We’ll be in the Uniquely Milwaukee feed soon to talk about what we saw at this year’s festival, but we wanted to do things a bit different this time and include you in the experience. That’s why we’re sharing our must-see lists right now so you can watch alongside us.
After his wife Randi survives breast cancer and a mastectomy, Brian Johnson, a serial entrepreneur and tinkerer, embarks on an extraordinary journey to help her feel complete. From a bedroom in Eau Claire, WI, director Justin “Justinsuperstar” Johnson’s parents pursue the perfect prosthetic nipple, transforming what began as an intimate labor of love into a “factory” with the power to change thousands of survivors’ lives in this fascinating tale of resilience, dignity, and family.
Love her or hate her, almost everyone has a Barbie story, especially Black women and girls. Black Barbie explores the story behind the first Black Barbie doll because she has a story too. Through intimate access to a charismatic Mattel insider, Beulah Mae Mitchell, Black Barbie delves into the cross-section of merchandise and representation as Black women struggle to elevate their voices and stories, refusing to be invisible.
Rise and Rebuild: A Tale of Three Cities Saturday, April 29 | 12:15 p.m. | Avalon Theater Wednesday, May 3 | 3:45 p.m. | Times Cinema
Three distinct neighborhoods — Wilmington’s Brooklyn, Atlanta’s Sweet Auburn, and Chicago’s Bronzeville — have all met the same demise: the utter destruction of Black wealth. Massacres, race riots, and government policies sabotaged these once-prosperous communities of Black families and professionals. Directed by Emmy Award-winning Asako Gladsjo and Academy Award Nominee Sam Pollard, Rise and Rebuild: A Tale of Three Cities confronts the historical destruction of Black wealth in communities and devises strategies for building a more equitable future.
Kokomo City Sunday, April 30 | 7 p.m. | Oriental Theatre: Herzfeld Cinema Monday, May 1 | 9:15 p.m. | Times Cinema
Shot in striking black and white, four Black transgender sex workers present the earthquaking stories of their lives. Sharing reflections on knotty desire, far-reaching taboo, identification in labor, and gender’s many meanings, Kokomo City offers an unapologetic and cutting analysis of Black culture and society from a vantage point vibrating with energy, sex, challenge, and hard-earned wisdom.
As the #1 American music act of the 1970s, the Carpenters were on “Top of the World,” producing a string of pop masterpieces. Behind closed doors, Karen Carpenter’s quest for perfection resulted in low self-esteem and a public battle with anorexia nervosa, leading to her untimely death at 32. For the first time, hear Karen’s struggles in her own voice through never-before-released recordings and through the voices of those who knew her.
We’re down on our knees and want to take you to the dance party of MFF2023! This documentary chronicles Madonna’s controversial 1990 “Blonde Ambition” tour and reveals her as she is, on stage and off — a businesswoman, singer, dancer, and the biggest star in the music world. Experience Madonna through her relationship with her dancers, crew, then-boyfriend Warren Beatty, friends, and family in this intimate glimpse into the boundary-pushing singer’s drive and individuality.
The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster Friday, April 21 | 10 p.m. | Oriental Theatre: Lubar Cinema Sunday, Apr 23 | 8 p.m. | Times Cinema
The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster follows anti-hero Vicaria, a brilliant teenager who believes death is a disease that can be cured. After the brutal murder of her brother, she embarks on a dangerous journey to bring him back to life. Inspired by Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the film’s writer and director, Bomani J. Story, crafts a thrilling tale about a family that will survive and is reborn again despite the terrors of systemic pressure.
Black Lens Shorts: Black Remembrance Tuesday, April 25 | 7 p.m. | Times Cinema
A collection of short films that explores, interrogates and engages how cinema can be used as an active archival tool to process grief and loss. Join us as we discover what honor could look like on the silver screen.
Homegrown: Future Visions (especially for MKE-based film: Black Strings by Marquise Mays) Saturday, April 22 | 6:30 PM | Oriental Theatre: Abele Cinema
A collection of short documentaries produced by Firelight Media in partnership with PBS and the Center for Asian American Media, highlighting filmmakers of color from the American Midwest and narratives that illuminate the living histories, cultures, and prospective futures of the region.
An immersive documentary and profound sensory experience that explores the elemental phenomenon of sound. Full to bursting with humor, emotion and curiosity, this film is a uniquely mind-expanding plunge into a dimension of the human experience many of us take for granted. This meditation on the power of sound to bend time, cross borders, and profoundly shape our perception will have you hearing the world in a different light.
A middle-aged, Korean-drama-obsessed widow from Singapore travels out of the country for the first time to Seoul and gets separated from her tour group. Her comedic misadventure becomes an unexpected road of self-discovery as she comes to terms with the life she truly wants for herself beyond her roles of daughter, wife, and mother. Ajoomma is sure to leave your heart warmed and your spirit empowered.
Finding Satoshi Wednesday, April 26 | 9:30 p.m. | Avalon Theater Tuesday, May 2 | 4:30 p.m. | Avalon Theater
With only a photograph and a name, a group of passionate armchair sleuths tried unsuccessfully for years to answer the question, “Who is this man?” Narrated by Willem Dafoe, this exuberant documentary that finally solves the 14-year mystery of an alternate-reality game that brought together players from around the globe in unlikely ways to find this mystery man.
I Like Movies(also on Kim’s list!) Friday, April 21 | 6:30 p.m. | Oriental Theatre: Abele Cinema Tuesday, May 2 | 9:30 p.m. | Oriental Theatre: Lubar Cinema
Burlington, Ontario, 2003. Hyper-ambitious teenage cinephile Lawrence Kweller dreams of attending film school at NYU. To raise the hefty tuition fee, he gets his dream job at the local video store, Sequels. “Imagine if Superbad were directed by a woman who didn’t allow the toxic masculinity and misogyny to go unchecked while giving her genuinely funny and moving characters the room for growth and empathy. I Like Movies does that.”
