Milwaukee Film Festival 2018 GMM Picks
While there are lots of great options to see, I am for the first time listing those that fall in line with the GMM philosophy: ones that are inspirational for men in our community. Caveat: I haven't necessarily seen these, I am just going by descriptions and other reviews. But if you are up for being inspired to be a Greater Milwaukee Man, check some of these out:
Many of these are from different cultures, different countries. It is good to see different perspectives, so stretch your interests and comfort zone and take a look, that's what festivals like this are all about.
- Playing Men - Join us on a rollicking road trip through the Mediterranean as we bear witness to men of all ages, shapes, and sizes coming together in order to play games. A humorous exploration of masculinity, Playing Men presents us with all manner of odd competition—men chasing giant wheels of cheese down narrow cobblestone streets, boys screaming themselves hoarse, oiled-up behemoths wrestling in a grassy expanse—first explaining the rules, then showcasing the action in all of its bizarre glory. Because masculinity.
- Invisible Lines - WORLD THEATRICAL PREMIERE! In this special, one-time only feature-length presentation of 88Nine's acclaimed web series, we see discussion of the divisions that exist in our city— frank, unscripted conversation about segregation, racism, and discrimination from a diverse pool of Milwaukeeans (activists, artists, students, and historians all participate). Springing forth from the notion that there can be no community building without genuine dialogue, Invisible Lines is a much-needed conversation surrounding topics long forced to the periphery. Because Milwaukee.
- Personal Statement - Follow Karoline, Enoch, and Christine—three college-bound Brooklyn-based high school seniors who want to bring all of their classmates along with them. Recognizing the lack of college guidance support in their classrooms (much the same across the country), they become the change they seek, counseling their peers through the college application process. An inspiring look at social justice in action, Personal Statement reminds us of the immense change we are all capable of creating around us. Because inspiring youth making change.
- When the Beat Drops - By day they are teachers, doctors, and professionals making a living in Atlanta. But by night they join their chosen family as members of an elite fraternity united by the electric and subversive underground dance style known as "bucking." Initially created by gay African-American men in the deep South in response to exclusion, bucking is now forcing its way into the mainstream, an explosive party of kinetic energy. Learn of its incredible history and meet the performers who dedicate their lives to this craft in this documentary celebration. Because diversity.
- The Last Suit - In the twilight of his life, Holocaust survivor Abraham leaves behind his life in Argentina in an effort to find the friend who saved him from almost certain death in Poland. This moving road trip dramedy chronicles the comic and poignant bumps as Abraham makes his way across Europe, both helping and receiving help from the people he meets. Approaching its weighty themes with a deft and light touch, The Last Suit is a globe-trotting adventure filled with heart. Because male dramedy, and compassion.
- Never Steady, Never Still - A mother dealing with early onset Parkinson's and her son struggling to survive the toxic masculinity that permeates his oil field workplace must contend with both loneliness and grief in the aftermath of a family tragedy in this affecting rural Canadian drama. Featuring a tour de force performance from Shirley Henderson that, if there's any justice in the world, will be getting recognition this awards season, Never Steady, Never Still is a gorgeously rendered depiction of emotional isolation. Because overcoming the bad parts of manliness.
- Silas - Silas Siakor tirelessly works to protect the natural resources of his home country of Liberia, fighting against the government corruption that allowed for the rights to a third of Liberia's land to be sold off to multinational corporations. With his army of smartphone-wielding environmentalists, Silas goes from town to town, building a formidable grassroots movement capable of going toe-to-toe with dirty politicians and foreign money. Though based out of Africa, Silas is a story of worldwide import, an impassioned reminder of what activism is capable of at its best. Because grassroots accomplishments.
- Borg vs. McEnroe - Before Nadal/Federer, before Agassi/Sampras, there was Björn Borg (Sverrir Gudnason)—the rigorously disciplined, preternaturally focused Swede—going head-to-head with John McEnroe (a perfectly cast Shia LaBeouf)—the brash, aggressive American prone to on-court emotional outbursts. These two men, a pure contrast in both style and temperament, competed in 1980 in what many consider to be the greatest tennis match ever played. Based on the true story, Borg vs. McEnroe is an exhiliarting look at an unforgettable sports rivalry between two celebrity athletes. McEnroe. That is all.
