February is just around the corner, and with it, Black History Month. Looking for a way to celebrate Black History Month on the silver screen—specifically the silver screen of Milwaukee’s gorgeous Oriental Theatre? Then look no further than Milwaukee Film’s annual Black History Month celebration.
Curated by Milwaukee Film’s Black Lens program, the February lineup includes everything from Beyoncé’s 2022 Renaissance to Eddie Murphy’s 1992 Boomerang. There’s also a documentary on racial diversity in the fashion industry, a feature debut about the relationship between a mother and a daughter, a shorts program, and more.
“To kick off the momentous tenth-anniversary celebration of the Black Lens program, Milwaukee Film is thrilled to present an exceptional selection of films during Black History Month,” says Black Lens Programmer Marquise Mays in a press release. “This film series is dedicated to the theme of reclamation—reclaiming ourselves, our stories, our genres, and our vibrant futures. The purpose extends beyond mere acknowledgment; it’s about embedding ourselves firmly into the fabric of cinema. From our opening night presentation of Beyoncé’s concert film Renaissance (2022), where attendees are encouraged to dress up in silver to celebrate the film’s themes of Black pride and community, to the poignant British feature film debut Girl (2023), which delves into the yearning of girlhood between a mother and a daughter, to an Al Roker-produced documentary that explores the current landscape and challenges for Black farmlands in the film Gaining Ground (2023), this series aims to celebrate our past, reclaim often overlooked aspects of our existence, and inspire an imaginative journey towards a luminous future in cinema-making.”
Here’s the full lineup, with synopses from Milwaukee Film. Tickets can be purchased via the links.
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 1 (Opening Night)
Renaissance: A Film By Beyoncé – 7 p.m.
RENAISSANCE: A FILM BY BEYONCÉ accentuates the journey of RENAISSANCE WORLD TOUR, from its inception, to the opening in Stockholm, Sweden, to the finale in Kansas City, Missouri. It is about Beyoncé’s intention, hard work, involvement in every aspect of the production, her creative mind and purpose to create her legacy, and master her craft. Received with extraordinary acclaim, Beyoncé’s RENAISSANCE WORLD TOUR created a sanctuary for freedom, and shared joy, for more than 2.7 million fans.
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 3
The 50 – noon
While serving life sentences in a dangerously overcrowded and drug-saturated prison system, 50 men embark on a radical journey to become some of the first incarcerated Substance Abuse Counselors in the country.
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 8
Boomerang (1992) w/ post-screening retrospective discussion – 7 p.m.
A successful executive finds that his lifestyle choices have turned back on him when his new boss turns out to be a bigger deviant than he is.
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 10
Treasured Heirlooms – Black Lens Shorts Program – noon
From the tingling sensation of the alcohol spray following a haircut to the quick-paced hand games of our youth that occupied us for hours, the essence of Blackness has continuously worked as a dynamic archive of rites of passage and traditions that hold a special place in defining who we are. “TREASURED HEIRLOOMS” is a short film program delving into how Black folks globally are actively engaged in preserving, archiving, and creating approaches to ensure the endurance of our cherished traditions. This reflective cinematic offering aims to encourage us to embrace our traditions intimately, connecting us with both our past and future selves. – Marquise Mays, Black Lens Programmer
WILD MAGNOLIAS Dir. Alexandra Kern
MORE THAN HAIR Dir. Fitch Jean
GLITTER AIN’T GOLD Dirs. Christian Nolan Jones and Dominick Cormier
QUILTED EDUCATION Dir. Kayla Robinson
OVER THE WALL Dir. Krystal Tingle
AMPE: LEAP INTO THE SKY, BLACK GIRL Dirs. Ife Oluwamuyide and Claudia Owusu
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 15
Nanny w/post-screening retrospective discussion – 7 p.m.
Aisha, a young immigrant woman, ventures to New York City and secures a crucial job as a nanny to a wealthy Upper East Side family. Yet the fragile, unstable foundation upon which Aisha has built her new life threatens to implode when she must grapple with a powerful secret.
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 17
Invisible Beauty – noon
Fashion revolutionary Bethann Hardison looks back on her journey as a pioneering Black model, modeling agent, and activist, shining a light on an untold chapter in the fight for racial diversity. From walking runway shows alongside Iman to discovering supermodels like Tyson Beckford and mentoring icons like Naomi Campbell, Hardison has been at the epicenter of major representational shifts in fashion. Catalyzing change requires continuous championing, and as the next generation takes the reins, Hardison reflects on her personal journey and the cost of being a pioneer.
In tandem with Frédéric Tcheng (Halston, Dior and I), Bethann Hardison and her co-director trace her impact on fashion from runway shows in New York and Paris in the ’70s to roundtables about lack of racial diversity in the early 2000s. Interviews with industry players speak to the state of fashion, while friends and family attest to Hardison’s rebellious and ambitious spirit. The film is an absorbing record of Hardison’s accomplishments and a rare contemplation on the life of a radical thinker.
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 20
Girl – 7 p.m.
Eleven-year-old Ama and her mother, Grace, take solace in the gentle but isolated world they obsessively create. But Ama’s thirst for life and her need to grow and develop, challenges the rules of their insular world and gradually forces Grace to reckon with a past she struggles to forget.
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 24
Know Your Place – noon
In this debut feature by Writer-Director Zia Mohajerjasbi; Robel Haile, an Eritrean-American boy of 15, embarks on an errand to deliver a huge and heavy suitcase across town destined for a sick family member in his parents’ homeland. He enlists the help of his best friend Fahmi Tadesse, when an unexpected turn transmutes his simple task into an odyssey across the rapidly gentrifying city of Seattle; navigating directions to make his delivery on time, along with the challenges of familial responsibility, self identification, and dislocation amid the ongoing redevelopment and economic displacement of the only community he’s ever known as home.
THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 29 (Closing Night)
Gaining Ground: The Fight For Black Land – 7 p.m.
In just a few decades after the end of enslavement, Black Americans were able to amass millions of acres of farmland. Today approximately 90% of that land is no longer in Black hands. Various factors have been employed to take Black land, including violence, eminent domain and government discrimination. But it is a little-known issue — heirs’ property — that has had a devastating effect on Black land ownership. Gaining Ground: The Fight for Black Land is a timely and stirring documentary from Emmy-nominated producer/director Eternal Polk and Al Roker Entertainment that examines the causes, effects what is being done to fight the exploitation of these issues, and how landowners are reclaiming their agricultural legacy and creating paths to generational wealth.