Originally posted on Fox Sports Wisconsin  |  Last updated 4/17/12

NEW ORLEANS - JANUARY 24: Brett Favre #4 of the Minnesota Vikings throws a pass against the New Orleans Saints during the NFC Championship Game at the Louisiana Superdome on January 24, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The Saints won 31-28 in overtime. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
MADISON, Wis. The first feature-length documentary of Michael Neelsen's filmmaking career wasn't originally supposed to elicit such vitriol from Green Bay Packers fans on both sides of the Brett Favre debate. That's because when Neelsen first considered producing a Favre-themed film, no debate on his vast importance to Packers fans existed. When Neelsen initially considered the project during the 2007 season, Favre seemingly was on his way to leading the Packers to a breathtaking run to the Super Bowl. Favre, in the twilight of his career, stood just two games from another championship and a lifetime of hero worship in Wisconsin. In Neelsen's mind, the story line was perfect. "It would have been triumphant," he said. Then, Favre threw a late-game interception, the New York Giants won the NFC championship, Favre retired and un-retired (twice), played for the New York Jets and Minnesota Vikings and sparked controversy across the Cheesehead State. In sports, like life, the perfect ending doesn't always materialize. And like a jilted lover, the Packers fan base slowly turned on Favre. "It actually turned out that a more interesting story was around the corner," Neelsen said." That story is the basis for "Last Day at Lambeau," a documentary film directed, edited and co-written by Neelsen, a Wisconsin native, that examines the relationship between fans and their heroes through the prism of Green Bay locals and their former favorite son, Favre. The film depicts the "divorce" of Favre and the Packers in 2008 and concludes with Favre's final game at Lambeau Field on Oct. 24, 2010, as a member of the Vikings. It debuts April 18 at Monona Terrace in Madison as part of the Wisconsin Film Festival. Neelsen came up with the outline for the film after reading a piece in 2010 from sportswriter Mike Johnson entitled, "Still Casting a Shadow." The story focused on the idea that Favre was still the No. 1 Packers-related topic among fans, even though he'd already been away from the Packers for two seasons. Neelsen contacted Johnson and brought him on board for the film as a co-writer, and the two spent nearly two years putting together the movie. They interviewed 30 people for the film, including Packers beat reporters, sports historians and fans. Not surprisingly, the subject of Favre and the Packers remains an explosive topic in Wisconsin four years after his departure. Some admit they'll always love Favre, while others insist they'll never forgive him for playing for another team. "The two worst betrayals you can suffer in life would be to be betrayed by your brother or your god," one voiceover says in the movie trailer. "This was both to the people in Wisconsin." Neelsen hopes his film can help to quell some of the bitter feelings that persist among Packers fans. "I would like to think the film has a calming effect," said Neelson, who grew up in Madison and now lives in Austin, Texas, where he operates StoryFirst Media. "There's a lot of emotions on either side of the story. I would like to think that whatever side you're on coming into it, by the time you leave, maybe your ferocity is lowered a little bit. Neelsen said he originally tried to involve Favre with the project. He contacted Favre's agent, Bus Cook, but he never heard back. Because Neelson considered his film a story from the fan's perspective, he said Favre's presence wasn't vital to the movie. "I had always been fascinated by the relationship that fans have with their heroes," Neelsen said. "Not just in a sports arena but any arena. It's such a strange relationship and doesn't make a whole lot of sense all the time." Neelsen, who considers himself a Favre fan, separated his own feelings in an attempt to produce a down-the-middle analysis of Favre's departure and its impact on Packers fans. "I feel that it's as honest as it could be," he said. "We come to conclusions in the film, but at no point did I feel like we were highlighting his side of the story without entertaining the counterargument. We didn't deliberately sweep information under the rug just to help our cause." Whether moviegoers in Wisconsin will feel the same way remains to be seen. "The goal with the film is not to take sides or to demonize anybody," Neelsen said. "It's just to re-examine everything now that we've got some distance from it and examine that relationship and say, 'What can we learn from this going forward?' "Fans idolize Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers now in the same way. Eventually when he goes to a different team, are we going to freak out the same way?" Follow Jesse Temple on Twitter.
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