Following a long spell of unemployment, a timid Haider lands a job at a Bollywood-style burlesque. Telling his family he is a “theater manager,” Haider is coming into his own as a backup dancer — costume and all! As he acclimates to the job, Haider becomes infatuated with Biba, an unflappable trans woman who runs the show. This unforeseen partnership opens his eyes and worldview in unexpected and intimate ways.
Love & Irony Tuesday, April 25 | 4 p.m. | Times Cinema Wednesday, May 3 | 9 p.m. | Oriental Theatre: Herzfeld Cinema
The search for an authentic life leads an existential bike mechanic to discover the universal truths and transformative powers of love. With stunning black and white cinematography and cameos from all your favorite Milwaukee businesses, Love & Irony is a romantic comedy that is just as much a love letter to the Cream City itself.
Set in the 1990s and shot on 16mm film, Riceboy Sleeps is a raw and radiant mini-epic about a Korean mother and her teenage son living in suburban Canada. Both emblematic and unique to themselves, their story reflects the sacrifices and challenges immigrants face while creating new homes yet maintaining complicated ties to their ancestral ones. With a stunning score and sublime lighting, this is a deeply moving journey across lives and continents.
Róise & Frank Saturday, April 22 | 12:15 p.m. | Oriental Theatre: Abele Cinema Monday, April 24 | 1 p.m. | Oriental Theatre: Herzfeld Cinema
Róise & Frank follows grief-stricken widow Róise who becomes convinced that a stray dog is her husband Frank reincarnated. As Róise begins to open herself up to the outside world and regain her lost happiness, she allows her canine companion to coach the local children’s Hurling team. Winner of the Audience Awards at the Santa Barbara and Sedona International Film Festivals, Róise & Frank is guaranteed to put a smile on your face.
The Blue Caftan Friday, April 21 | 3:30 p.m. | Oriental Theatre: Lubar Cinema Tuesday, April 25 | 1 p.m. | Times Cinema
In this luscious romantic drama, Halim and Mina run a traditional caftan store in one of Morocco’s oldest medinas. They hire Youssef to keep up with the demands of their commanding customers. After catching longing glances, Mina realizes how much the young man’s presence moves her husband. A tender tribute to love and all of its complications, The Blue Caftan is one of the year’s most decadent dramas.
Therapy Dogs Friday, April 28 | 7 p.m. | Avalon Theater Sunday, April 30 | 1:15 p.m. | Times Cinema
Ethan and his best friend Justin are having an existential moment as they enter the final phase of high school, on the precipice of adulthood and the great unknown. In search of meaning, they embark on making the ultimate senior video. Lauded as “bracing, exhilarating” by The New York Times, Therapy Dogs is a youthful, insightful, exuberant display of the last blinding flashes of youth.
Elizabeth Eden Harris, known professionally as Cupcakke, is an American rapper from Chicago, Illinois. She is known for her hypersexualised, brazen, and often comical persona
Elizabeth Eden Harris, known professionally as Cupcakke, is an American rapper from Chicago, Illinois. She is known for her hypersexualised, brazen, and often comical persona and music although she has also made songs with themes supporting LGBTQ rights, female empowerment, and autism awareness.
Acclaimed GRAMMY-winning multi-instrumentalist, singer, and songwriter Meshell Ndegeocello makes her Blue Note Records debut with the June 16 release of The Omnichord Real Book, a visionary
Acclaimed GRAMMY-winning multi-instrumentalist, singer, and songwriter Meshell Ndegeocello makes her Blue Note Records debut with the June 16 release of The Omnichord Real Book, a visionary and deeply jazz-influenced album that marks the start of a new chapter in her trailblazing career. Following her 2018 covers album Ventriloquism, Meshell returns with an album of new original material that taps into a broad spectrum of her musical roots. The Omnichord Real Book was produced by Josh Johnson and features a wide range of guest artists including Jason Moran, Ambrose Akinmusire, Joel Ross, Jeff Parker, Brandee Younger, Julius Rodriguez, Mark Guiliana, Cory Henry, Joan As Police Woman, Thandiswa, and others.
The Omnichord Real Book is introduced today by the expansive lead single “Virgo,” the mind-altering 8-minute centerpiece of the album which features Meshell on vocals, key bass, and keyboards, Younger on harp, Rodriguez on Farfisa organ, Chris Bruce on guitar, Jebin Bruni on keyboards, drums by Abe Rounds, Deantoni Parks, and Andrya Ambro, and additional vocals by Kenita Miller and Marsha DeBoe. The Omnichord Real Book is available for pre-order now on Blue Note Store exclusive color vinyl, black vinyl, CD, and digital.
“It’s a little bit of all of me, my travels, my life,” says Meshell. “My first record I made at 22, and it’s over 30 years from then, so I have a lot of stored information to share.” Reflecting on the impact that the forced stillness of the pandemic lockdown had on her, she says “I must admit it was a beautiful time for me. I got to really sit and reacquaint myself with music. Music is a gift.”
“This album is about the way we see old things in new ways,” Meshell explains. “Everything moved so quickly when my parents died. Changed my view of everything and myself in the blink of an eye. As I sifted through the remains of their life together, I found my first Real Book, the one my father gave me. I took their records, the ones I grew up hearing, learning, remembering. My mother gifted me with her ache, I carry the melancholy that defined her experience and, in turn, my experience of this thing called life calls me to disappear into my imagination and to hear the music.”
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