- A Kid Like Jake - Four-year-old Jake is the perfect youngster—bright, precocious, and creative, while just so happening to prefer Disney princesses and skirts to cars and jeans. And while Jake's loving parents (Claire Danes and Jim Parsons) are completely supportive of this, they are thrust into a moral and ethical dilemma as Jake's gender-fluid status could prove key to getting into NYC's hypercompetitive private school system. Also co-starring Octavia Spencer and Ann Dowd, this must-see for 21st century parents is an emotionally resonant and timely drama that asks how early is too early to place labels on a child's identity. Because understanding.
- Freaks and Geeks: The Documentary - Though it lasted only a single season, the influence of NBC's dramedy Freaks and Geeks reverberated throughout the entire entertainment industry. Introducing us to an entire constellation of stars (Seth Rogen, Martin Starr, and Busy Philipps to name a few), its balance of comedy and pathos moved beyond the stereotypical portrayal of teenage life, with that nuance tracing a direct line to our current "golden age of television." Covering development to cancellation and everything in between, we promise that this is one high school reunion you won't want to miss. Because not all of us fit in.
- Pick of the Litter - Follow a litter of puppies from the moment they're born as they undergo the rigorous two-year training to determine which will become guide dogs. Supported by a community of deeply dedicated individuals committed to training these pups to do amazing, life-changing work, not every dog will make the grade, with only a chosen few becoming pick of the litter. Audience award winner at dozens of fests, this is a moving story of man's best friend on a journey to become man's best protector. Because puppies.
- Keep the Change - It's an atypical New York love story—the guarded David attends a group meeting for austistic adults, certain he doesn't belong, until he meets the charming and vivacious Sarah. Her persistent positivity teaches David to be more vulnerable and open to love from the people around him—weathering David's judgmental mother (Arrested Development's Jessica Walter) along the way. Populated by actors with autism, Keep the Change captures a community seldom depicted on the big screen with refreshing honesty. This sparkling romantic comedy charms across the entire spectrum. Because compassion.
- Mr. SOUL! - Before Oprah, before Arsenio, there was SOUL!, a remarkable public television variety show wildly ahead of its time. Hosted by Ellis Haizlip (hip, smart, innovative, and unapologetically gay), SOUL! was a celebration of all things Black culture—with topics ranging from soul music to literature, poetry, politics, and everything in between—with a dazzling array of A-list guests (James Baldwin, Nikki Giovanni, and Stevie Wonder, to name a few). Follow this groundbreaking phenomenon from conception to its final episode in this stirring reminder of the power of representation in media. Because diversity.
- Mighty Ground - Although he is a homeless addict who is struggling with mental health on skid row, Ronald Troy Collins is blessed with a remarkable hidden talent—his unforgettably soulful singing voice. He barely scrapes by via singing for strangers on the street, but his gift shines through to anyone who will only stop to listen. This documentary follows the unique journey of redeption for Ronald, who with the help of those touched by his skill (his so-called "board of directors") pulls himself off of the streets and onto the stage. Because mental health.
- Sammy Davis, Jr,: I've Gotta Be Me - Follow the legendary Sammy Davis Jr. as he navigates the racial prejudices and shifting political terrain of 20th century America. A documentary worthy of this complex, contradictory, and complicated figure, I've Gotta Be Me explores the career and art of this larger-than-life performer who found himself bracketed by the bigotry of White America and the scruitiny of civil rights-era Black America. New interviews (Norman Lear, Billy Crystal, and Whoopi Goldberg) combine with never-before-seen photos to provide an entirely fresh look at this icon who sat at the crossroads of cultural/racial identity. Because Sammy.
- Yo No Me Llamo Ruben Blades - With over half a century of culture-defining music and 17 Grammys, Rubén Blades has more than earned his status as one of the definitive Latin American musical artists of our time. The "Bob Dylan of salsa," Blades brought this music to an international audience, paired perfectly with his incisive and socially charged lyrics. As we follow him on his final tour, we discover a living legend with no intention of stopping. Singer, songwriter, activist, actor, humanitarian, politics, and presidential candidate—Rubén Blades is all of these things and more. Because diversity, and music.
- It Must Schwing! The Blue Note Story - In 1939 New York City, two Jewish refugees from Berlin came together to found the most iconic jazz label in music history, Blue Note Records. Miles Davis, John Coltrane, and countless others came through their doors to create indelible recordings that thrummed with improvisatory urgency. In an era when Black musicians were subject to discrimination and segregation in NYC, Blue Note saw kindred spirits (having immigrated to escape such discrimination) and provided an outlet for their virtuosity. Relive this integral moment in music history, peppered throughout with artiful animated re-creations. Because Blue Note, but also two cultures working together.
