By Robin Reese Contributor Published Oct 18, 2018 at 5:26 PM

There's still a lot of great live entertainment and events going on in the city, and I encourage you to seek them out and show your support! However, the 2018 Milwaukee Film Festival starts tonight and runs for the next two weeks through Nov. 1, and I'd be remiss if I didn't give you my picks for the festival!  

This year, Milwaukee Film Festival is celebrating 10 years! Showcasing over 300 films from all over the world – and several made right here in Milwaukee – the Milwaukee Film Festival is certainly one of the best in the nation. Not only are there a ton of great films, there is very diverse programming, featuring dozens of special guests, more than 60 films made by women, seven world premieres and parties for days!

The festival is a whirlwind, with films showing at five theaters (Oriental, Avalon, Times, Fox Bay and the brand new Jan Serr Studio Cinema pop-up) in different parts of the city, sometimes having screenings at the same time and sometimes giving you maybe 15 minutes to get from the Avalon in Bay View to the Fox Bay in Whitefish Bay. Movies are shown from morning til morning, with 10 a.m. and midnight start times, so there are many movies that should fit whatever your schedule.

What's really cool is some of the films may be showing here for the first time ever, with some with the potential to make it to the big screen with major distribution – and you will have seen it first! I love having exclusive opportunities, and Milwaukee Film provides that.  

Here are my picks for the 2018 Milwaukee Film Festival. This list by no means is comprehensive – remember, there's over 300 films – but it will give you a glimpse of some of the great films in each of the 18 categories that I will actually see myself. 

There’s a lot happening, from skating to parties to conversations to forums and more! Please be sure to check out the official program book, OnMilwaukee's guide to the festival or for a full listing of events and film times and locations.  

Spotlight Presentations

"Back at the Staircase"

This is the closing night film, a story of tensions rising in a family after an accident leaves the family matriarch comatose. Directed by Milwaukee-based director Drew Britton, it sounds like a story that myself and others can relate to.  

"A Kid Like Jake"

This timely drama asks, "How early is too early to place labels on a child’s identity?" 

American Independents

"Night Comes On"

Released from juvenile detention, a teen and her 10-year-old sister embark on a quest to avenge the death of their mother by getting revenge on her estranged father. 

"Support the Girls"

Lisa (Regina Hall) is the general manager of Double Whammies, a sports bar that features skimpily dressed waitresses. Under the surface, however, is a charming, critically acclaimed look of women looking after each other in a world of sexism, racism and capitalism.

Art & Artists

"Love, Gilda"

Hear Gilda Radner’s story in her own words thanks to newly discovered audio tapes, home video footage and diary entries, both read by fellow "SNL" greats and mixed with interviews with fellow comedy legends. 

Black Lens

"Black Lens Shorts Presented by HBO: A Little Help From My Friends"

Media Circus International serves as a Community Partner for this collection of short films about characters needing and lending a helping hand. 

"A Boy, A Girl, A Dream"

Starring Meagan Good and Omari Hardwick of "Power" – I just thought I’d put that out there because it’s relevant to me. This is a story of two people, played by Hardwick and Good, that meet and connect by happenstance on election night in 2016.  

Cine Sin Fronteras

"Las Sandinistas!"

During 1979's Sandinista Revolution, a group of Nicaraguan women shatters barriers to lead rebel troops in battle and reshapes the country with landmark social reforms. 


Writer/director Issa López tells the magical tale of five such orphans making the best of their daily struggle to survive in a world where Mexico's persistent drug war has left thousands murdered or missing, and children orphaned on the streets, caught in the crossfire in this tale that's part reality and part fantasy.

Cinema Hooligante


Jen is enjoying a romantic getaway with her wealthy boyfriend until his two sleazy friends arrive for an unannounced hunting trip. As tension mounts in the house, the situation abruptly and viciously intensifies, culminating in a shocking act that leaves Jen brutalized and left for dead. Unfortunately for her assailants, she survives and soon begins a relentless quest for bloody revenge.  

"What Keeps You Alive"

Jackie and Jules are a couple celebrating their first anniversary at a secluded cabin in the woods belonging to Jackie's family. From the moment they arrive, something changes in Jules' normally loving wife, as Jackie begins to reveal a previously unknown dark side – all building up to a shocking revelation that will pit Jules against the woman she loves in a terrifying fight to survive.


"I am Not a Witch"

Trapped in a state-run camp for accused "witches," a young girl becomes a political tool for the superstitious camp director, pushing her to decide whether to risk everything for freedom or to stay alive in a prison.

"Hale County This Morning, This Evening"

Filmmaker RaMell Ross captures small, but nevertheless precious, moments in black lives. "Hale County This Morning, This Evening" looks at the lives of Daniel Collins and Quincy Bryant, two young African American men from rural Hale County, Alabama, over the course of five years. Collins attends college in search of opportunity while Bryant becomes a father to an energetic son.

