Celebrate Black History Month at the movies with the Oriental Theatre
While progress has been made, as last year's UCLA Diversity Report and the most recent redux of #OscarsSoWhite have shown, Hollywood still has a ways to go when it comes to representation in front of and behind the camera.
So send the industry a message with your money – and, while you're at it, watch some really terrific films – by celebrating Black History Month at the movies with the Oriental Theatre, which, thorough Milwaukee Film's nationally recognized and Academy-granted Black Lens program, will host special showings and events putting black voices, stories and creators up front and on screen.
"Black history is still being written, and these films and events celebrate the ongoing influence our community has on culture and history," said Geraud Blanks, cultures and communities director at Milwaukee Film, in a release. "We're thrilled to have such a powerful and fun lineup to truly make this a celebration."
The festivities – eight in total, both on the big screen and off – will begin on Thursday, Feb. 6 with "Black Women: Both Sides of the Lens," a shorts film program featuring five bite-sized comedies, dramas and everything in between. Accompanying that screening two days later on Saturday, Feb. 8 is a "Black Women: Behind the Lens" discussion session, conversing with black women filmmakers both locally and nationally about filmmaking and the state of the industry at Nō Studios, 1037 W. McKinley Ave. at 2 p.m.
The event is free and open to the public, with filmmakers Emily Kuester ("Black Girl Training"), Princess Garrett ("Sankofa"), Cai Thomas ("360 Nation") and Simone Lyles ("Origin") all scheduled to attend.
Next on the Oriental's schedule is a perfect selection for both celebrating Black History Month and Valentine's Day: "Love and Basketball," writer-director Gina Prince-Blythewood's 200 Spike Lee-produced big-screen debut starring Omar Epps and Sanaa Lathan as childhood friends navigating life and love together, along with their passion for basketball. The special 20th anniversary screening will be presented in 35mm on Thursday, Feb. 13.
Following that classic on the big screen will be another return, this time a Best of Fest pick from the 2019 Milwaukee Film Festival: "The Remix: Hip Hop X Fashion," a documentary following several individuals behind the style of the stylish world of hip-hop – most notably Misa Hylton and April Walker, two women trying to further unite the intertwined universes of fashion and hip-hop. Walker is expected to be in attendance for the special screening on Thursday, Feb. 20.
Speaking of Milwaukee Film Festival returns, the Oriental Theatre's Black History Month celebration will also bring back the Black Lens Lounge – found on Feb. 13 and 20 at XO Cocktail Parlor, 326 E. Mason St., after those days' special screenings – for conversations and networking opportunities with fellow film fans, complete with food, drink and music.
The Oriental Theatre's Black History Month celebration comes to a close with a soulful combination of both movies and music, on screen and live. On Thursday, Feb. 27, the East Side movie palace will show the music doc "Devil's Pie: D'Angelo," following the R&B icon's recent return to the music stage after almost 15 years out of the spotlight. Then – because what better way to end a celebration than with a party – the Cooperage will host a special rendition of Groove Theory featuring the music of D'Angelo performed live by several of the city's hottest bands, curated by Tim Ricketts and The Band Bazaar, on Saturday, Feb. 29.
All of the special film screenings will start at 6:30 p.m. For more information on the Oriental's Black History Month plans and celebrations, visit Milwaukee Film's website.