By Matt Mueller Culture Editor Published Sep 12, 2019 at 1:06 PM

The Packers are back in action, the Brewers are in the midst of another exciting playoff push and the Bucks are warming back up for hopefully a Finals run. And in case that wasn't enough thrilling sports action in Brew City, the Milwaukee Film Festival today announced its lineup of cinematic selections from the Sportsball! program.

Sponsored by yours truly, OnMilwaukee, Sportsball! is almost a dozen movies telling stories about incredible drama and characters both on and off the field – from inspirational documentaries to informative biopics to quick-hitting shorts to a film about competitive hot dog eating. 

Athletic Shorts

Consider it the SportsCenter or NFL RedZone of the Milwaukee Film Festival, as the Athletic Shorts collection gathers up some of the finest sports-related short films out there – ranging in topic from sumo wrestling to bareback horse racing, fencing and more – and puts them in one championship-deserving package. The perfect selection for those out there who don't have the patience for an entire game but love watching the quick-hitting highlights. 

"Changing the Game"

In this timely documentary, three top high school athletes take on a battle even bigger and more important than the one on the field as they fight to be treated fairly and equally as transgender athletes. 

"The Good, The Bad, The Hungry"

Does competitive hot dog eating count as a sport? I certainly support classifying it as such (if only to make me feel better about my own hot dog destroying dining habits). But if you need further convincing, check out this documentary deep dive into the famous Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest – held annually on the Fourth of July in Coney Island – the mighty contestants who compete and the even mightier appetites that fuel them. Highly recommend eating before this one – or, considering the bread and sausage-splattered aftermath of these annual contests, maybe not. 

"The Keeper"

You would think the story of a soccer goalkeeper who brought his team to the FA Cup final (for those who don't follow fútbol, a big deal in English soccer) and played in the championship game with a broken neck would be enough drama for a movie. Yet that's just the end of Manchester City player Bert Trautmann's story in "The Keeper," a biopic that follows how the iconic goalie went from German paratrooper to English soccer star, battling his opponents on the field and post-WWII anti-German sentiment off of it.

"Loopers: The Caddie's Long Walk"

Pro golfers get all the glory and the garishly green jackets and the hefty paychecks – but what about the caddies, the unheralded folks behind the stars helping to carry far beyond the literal load on the golf course? "Loopers" tells their story, with gorgeous footage from the globe's finest greens and deep insights pushing some of the sport's best coaches and confidants – in addition to bag carriers – into the spotlight they deserve.  

"Power Meri"

The PNG Orchids may be named after a flower, but there's nothing delicate about this inspiring rough-and-tumble team of powerful trailblazing women, who formed the first women's rugby league team in rugby-obsessed Papua New Guinea while also fighting the country's sexist, regressive attitudes. 

"Q Ball"

NBA superstar Kevin Durant may not play much basketball of his own this upcoming year, but he's bringing some hoops to the big screen as the executive producer on "Q Ball," a moving documentary about the San Quentin Prison basketball squad and how the sport helps these men power through the struggles of life in prison – and prepare for the struggles of life after it. 


The perfect chaser for fans of this summer's hit documentary "Maiden," this ESPN Films documentary tells the untold story of Janet Guthrie, who made history in 1977 by becoming for the first woman to qualify for and compete in the "Greatest Spectacle in Racing," the holy grail of the sport: the Indianapolis 500. Battling fellow racers as well as antiquated gender preconceptions and systemic sexism, "Qualified" puts Guthrie's groundbreaking and inspirational legacy in the winner's circle where it belongs. No word on if the Milwaukee Film Festival will serve glass jugs of celebratory milk for these screenings, but I'm just saying it'd be an idea ... 

"The Weight of Water"

Kayaking? Pretty tough. Kayaking through the whitewater rapids of the Colorado  River? Even tougher. Kayaking though those wild waters while blind? A level of toughness we can't even fathom. Yet that's exactly what subject Erik Weihenmayer takes on in this inspirational documentary about his quest to conquer the danger despite his disability. Consider it a spiritual sequel of sorts to last year's "Free Solo" – with the heebie-jeebies of a fear of heights replaced with the heebie-jeebies of a fear of drowning!


Willie O'Ree is one of the most influential and important figures in professional hockey that you've maybe never heard of. Despite being blind in one eye, O'Ree became the Jackie Robinson of the NHL, breaking the game's color barrier in 1958 and playing 45 games with the Boston Bruins and over two decades in the minor leagues. But even considering his essential, groundbreaking place in the game's history, he's still fighting for recognition – even from the hockey world itself, which has yet to place him in its Hall of Fame – and fighting for his story to be told, a quest the documentary "Willie" takes on. 

"A Woman's Work: The NFL's Cheerleader Problem"

They may be viewed as just Sunday sideline entertainment, but cheerleaders are athletes and NFL employees in their own right. Yet as a part of one of the biggest sports on the globe, they often go unpaid for their work and efforts. This documentary follows their courtroom struggle for equal pay – or even just minimum wage pay – and gender equality, a battle as dramatic, difficult and necessary as any taking place on the field.

If you're the kind of person who isn't into athletics and unironically uses the phrase "sportsball," well, good news: Milwaukee Film also announced the selections from another category, its late-night genre-heavy Cinema Hooligante program. Milwaukee Record made that announcement today, including murderous birds, stripper dance-offs, umbrellas made of blades, a killer dress and much more. Here's the list (with links out to trailers):

Stay tuned to OnMilwaukee for more Milwaukee Film Festival updates – including the full book release on Sept. 26. And get ready to live off of movies and popcorn when the festival hits on Oct. 17-31.

Matt Mueller Culture Editor

As much as it is a gigantic cliché to say that one has always had a passion for film, Matt Mueller has always had a passion for film. Whether it was bringing in the latest movie reviews for his first grade show-and-tell or writing film reviews for the St. Norbert College Times as a high school student, Matt is way too obsessed with movies for his own good.

When he's not writing about the latest blockbuster or talking much too glowingly about "Piranha 3D," Matt can probably be found watching literally any sport (minus cricket) or working at - get this - a local movie theater. Or watching a movie. Yeah, he's probably watching a movie.