Since its inaugural year in 2014, the Black Lens program at the Milwaukee Film Festival has served as one of the event's most recognized and most lauded elements, bringing diverse stories and storytellers to the screen – and earning an AMPAS grant last year. And 2017's selections would appear to live up to that legacy, as Milwaukee Film today announced its list of picks for this year's festival, expanding out to eight features, as well as not just one but two short programs.
"Adding additional films, including two shorts programs, means a greater diversity of voices and perspectives," said Black Lens co-programmer Geraud Blanks in a press release.
"We have more women and mixed-race directors, writers and producers than ever before, in large part because of our ability to expand our programming this year. The added room also made honoring 'Love Jones' and bringing 'Let It Fall: Los Angeles 1982-1992' back to Milwaukee possible without eliminating deserving films from emerging filmmakers."
"The addition of a second shorts program is exciting, as it helps us to strengthen the mission of Black Lens," added co-programmer Donte McFadden, in the release.
"We want to make Black Lens a destination for African-American filmmakers to screen their work. The shorts program allows for us to introduce many emerging filmmakers from across the country and allows Milwaukee residents the chance to see films that they wouldn’t see anywhere else."
Here are the films that make up this year's Black Lens program:
"72 Hours: A Brooklyn Love Story?"
In "72 Hours," gifted young student Caesar faces a choice between the comfortable world – his long-term girlfriend, his friends – he knows in Brooklyn and the new bright future that awaits him in a prestigious university upstate.
"ACORN and the Firestorm"
The origins of "fake news" and the media takes center stage in the true-life documentary thriller "ACORN and the Firestorm," about the bankruptcy and shuttering of America's largest grassroots community organization by two amateur journalists and the ensuing firestorm that helped create right-wing news empire Breitbart News.
Black Lens Shorts: Family Matters
2016 marked the first year of Black Lens Shorts, showing an array of short stories representing African-American cinema. It was such a success, the Milwaukee Film Festival has brought the shorts program back for a second year – complete with TWO collections for 2017. The first evening analyzes family of all types, across genres of all kinds, including:
- "Amelia's Closet"
- "The Homecoming"
- "New Neighbors"
- "Night Shift"
Black Lens Shorts: Lost & Found
The second evening covers a variety of genres and stories, from classic folklore to gun violence and more.
- "90 Days"
- "Dear Mr. Shakespeare"
- "The Forever Tree"
- "Hold On"
- "See You Yesterday"
- "You Can Go"
Qasim Basir's crime thriller "Destined" describes two paths in one man's life – one in which Rasheed is an ambitious architect moving up the ranks of his organization, another in which he's Sheed, a drug kingpin ruling over his former childhood streets – all based on one crucial moment.
"Let It Fall: Los Angeles 1982-1992"
After 2014's "Jimi: All Is By My Side," Oscar-winner and Milwaukee Film board member John Ridley ("12 Years a Slave") makes his return to the Milwaukee Film Festival with "Let It Fall," a documentary about the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles, as well as the events and struggles that led up to it for a decade.
"Like Cotton Twines"
An American volunteer in Ghana finds himself in the middle of a culture clash when he attempts to free one of his brightest students, who has been sentenced to life as a sex slave as punishment for her father's mistakes.
This beloved '90s romance – about a poet (Lorenz Tate) and a photographer (Nia Long) that meet at a poetry slam and try to determine if they're in love or it's just a fling – makes it back to the big screen, thanks to a special 35mm screening at the Oriental Theatre.
"Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Black Colleges and Universities"
The first official entry in Milwaukee Film's nationally recognized Black Lens category for 2017, "Tell Them We Are Rising" – directed by MFF alum Stanley Nelson of "Black Panthers: Vanguard of a Revolution" – tells the story of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and their crucial impact on African-American history.
A medical mystery is underfoot in the documentary "Unrest," as director and Harvard Ph.D. student Jennifer Brea battles a sudden fever brought on by a syndrome long since forgotten by modern medicine.
The Milwaukee Film Festival has now announced almost 30 of its selections – and it's still got plenty to reveal. So stay tuned to OnMilwaukee for updates – and then get your popcorn ready for the festival this fall, running Sept. 28 through Oct. 12.
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.