By KP Whaley
The Milwaukee Film Festival is celebrating its eighth year with more than 500 different events to choose from. It began last Thursday, Sept. 22, and continues through Thursday, Oct. 6.
The festival’s artistic and executive director, Jonathan Jackson, said it’s his goal to have the event be as well-known and attended as Summerfest.
“Nothing makes me happier than hearing people talk about how they schedule their lives around the festival,” Jackson said.
When people are complaining that there is too much to see and too much to do, Jackson said that’s when he knows it’s successful.
In addition to the more than 300 films being screened, the festival also hosts a number of panel discussions, Q&A discussions with special guests and education screenings for nearly 9,000 students, mostly from Milwaukee Public Schools.
Jackson said 1,000 students attend a private, school group screening of a film.
“We work with teachers to create educational curriculum, so that the subject matter of the movie can be brought into the classroom after the screening,” Jackson said.
With so many films to choose from, the festival is divided into program categories to help an attendee find a theme that resonates with them. Some of the popular programs include: Cream City Cinema, showcasing the best new work from Milwaukee-based filmmakers; Cine Sin Fronteras, showcasing the rich and vibrant Latinx diaspora through cinema; and Black Lens, showcasing work from both emerging and established African-American filmmakers.
Geraud Blanks, co-programmer of the Black Lens program said the importance of a program like his, in a city such as Milwaukee, cannot be underestimated. Milwaukee Film announced earlier this year it was one of 16 FilmWatch grant recipients from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in support of its Black Lens Program.
Black Lens films don’t just highlight the stories of ‘Black Struggle,’ Blanks said they also highlight issues like black love, sexuality, artistry and more.
“I think people don’t understand the diversity of images and the diversity of films that are being made by black filmmakers,” he said. “And we want to make sure that we have a balanced approach to showing the black experience and highlighting the work from black directors.”
Jackson said the majority of the films in the festival won’t be shown in local theaters after the festival, but even with tickets and festival passes available, it’s impossible to see all the films during the 15-day period. He suggests subscribing to Milwaukee Film’s newsletter to keep abreast of on-demand releases of many of the films shown.
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