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todaySeptember 9, 2022 1 5

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Milwaukee Film’s Cultures and Communities Festival returns with new stories to share, including an Emmy-winning movie produced by local talent.

The five-day event showcases the voices and representations of those in diverse and marginalized communities through film, health and lifestyle programs. “These are everyday people that are achieving amazing things. Don’t allow people to limit you,” Milwaukee Film Chief Innovation Officer Geraud Blanks said.

This year, the fest will also include two movies directed or produced by Milwaukee natives.

The Exchange. In White America. Kaukauna & King 50 Years Later is a documentary on an experiment involving high school students from two racially different Wisconsin cities in 1966. During the civil-rights era, teens from Kaukauna and Rufus King high schools participated in a “life-swap” exchange program and performed the play In White America in their communities.

Joanne Williams, the film’s director and producer, called the experience successful and positive “because the kids who were the original exchange students 55 years ago said that it was something that stayed with them all this time,” she said. “It changed their lives.”

More than 50 years later, those original teens guided a new generation of student actors who reprised the play in recent times. Williams explained that a social-studies teacher at Kaukauna who wanted his students to have a broader view of the world spearheaded the months-long experiment.

“I want audiences of all ages to know that through art you can express things that you can’t express other ways, and you can have discussions about difficult subjects through art, which includes film and theater,” she said.

The second local film is an Emmy-award-winning documentary that explores the lasting impact of gun violence on victims. When Claude Got Shot follows Claude Motley after he was injured in Milwaukee while visiting for his high school reunion. As the husband and father deals with his recovery, catastrophic healthcare bills and an extensive legal burden, he learns his 15-year-old shooter was paralyzed committing a similar attempted carjacking.

“One of our taglines in our impact campaign is that gun violence doesn’t begin or end with the bullet,” Santana Coleman, co-producer & Impact Campaign Advisor of the film, explained. “Brad (Lichtenstein, director/producer) even said it in our Emmy speech: ‘We don’t fix gun violence by putting more police on the street. We don’t fix gun violence with more of a firm hand. We fix gun violence by giving everybody humility and grace and understanding.’”

The movie also takes viewers through the criminal-justice system, asking how – and if – cycles explored in the film can be broken. Coleman said her team also hopes it creates discussion, as well as a space for youth to get help and guidance.

“We want to open up a room for them to have those conversations about why they end up going to bad paths,” she said, “why they take their trauma and magnify it into gun violence – and not only teens, everyone.”

Lois Vossen, Executive Producer (WCGS/ITVS), Brad Lichtenstein, Claude Motley, Santana Coleman
Courtesy: Santana Coleman

Both women hope their films and accomplishments inspire others in Milwaukee to be creative and make the change they want in their communities. “People have to do things, not wait until you retire,” Williams said. “Do things now. Get to know people who you don’t know now, and learn about their lives and about their families.”

“We don’t have much here that caters to the development of filmmakers,” Coleman said. “But even with this Emmy win, I hope that it’s just another step in the stairs that leads to us being able to pour into the younger, emerging creatives.”

Courtesy: Santana Coleman

The 74th Creative Arts Emmys airs Saturday, Sept. 10 at 7 p.m. on FXX, and streams on HULU from Sept. 11-27.

The Cultures and Communities Festival runs Sept. 14-18 in virtual and in-person formats. Movies are shown at the Oriental Theater, including free screenings of the two documentaries:

  • The Exchange. In White America. Kaukauna & King 50 Years Later, Sept. 15 at 6 p.m.
  • When Claude Got Shot, Sept. 16 at 12:30 p.m.

Written by: Kim Shine

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Get your tickets now for just $10 in advance or $15 at the door and join us at 220 East Pittsburgh on May 10th.