By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Jun 23, 2005 at 5:03 AM

{image1}Hank Aaron hasn't played in Milwaukee for decades and his most famous affiliation is with the long-departed Braves organization, but he remains a hero to many here and, of course, is one of the greatest players of all time.

So, many Aaron fans will be eager to glimpse "Henry Aaron's Summer Up North," a full-length documentary film, now available on DVD, that focuses on Hammerin' Hank's first season of professional baseball ... in Eau Claire.

The film was produced and directed by William Povletich and Josh Adams and was written by Povletich, based on Jerry Poling's book, "Summer Up North."

"William and I went to college together at UW-Oshkosh and had always wanted to work on a project together," says Adams about the germination of the project. "I was working regularly in the Los Angeles area as a music video director with Beastie Boys, Tina Turner, Barenaked Ladies .... and it was easy for us to maintain our friendship since he had left for LA immediately following our graduation. He has since worked on a number of docs for the History Channel and Discovery. So one day William called me and told me he found the project. He was reading the book and I said, 'It's sitting on the table in front of me and I'm on page 30.' It felt like destiny so we got a hold of Jerry and got the project moving."

The result is a film that is more than a tribute to a hero and more than a story about baseball. It also opens a window into an era when race relations were often strained at best. We're struck by shy Aaron's perseverance in an almost entirely white town, hundreds and hundreds of miles from his southern home, and by his acceptance by Eau Claire baseball fans.

"The goal for 'Henry Aaron's Summer Up North' has always been to chronicle the living legend's struggles, setbacks and successes in one important, if not trying, summer of minor league baseball in the northwoods community of Eau Claire," says Povletich. "As a widely unknown chapter in the Hall of Famer's life, the documentary focuses on Aaron's attempts to bridge the cultural divide between growing up in the segregated south and starting his professional baseball career in the north."

Although made without Aaron's input, the film is engaging and interesting and because it encompasses these social issues, it's of interest to an audience more wide-ranging than just baseball fans. That may be why Adams says it's been getting good notices in Wisconsin and beyond.

"The film has been received incredibly well and we have been fortunate enough to have been invited to the Wisconsin Film Festival (Madison), Independent Black Film Festival (Atlanta) and Black Point Film Festivals (Lake Geneva). We've had so much positive feedback from the audiences, and that is really satisfying. It's incredibly fulfilling when you have social studies teachers telling you that it is important for their classes to see your documentary."

"Summer Up North" has not had a proper theatrical release in Milwaukee, but Adams believes it could have a successful run here.

"We were fortunate to have had the film run for one week on the big screen in Eau Claire at the Cameo Theatre," he says. "The box office did really well. As an independent filmmaker it is really exciting to have your film actually get a commitment from a decent sized theatre to run your film. I think if the film got a chance to run in Milwaukee it would be a real success."

There will be a free screening of "Henry Aaron's Summer Up North" at South Milwaukee High School, 901 15th Ave. -- Adams' alma mater -- on Thursday, June 23 at 7 p.m. A question and answer session with the filmmakers will follow.

DVDs of the film are available via the Internet, and at the Border's Books & Music on Wisconsin Avenue downtown.

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.