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MKE Film’s Black History Month lineup, from ‘Boomerang’ to Beyoncé

Milwaukee Film

For the sixth time, Milwaukee Film’s Black Lens program has put together a wide-ranging lineup of movies that will screen at the Oriental Theatre in conjunction with Black History Month.

The annual event will start in a big way Feb. 1 with an opening-night showing of Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé and continue for the next four weeks, treating audiences to eye-opening documentaries and much-loved classics alike. There will also be opportunities to do more than just watch, with a pair of talkbacks scheduled after the showings of Eddie Murphy’s 1992 comedy Boomerang and the 2022 horror Nanny.

“This film series is dedicated to the theme of reclamation — reclaiming ourselves, our stories, our genres and our vibrant futures,” Black Lens programmer Marquise Mays said in a release. “The purpose extends beyond mere acknowledgment; it's about embedding ourselves firmly into the fabric of cinema.”

You can find the full rundown of films included in this year’s program below, along with links to buy tickets via the Milwaukee Film website.

Black History Month film lineup

Feb. 1: Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé

Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé accentuates the journey of Renaissance World tour — from its inception to the opening in Stockholm to the finale in Kansas City. 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.

Feb. 3: The 50

The Offender Mentor Certificate Program—a first of its kind—takes its participants through a ‘parallel process’, one that helps participants develop professional skills and become counselors while also asking them to take an inward look at the pain they have both experienced and caused.

Following Cameron, Al, and Randy—all members of the program—The 50 mirrors this process, weaving the past and present with impressionistic re-enactments of each member’s past, present-day studies, and overarching explorations of how their stories challenge society’s expectations for them.

Character-driven storytelling and surreal visual metaphor move viewers to re-evaluate their perceptions and to seriously contend with their own cycles of hurt and healing.

Feb. 8: Boomerang w/post-screening discussion

In his 1992 classic, Eddie Murphy plays Marcus, a cocky ad executive with a reputation as a ladies' man. However, he gets a taste of his own medicine when a merger finds him working under the beautiful Jacqueline (Robin Givens), who has a similarly cavalier attitude about romance. Marcus and Jacqueline become involved, but he is put off by her noncommittal approach to their relationship. Meanwhile, Marcus also begins to develop feelings for the pretty Angela (Halle Berry), who is more thoughtful than Jacqueline.

Feb. 10: Treasured Heirlooms (Black Lens Shorts program)

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. Featured shorts include:

  • Wild Magnolias directed by Alexandra Kern
  • More Than Hair, directed by Fitch Jean
  • Glitter Ain’t Gold, directed by Christian Nolan Jones and Dominick Cormier
  • Quilted Education, directed by Kayla Robinson
  • Over the Wall, directed by Krystal Tingle
  • Ampe: Lean Into the Sky, Black Girl, directed by Ife Oluwamuyide and Claudia Owusu

Feb. 15: Nanny w/post-screening discussion

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.

Feb. 17: Invisible Beauty

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.

Feb. 20: Girl

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.

Feb. 24: Know Your Place

Robel Haile, an Eritrean-American boy of 15, enlists the help of his best friend Fahmi Tadesse to deliver a huge and heavy suitcase across town destined for a sick family member in his parents' homeland.

When an unexpected turn transmutes his simple task into an odyssey across the rapidly gentrifying city of Seattle, Haile must navigate 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.

Feb. 29: Gaining Ground: The Fight for Black Land

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.