Music festivals aren’t the only kind Milwaukee is known for. The Milwaukee Film Festival is underway, back fully in person for the first time since 2019.
The festival is showing 300 films from 51 countries now through May 4th at the Oriental Theater, Avalon Theater and Times Cinema. CEO Jonathan Jackson told Wisconsin’s Afternoon News that ticket sales have already increased by 50% from last year’s festival.
Jackson said the festival’s variety has something in store for everybody: “There’s a crazy silent film about a drunk lumberjack who chases beavers, to a very serious documentary looking at the Motel 6 and that murder trial in Green Bay.”
The nonprofit Milwaukee Film currently owns and operates the iconic Oriental Theater under a 50-year lease. They’ve been fundraising for restoration work on the historic movie palace, which joined the National Register of Historic Places in February.
New this year, a merchandise shop right next to the Oriental Theater entrance has t-shirts, tote bags, mugs and other film festival-branded items for sale.
The festival has specially-programmed categories like Black Lens, Cine Sin Fronteras and Genrequeer. Some films are locally made, and other’s are selected from a global stage like Sundance Film Festival.
Ernie Quiroz is the programmer for Cine Sin Fronteras, which features films in the Latinx diaspora. He spent the past year viewing over 700 films to make selections for the festival.
“Take a risk, see a film that maybe you wouldn’t normally see,” Quiroz advised. “A lot of these you’re never going to see again. They may not even be up on streaming.”
For closing night, Star Wars fans won’t want to miss the documentary A Disturbance in the Force (showing on May the 4th, of course.) Jackson said it will explore a holiday special filmed in the 70s that George Lucas wanted to prevent from every being seen again.