February marks Black History Month, an important celebration that Milwaukee Film will highlight in person, both on screen and off, with a month of special screenings, events, guests and more – all showcasing Black voices, stories and experiences.
"I know it sounds cliché, but this year, our fourth Black History Month celebration, is special,” said Geraud Blanks, Chief Innovation Officer for Milwaukee Film, in a release. "In 2021, the program was virtual, so to be back in person, with all we are dealing with as a community, while challenging, feels more significant than ever.”
Here is the lineup of movie screenings coming to the Oriental Theatre throughout the month of February – from short films and a remastered hidden gem, to a Milwaukee premiere, documentary profiles of icons and a wild and rowdy dark comedy based on a Twitter thread.
"Zola" – Thursday, Feb. 3 at 6:30 p.m.
Directed by Janicza Bravo (MFF alum "Lemon") and surely the first feature film based on a viral Twitter thread, the Sundance-approved "Zola" is a rowdy and bawdy dark comedy about a stripper (the stellar side-eye of Taylour Paige) who goes along on a trip down to Florida with a new "friend" (Riley Keough) to earn some cash, only to end up in a dangerous hot mess involving unhinged pimps, awkward idiot boyfriends and an impressive amount of full frontal male nudity.
"The One and Only Dick Gregory" – Saturday, Feb. 5 at 4 p.m.
A documentary portrait of the famed comedian who challenged racism and bigotry on and off the comedy stage, told with archival footage from his hilariously biting stand-up sets along with interviews from modern comedians – including Chris Rock and Wanda Sykes – paying tribute to one of their finest, fiercest and funniest forerunners.
"Black Love Through a Black Lens" short films – Thursday, Feb. 10 at 6:30 p.m.
This short film collection showcases stories of Black love on screen, from families to romances and more.
"Citizen Ashe" – Saturday, Feb. 12 at 1:30 p.m.
Directed by Rex Miller and Sam Pollard – the latter the acclaimed director behind essential documentaries on Sammy Davis Jr., Ellis Haizlip, Maynard Jackson Jr., and the FBI's hunt on Martin Luther King Jr. – "Citizen Ashe" sets its lens on the groundbreaking life and career of tennis great Arthur Ashe.
"Who We Are: A Chronicle of Racism in America" – Thursday, Feb. 17 at 7 p.m.
Before it hits the screens of the Oriental Theatre the next day, get a sneak preview showing of this 2021 Milwaukee Film Festival award winner methodically outlining the country's history of racism and anti-Black policy.
"Family Matters" short films – Saturday, Feb. 19 at 1 p.m.
The Black History Month program's second short film collection gathers stories with mesmerizing tales and inspiring messages friendly for audience members young and old.
"The Loyola Project" – Thursday, Feb. 24 at 6:30 p.m.
Making its Milwaukee debut, the sports documentary "The Loyla Project" tells the story of the 1963 Loyola Ramblers, how they conquered college basketball while also attempting to overcome racial divides amid the civil rights movement and how their legacy – on and off the court – lives on more than half a century later.
"Sankofa" – Saturday, Feb. 26 at 4 p.m.
Re-discovered and remastered by Ava DuVernay's ARRAY Films, this acclaimed but underseen hypnotic 1993 Ethiopean drama centers a model who is transported back in time to the era of slavery, witnessing the horrors of the dehumanizing system as well as the strength and resilient power of her ancestors above it all – and how those roots reach into the present day. The film will be followed by a post-screening conversation at 6 p.m.
In addition to the regular screenings, Milwaukee Film will host several events and discussions around the city in honor of Black History Month, including:
"The Creative Collective": Tuesday, Feb. 1 at 6-8 p.m. – The Black History Month program begins with a celebration of Black creativity at No Studios, 1037 W. McKinley Ave., featuring local short films, a panel discussion and illuminating conversation.
"The Honest Truth" with Shelah Marie and Dr. Kristen Warner: Saturday, Feb. 12 at 7 p.m. – Hosted at Dandy at 5020 W. Vliet St., this conversation will bring "Love & Hip Hop" star and The Curvy, Curly, Conscious Movement founder Shelah Marie and University of Alabama professor of communications Dr. Kristen Warner together to discuss Black women's representation in media and how that plays into health, wellness, self-care and beyond.
Black R&B Film Trivia and '80s/'90s R&B Night: Friday, Feb. 18 at 8 p.m. – Groove on over to Company Brewing in Riverwest for a funky double feature trivia party, putting your retro R&B knowledge to the test before putting your dance moves on display with the help of host DJ Gilly.
"Sankofa" Post-Screening Reception: Saturday, Feb. 26 at 7 p.m. – After the Oriental Theatre's showing of "Sankofa," join for a reception at the America's Black Holocaust Museum, continuing the conversation spurred by the film as well as celebrating the opening of the renovated museum. (Invitation only)
Tickets for all of the Black History Month screenings, as well as additional details, are available at Milwaukee Film's website. Admission costs $12 for general audiences or $9 for Milwaukee Film members.
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.