- Circles - Displaced by Hurricane Katrina, devoted school counselor Eric Butler moves his familty to Oakland, implementing a new policy of restorative justice at his new school, shifting from a punitive framework to a space where kids feel safe, heard, and allowed to speak. But while he pours time and energy into his work, a rift develops in his relationship with his teenage son, leading him to question his ability not just as a teacher, but a father. An inspirational and moving documentary that speaks to our great need for juvenile justice reform with intimacy and candor. Because fatherhood.
- Minding the Gap - Director Bing Liu returns to his Midwestern home of Rockford, IL, reconnecting with his skateboarding friends Zack and Keire, whom he's been riding with since childhood. Combining archival footage of their exploits with interviews in the modern day, Bing creates an unforgettable portrait of toxic masculinity reverberating through generations, as these kids who once took to skateboards to outrun their trauma find themselves in danger of repeating the sins of the father, as they work hard to overcome and prove that these cycles of abuse are anything but inevitable. Because fatherhoood. Exploring father - child, and any role as teacher is always important.
- Brewmaster - A fun and hoppy documentary that feels like it was brewed just for Milwaukeeans, Brewmaster documents the incredible rise of the brewing industry in recent years—from less than 1,500 breweries nationwide in 1998 to over 7,000 today. Follow the passion and innovation at work within the industry, from tiny small-batch home brewers to some of beer's biggest names. Not to mention a Milwaukee-based man studying to become a Master Cicerone— beer's equivalent to a sommelier—a test less than 20 people have ever passed. Because beer.
- 1985 - The year is 1985. Returning to his conservative Texas hometown after three years away working in New York, Adrian aims to reconnect with his younger brother while navigating the rocky relationship he holds with his devoutly religious parents, all the while wrestling with whether or not to reveal his truth: he is both gay and terminally ill. A stark reminder both of how far we've come and how far we still have to go, this is an emotionally devastating portrait of America and acceptance in the midst of the AIDS crisis. Because the 80's. And brother relations.
- Satan & Adam - At first glance, the biracial blues duo Satan and Adam appeared to be diametrically opposed: a Jewish Ivy League graduate playing harmonica alongside the legendary Black Mississippi blues man Sterling "Mr. Satan" Magee in New York City? Somehow it worked, an unlikely pair that nevertheless complemented each other perfectly through their music. Garnering the attention of U2 and releasing a celebrated debut album seemed to have them primed for stardom, but their rise was cut short by Mr. Satan's mysterious and sudden disappearance. Because diversity, and great music.
- Ali & Cavett: The Tale of the Tapes - Chronicling the storied boxing career of Muhammad Ali through the prism of his numerous appearances on The Dick Cavett Show, Ali & Cavett is equally riveting for sports and pop culture fans alike. Whether they were celebrating Ali's numerous victories, or discussing his decision to join the Nation of Islam and refusal to serve in the military, the pair's easy chemistry (they were friends for over five decades) was a cultural milestone in terms of on-screen representation, and they spoke candidly about issues that still challenge America to this very day. Because Ali.
- Home + Away - For many students of Bowie High School in El Paso, TX, crossing the border from Mexico is a daily reality, with their morning commute over the bridge from Juarez in pursuit of higher education. A sports documentary that speaks to our current moment, Home + Away chronicles the inspirational stories of three such students, striving to succeed in sports and academics in pursuit of a better life, while simultaneously exploring Mexico-U.S. relations and the Chicanx border culture they grow up in. Because the inspiration of sports.
- Wrestle - Intimate and nuanced, Wrestle captures the struggles faced both on and off the mat by a quartet of high school wrestlers from Huntsville, AL. Struggling with mental wellness, racial profiling (three of the four are young men of color), and teenage parenthood, these student athletes are mentored by their coach in an effort to not just qualify for state, but to use sports as a motivator against the societal pressures that might prevent them from graduating altogether. Because, well so many reasons, mental health, mentoring.
- The Drummer and the Keeper - Ordered to recover at a home for the neurodiverse following his most recent breakdown, bipolar drummer in an up-and-coming Dublin rock band Gabriel is made to spend time with Christopher, a teenager with Asperger's syndrome and a passion for soccer. Antipathy soon gives way to genuine friendship, as these two lonely souls discover in one another what they've been missing. The very definition of heartwarming, The Drummer and the Keeper is a feel-good story of (bi)polar opposites connecting against all odds. Because mental health and brotherhood.