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A guide to the Cultures and Communities Film Festival

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Milwaukee Film

Every week, Kristopher Pollard from Milwaukee Film and Radio Milwaukee’s Dori Zori talk about movies — because that’s what you do when you’re Cinebuds.

It’s “Very Special Guest Month” on Cinebuds!!! OK, not really. But Dori and K-Polly are on quite a roll when it comes to chatting with members of Milwaukee’s film community.

Last week, they welcomed guests from the Harry & Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center in advance of the 2023 Milwaukee Jewish Film Festival. For this episode, it’s Milwaukee Film’s turn as it gets ready to launch this year’s Cultures & Communities Film Festival, which runs Oct. 5-12.

The event uses every inch of those eight days to show groundbreaking films, welcome distinguished speakers and hold public forums. It’s as engaging and enlightening as it is entertaining, and the Cinebuds cover a lot of ground with help from local documentarian Marquise Mays. You’ll hear about must-see movies, personal favorites and the greatness that is Queen Latifah.

Listen to the full episode using the player at the top of the page, and if you’re interested in attending this year’s Cultures & Communities Festival, we have more information for you right here.

All in-person screenings happen at the Oriental Theatre with ticket prices of $12 for the general public, $10 for seniors, $9 for Milwaukee Film members and $6 for kids 12 and under. Tickets are also available for the various events happening throughout the festival. We highlighted just a few below, with the full list available on the Milwaukee Film website.

Film screenings

The League
7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 5

The Negro League was a stage for some of the world's best athletes and an economic and social pillar of Black communities. Featuring interviews with Negro League players like Buck O'Neil and Hall of Fame Inductees Monte Irvin, Willie Mays, and Hank Aaron. Following the arc of race history in the United States, The League celebrates some of the 20th century's best athletes and entrepreneurs while grappling with America's arduous march toward equality.

Every Body
4 p.m. Friday, Oct. 6

From Academy Award-nominee Julie Cohen (RBG) comes Every Body, a timely interrogation of our country's obsession with gender through the lens of the oft-erased "I" in LGBTQIA — intersex. Recounting their individual experiences with stigma, social pressure, and nonconsensual surgeries performed on them as minors, Sean Saifa Wall, Alicia Roth Weigel, and River Gallo make a case for the much-needed rethinking of both archaic medical practices and binary thinking about sex and gender.

The Space Race
7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 6

MFF alum Lisa Cortés (Little Richard) joins forces with Diego Hurtado de Mendoza for this powerful and illuminating story behind the first Black astronauts. Featuring candid interviews with Ed Dwight, Guion Bluford, Charles Bolden, and Victor Glover, this film goes beyond the expected hero narrative to shed new light on our nation's ongoing racial reckoning and attitudes toward space exploration and scientific discovery.

2:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 7

Donya works for a Chinese fortune cookie factory in San Francisco. As a former Afghan translator for the U.S. military, she struggles to put her new refugee life back in order. Featuring standout performances from newcomer Anaita Wali Zada and The Bear’s Jeremy Allen White, Fremont "finds romance in everyday interactions, and in the easy pleasure of opening up a cookie and reading one's fortune." (The Film Stage)

5:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 7

Go behind the scenes of Alicia Keys' "She is The Music" songwriting camp with filmmaker Beth Aala in this revealing look at the music industry and its lack of access and opportunity granted to young Black and Brown women. The camp's three resilient participants take center stage as they try to break through the industry with the next big hit song.

Rotting in the Sun
8:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 7

When Rotting in the Sun premiered at Sundance, rumors swirled that the mystery-comedy's nude beach sequence featured a number of non-prosthetic d**ks — and shots of unsimulated sex — that would make even HBO's Euphoria blush. (We stopped count around 30 d**ks, by the way.) Beyond the wild party scenes lies an unforgettable, hilarious, high-tension, NC-17 level queer thrill ride that, unlike its co-leads (influencer Jordan Firstman and filmmaker Sebastián Silva, as themselves) is best kept under wraps.

Kids Shorts: Stay Gold
Noon Sunday, Oct. 8

From an Iranian boy who befriends an older woman in Tokyo to a glittery and gritty fairy godmother in Taiwan or America's first all-girls tackle football league, KIDS SHORTS: STAY GOLD is a vibrant glimpse into inspirational communities and misfit-moxie-heroes around the world who defy convention while finding deep connection along the way. Content note: A non-graphic goat slaughter scene, teens smoking marijuana (legally, in Amsterdam).

Golden Delicious
2:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 8

When basketball-obsessed Aleks moves in across his street, Asian-Canadian teen Jake finds himself rushing to tryouts to get his attention. Feeling stuck between his parents' expectations and his desires for the future, Jake decides to shoot his shot. Playing like a binge-worthy DeGrassi arc, this charming and romantic coming-of-age feature is a winning heart-warmer from the start.

Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project
6 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 8

As one of America's greatest living artists and social commentators, Nikki Giovanni's influence is revealed through this innovative biographical documentary. The film's cinematic story editing parallels with visual treatments of her poetry, along with rich archival footage and captivating contemporary performances as Giovanni's work of resistance through tumultuous periods is traced -- from the Civil Rights Movement to the Black Arts Movement to present-day Black Lives Matter.

Fancy Dance
7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 9

Since her sister's disappearance, Jax (Lily Gladstone) has cared for her niece Roki by scraping by on the Seneca-Cayuga Reservation in Oklahoma. At the risk of losing custody to Jax's father, the pair hits the road and scour the backcountry to track down Roki's mother in time for the powwow. What begins as a search becomes a far more profound investigation of the complexities and contradictions of Indigenous women moving through a colonized world.