Cream City Cinema

"Invisible Lines"

In this special, one-time only, world theatrical premiere on Saturday, Oct. 27 at 3:30 p.m. at the Oriental Theater, 88Nine's acclaimed web series forms a discussion about the divisions in Milwaukee, involving activists, artists, students and historians all sharing a frank and much-needed dialogue about the state of the city. 

"The Milwaukee Show I & II"

Always one of the most popular tickets of the festival, "The Milwaukee Show" short film collections offer a rare opportunity to see work spanning all genres from some of the best and brightest filmmaking talents in our city in one of the best and brightest settings in the city: the Oriental Theatre's massive main house.

"This Little Light"

Directed by UWM grad Ada MacMahon, "This Little Light" tells of Wendi Moore-O'Neal, a Black feminist organizer and freedom singer from New Orleans who is fired from her community organizing job after marrying her wife, Mandisa, due to her employer's homophobic policies. 

Das Kino

"It Must Schwing: The Blue Note Story"

Peppered with artful animated recreations, "It Must Schwing" tells the story of two Jewish refugees in 1939 New York City who came together to found the most iconic jazz label in music history: Blue Note Records, the home of Miles Davis, John Coltrane and countless others in a time of discrimination and segregation. 

Documentary Festival Favorites 

"Blowin' Up"

A profile of sex work, prostitution and human trafficking – and one experimental court trying a new approach to those caught in the trap.

"Charm City"

A candid portrait of citizens, police, community advocates and government officials on the frontlines during three years of unparalleled, escalating violence in Baltimore. The film highlights the positive actions undertaken by groups and individuals, optimistically offering humanity as common ground.


While devoted school counselor works on implementing a new policy of restorative justice at his new school in Oakland, a rift develops between himself and his teenage son, forcing him to question himself as a teacher and as a father.

Film Feast

"The Heat: A Kitchen (R)evolution"

"The Heat" follows the challenges faced by female chefs in the traditionally male-dominated industry of the restaurant kitchen – a perfect food doc for the #MeToo movement.



Two teenage girls bond while their fathers battle as political opponents in the upcoming local election until word gets out that it might be more than just a friendship between the two, causing backlash in a town and a country where it's illegal. The story's all-too-real origins: "Rafiki" was the first Kenyan film to screen at the Cannes Film Festival, but it's banned from its home country. 

Rated K for Kids

I didn’t make any picks in this category. However, I wanted to let parents know that there are six films that are appropriate for varying ages: 3 and up, 6 and up, 8 and up, and 10 and up. So bring your kiddos to the festival!

Shorter is Better 

"Shorts: The Best Damn F*#@ing Midnight Program Ever. Sh*t."

This title alone – why wouldn’t everyone just go see these?! OK, maybe you’re afraid, like me ... but I’m pretty sure I’m still going to this collection of disgusting, depraved, terrifying, hilarious and just plain wrong shorts.

"Shorts: Date Night"

In case the craziness of the last one isn't for you, try "Shorts: Date Night," a collection of romantic shorts for and about loves and relationships of all kinds. 

Sound Vision

"16 Bars"

Todd "Speech" Thomas is not only a member of the legendary hip-hop group Arrested Development; he also works with prisoners, spends a week and a half in a Richmond rehabilitation program that allows them to write and record songs as they contend with their memories and their futures. 

"How They Got Over"

Featuring rare archival performance footage of The Dixie Hummingbirds, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Blind Boys of Alabama and the Sensational Nightingales, "How They Got Over" follows the evolution of music history all the way from gospel quartets and spirituals to rock 'n' roll. 



Four high school wrestlers from Huntsville struggle with mental wellness, racial profiling – three of the four are young men of color – and teenage parenthood, all while mentored by their coach not just to qualify for state but to use sports to overcome the societal pressures that want them to fail.

Teen Screen

"My Name is Myeisha"

Based on the 1998 police shooting of Myeisha Taylor, "My Name is Myeisha" is part musical, part hip-hop, part spoken word poetry, part dance and all a powerful reminder that Black lives always have, and always will, matter.


"The Drummer and the Keeper"

"The Drummer and the Keeper" is a feel-good story about a bipolar drummer and a soccer-loving teenager with Asperger's syndrome bonding despite their differences. 

"Five Fingers for Marseilles"

Returning after two decades of exile, Tau – the unpredictable rebellious member of the young Five Fingers gang in Marseilles, South Africa – discovers that the town they once fought for is again under the government's foot, requiring the reunion of his old friends to make things right against their colonialist oppressors.

Robin Reese Contributor

Born and raised in Milwaukee, a lover of life and and a connector of people, I'm a mother, a real estate developer, a philanthropist, a singer and more. And last, but most definitely not least, I love Milwaukee!

I often get asked – by people I know and don't know alike, out of towners and MKE locals – what is there to do here? Is there any live music tonight? What's a good place for a date? What's a good place to hang with a group of friends? You get the point...

So I've decided to share my weekly picks of cool happenings in and around our lovely city. I may repeat some "regulars," and the list by no means is comprehensive, but it will give you glimpse of some of the great things our great city has to offer for entertainment.