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Milwaukee's "Michael Moores" premiere film at Rosebud

On Mother's Day 2000, an estimated 820,000 people gathered in Washington, D.C. for the Million Mom March. The group was mostly women of every age, profession and color, including Courtney Love, who lost her rock star husband Kurt Cobain in a gun-related suicide, and Milwaukee's Cynthia Martinez whose 11-year-old daughter had been killed six weeks earlier at her Grandma's house.

Local filmmakers and "media activists" Janet Fitch and Brad Pruitt documented the women and their families as they traveled from Milwaukee to the March. They later produced the compelling documentary, "Promise of America," the second segment in a three-part trilogy called "Guns, Grief and Grace in America" from New Moon Productions.

The hour-long "Promise of America," which follows the critically-acclaimed first segment, "Dear Rita," " is an extremely provocative and emotional look at gun violence in America, the March in Washington to stop it and snippets from other historical events influenced by female activists, including civil rights, suffrage, anti-war and anti-nuclear movements.

On Thurs., Dec. 19, the hour-long "Promise of America" will air with Michael Moore's powerful film that also explores gun violence, "Bowling for Columbine," at the Rosebud Cinema, 6823 W. North Ave.

A reception will begin at 5:15 p.m., with "Promise" airing at 6 p.m. and "Bowling" showing at 7:45. Berkeley Fudge will also perform. The cost for both films, food reception. musical performance and between-film discussion with Pruitt and Fitch is $8.

Recently, OMC talked to Janet Fitch about her latest documentary and gun violence in Milwaukee.

OMC: What inspired you to create this documentary?

JF: As media activists, we realized that our own personal and specific engagement with one individual mother's response (Cynthia Martinez) to the effects of gun violence was the sort of introduction to the subject of gun violence that would broaden our audience from a fairly narrow interest group to a much wider range of interested viewers. The very intimate, in-depth story would be key in revealing human suffering, not exploiting it, and could assist viewers in thinking more critically about the current polarized debate on gun violence. We decided to continue to document our own experience to follow the important story that was unfolding before us, and that we were so fortunate to be engaged in.

We felt strongly that going from the personal story of the loss of Rita (Martinez), to masses of mothers with the same lament, will show why mothers united in this movement, as they have historically, when their children's lives were/are at stake. When we arrived back in Milwaukee, we asked Cynthia Martinez, who bravely agreed, to open her life to us for the remainder of the year. Rita's Grandmother, Carmen Martinez, and the rest of Rita's family, her teachers and her friends, also opened their lives and hearts to us.

This path proved so rich and we eventually were compelled to split our nearly 80 hours of footage into two separate documentaries and one community education piece. Committed financial supporters have encouraged and sustained us by granting the initial funding, but we are still raising completion funds.

OMC: How has Milwaukee responded to your work so far?

JF: People in Milwaukee and Wisconsin have been actively engaged with and talking about "Guns, Grief and Grace in America" since the first segment, "Dear Rita," aired statewide (PBS, 2001). The piece received national attention as a Finalist in the 2001 New York International Film and Video Festivals' Awards and was selected to be screened at Moondance International Film Festival in Boulder, Colorado.

Requests continue to arrive from a myriad of organizations with a range of fields and interests that include women's groups, health care, education, law enforcement, the faith community and multi-faceted community based organizations.

Plus, The Milwaukee Police Department is currently using "Dear Rita" in their "Gun Awareness Program" with Milwaukee Public Schools, the State Department of Corrections has placed it in their "Victim Impact" educational curriculum, Healthy Sheboygan 2010 has requested materials for their "Suicide Prevention" program, and the Milwaukee Federated Library System has requested the series.

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