Coldwater Kitchen
7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 10

For 30 years, soft-spoken chef Jimmy Lee Hill has run a highly regarded culinary training program out of prison in Coldwater, MI, offering incarcerated men a renewed sense of purpose through the craft of fine dining — everything from foie gras to lobster. Coldwater Kitchen follows Chef Hill and three of his students as they navigate the equally challenging realities of incarceration and transitioning back into civilian life.

Lady Buds
7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 11

Lady Buds tells the story of six women navigating the industrial age of cannabis in California after its legalization in 2016. As they emerge from the hazy underground and fiercely independent scene before legalization, they must battle corporate greed, sexism and racism, wildfires, and more as they fight to keep their independent spirit ablaze in this inspiring and inquisitive documentary.

7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 12

An exciting, fresh and timely look at coming-of-age in a small Texas town. Co-directors Silvia Del Carmen Castaños and Estefanía "Beba" Contreras document their friendship through a lazy summer before college. These Gen-Z women have already dealt with issues like immigration and racism and, in the wake of recent Supreme Court rulings, must now contend with a more challenging future. But in the end, this film celebrates friendship, joy, youthful energy and hope.


Engage & Activate: Diverse Professional Forum
7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 4
Company Brewing, 735 E. Center St.

Milwaukee Film’s popular Engage & Activate series brings together the city's diverse community of young professionals who have made Milwaukee their home. Attendees can expect to view a short film before splitting into anonymously assigned groups to discuss and share experiences that widen perspectives.

Designed to create an atmosphere that fosters social wellness, networking, and a sense of belonging among a cross-sector of corporate and community leaders and employee resource groups, these in-person happy hour events include complimentary food, drink specials, and DJ Bizzon, curating the vibes. Free and open to the public.

Opening Night Party feat. DJ Spinderella
8 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 5
The Cooperage, 822 S. Water St.

In honor of the 50th anniversary of Hip Hop, the CCF Opening Night Party includes performances by local hip-hop artists, an ‘80s/’90s dance party and more immersive experiences, all hosted by the pioneering DJ Spinderella, best known for her role as one-third of the iconic Hip-Hop trio Salt-N-Pepa.

Ancestral Wisdom: Afro-Latino Memory and Cultural Practices
6 p.m. Friday, Oct. 6
Radio Milwaukee, 220 E. Pittsburgh Ave.

Don’t miss this chance to deepen your understanding of the revolutionary potential of memory work to bridge the past, present, and future, preserving the African cultural lineage of Latinos over generations. Experience the living history of Afro-Diasporic cultural expressions as Marquette University’s Dr. Stephanie Rivera Berruz guides a panel of arts practitioners who explore how indigenous traditions evolve while staying rooted in their origins.

Culture By Design
Noon Saturday, Oct. 7
Baird Center

A celebration of sneaker & streetwear culture, Culture By Design brings together a like-minded community of "sneakerheads" and streetwear aficionados for a multifaceted exhibition featuring prominent national designers, as well as pop-up exhibition spaces, immersive activations, and mixed-media displays curated by local and national brands.

Finding Light in Death: A Uniquely Milwaukee Exhibition
6 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 7
Radio Milwaukee, 220 E. Pittsburgh Ave.

Join Salam Fatayer, host of Radio Milwaukee’s Uniquely Milwaukee podcast, for a conversation around mourning, memory, and joy. Finding Light in Death invites us to honor the relationships of those who have passed away, embracing the joy that springs from cherished memories and the profound impact these individuals had on others. Amidst this exploration, we also strive to recognize and celebrate the beauty and uniqueness inherent in each fleeting moment of life. Free event.

Janelle James: Newly Famous Comedy Tour
8 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 8
The Pabst Theater

An award-winning actress best known for her role as Ava Coleman in the acclaimed television series Abbott Elementary, Janelle James is also an accomplished comedian, having toured with Chris Rock and Amy Schumer. As part of this one-of-a-kind experience, James will perform a 45-minute comedy set accompanied by a 15-minute audience Q&A, offering a unique glimpse into her life and career.

The Art of Storytelling
6:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 9
Sam’s Place Jazz Cafe, 3338 N. MLK Dr.

In a world teeming with diverse voices and untold narratives, the role and responsibility of storytelling takes on new dimensions. Join us as we unravel the art of capturing stories that reflect the vibrant tapestry of our society. Acclaimed Journal-Sentinel reporter James Causey guides an enlightening discussion with a distinguished panel of local journalists that transcends boundaries and uncovers the power of representative storytelling.

Aida Rodriguez: Don’t @ Me Tour
7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 10
Milwaukee Improv

In celebration of the convergence between Hispanic Heritage Month and the 2023 Cultures & Communities Festival, we’re thrilled to welcome comedian and actress Aida Rodriguez, whose “Don’t @ Me Tour” stops in Milwaukee for an evening full of laughs featuring some of the funniest Latinx comedians from around the midwest.

The History of Polarization in American Music
6 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 11
Radio Milwaukee, 220 E. Pittsburgh Ave.

#1 Billboard bluegrass charting hip-hop band Gangstagrass leads an inclusive dialogue on the origins of American music, revealing how marketing created artificial genre distinctions during the Jim Crow era when the recording industry emerged -- leaving a legacy of segregation that still persists today.

Closing Night feat. Gangstagrass, Shonn Hinton & Shotgun
7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 12
The Cooperage, 822 S. Water St.

Bringing together the Bluegrass Hip-Hop stylings of the genre-demolishing band Gangstagrass and Milwaukee's own Blues-Rock sensation Shonn Hinton & Shotgun for a unique set of performances that seamlessly fuse a range of musical genres, the 2023 Cultures & Communities Festival Closing Night Party promises to be a captivating finale to our eight-day celebration of diverse cultural expression.