Milwaukee Film's Minority Health Film Festival might be the most 2020 event ever — it's virtual and includes a drive-in.
More important, it brings needed focus to an issue that's only grown in importance in this year of the coronavirus pandemic: the health and well-being of racial, ethnic, sexual and gender minorities.
In its second year, the Minority Health Film Festival announced plans early in 2020 for a three-day festival in September, with movies, panels, Q&A's, programs and a resource fair.
But, like nearly every film festival this year, the Minority Health Film Festival had to shift gears because of the need to rein in the pandemic by limiting large gatherings. Instead of gathering people in the Oriental Theatre for three days, the festival put together a virtual lineup of 29 feature-length films and 21 shorts, all available online from Sept. 10 to 24.
"It is adapting to the times," said Geraud Blanks, Culture and Communities director for Milwaukee Film. “There’s a blessing and a curse in this. … The blessing is the virtual realm gives us the ability to reach people we wouldn’t normally reach. … The downside is we were really starting to build something with the Minority Health Film Festival. It’s that fellowship.”
Festival-"goers" will watch the movies via a platform called CineSend, an app used by Milwaukee Film for both the Minority Health Film Festival and the Milwaukee Film Festival, scheduled for Oct. 15-29.
Passes are available at mkefilm.org/mhff; they cost $24.99, or $19.99 for Milwaukee Film members. Tickets for individual movies showing in the festival will be available starting Sept. 10. They're super-inexpensive, by on-demand rental standards: $2.99 per movie, just 99 cents for Milwaukee Film members.
"That's the whole point of what we're doing, to get out the information and make it accessible," Blanks said.
The festival starts with a virtual keynote address from 9 to 11 a.m. Sept. 10 by Camara Jones, a physician and epidemiologist whose work focuses on the impact of racism on health. Registration for the online speech is at the festival's website.
Even though the film festival has gone virtual, it's not all online. On Sept. 10, the festival is holding an opening night drive-in and resource fair at the site of the Bradley Center, now a vacant lot at 1001 N. Phillips Ave.
The opening night drive-in will feature two separate screenings: at 5 p.m., the body-switch comedy "Little"; and at 9 p.m., the R-rated comedy "Good Boys." There'll be food available on site, delivered to patrons' cars. Tickets are $10 per vehicle per screening, available at the festival website.
“There’s still this hunger for people to be outside and see other people,” Blanks said.
The organizing principle for this year's festival, Blanks said, was asking, “What are the topics that people care about?”
A good example, he added, is "Sisters Rising," a documentary focusing on Native American survivors of sexual assault working to stop rape of indigenous women within the context of the legacy of violent colonization. In connection with the movie, there's a virtual talk-back scheduled for noon Sept. 11 with the film's co-producer, Jaida Grey Eagle; directors Willow O'Feral and James Brad Heck; and U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, the Wisconsin Democrat who also appears in the movie.