworth Square East on the UWM campus with Thompson, former detective Dr. Pat Kennedy, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel columnist James E. Causey and Associate Professor of History at UWM Dr. Joe Austin. This is the type of film that demands further discussion, so be sure to budget your time for both events.
THE JEFFREY DAHMER FILES screens today (Tuesday), 7 PM at the Oriental Theatre. Director Chris James Thompson will be in attendance for a Q & A after the screening. Advanced tickets are no longer available online, but may be purchased at any film festival box office location.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *Tom Fuchs is returning for a third year as our featured festival blogger, telling you all about our daily festival picks. Tom has been on our shorts programming committee for all four years of the Milwaukee Film Festival.