MKE Film’s Black History Month lineup, from ‘Boomerang’ to Beyoncé

For the sixth time, Milwaukee Film’s Black Lens program has put together a wide-ranging lineup of movies that will screen at the Oriental Theatre in conjunction with Black History Month.

The annual event will start in a big way Feb. 1 with an opening-night showing of Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé and continue for the next four weeks, treating audiences to eye-opening documentaries and much-loved classics alike. There will also be opportunities to do more than just watch, with a pair of talkbacks scheduled after the showings of Eddie Murphy’s 1992 comedy Boomerang and the 2022 horror Nanny.

“This film series is dedicated to the theme of reclamation — reclaiming ourselves, our stories, our genres and our vibrant futures,” Black Lens programmer Marquise Mays said in a release. “The purpose extends beyond mere acknowledgment; it’s about embedding ourselves firmly into the fabric of cinema.”

You can find the full rundown of films included in this year’s program below, along with links to buy tickets via the Milwaukee Film website.

Black History Month film lineup
Feb. 1: Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé

Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé accentuates the journey of Renaissance World tour — from its inception to the opening in Stockholm to the finale in Kansas City. It is about Beyoncé’s intention, hard work, involvement in every aspect of the production, her creative mind and purpose to create her legacy, and master her craft.

Received with extraordinary acclaim, Beyoncé’s Renaissance World tour created a sanctuary for freedom, and shared joy, for more than 2.7 million fans.

Feb. 3: The 50

The Offender Mentor Certificate Program—a first of its kind—takes its participants through a ‘parallel process’, one that helps participants develop professional skills and become counselors while also asking them to take an inward look at the pain they have both experienced and caused.

Following Cameron, Al, and Randy—all members of the program—The 50 mirrors this process, weaving the past and present with impressionistic re-enactments of each member’s past, present-day studies, and overarching explorations of how their stories challenge society’s expectations for them.

Character-driven storytelling and surreal visual metaphor move viewers to re-evaluate their perceptions and to seriously contend with their own cycles of hurt and healing.

Feb. 8: Boomerang w/post-screening discussion

In his 1992 classic, Eddie Murphy plays Marcus, a cocky ad executive with a reputation as a ladies’ man. However, he gets a taste of his own medicine when a merger finds him working under the beautiful Jacqueline (Robin Givens), who has a similarly cavalier attitude about romance. Marcus and Jacqueline become involved, but he is put off by her noncommittal approach to their relationship. Meanwhile, Marcus also begins to develop feelings for the pretty Angela (Halle Berry), who is more thoughtful than Jacqueline.

Feb. 10: Treasured Heirlooms (Black Lens Shorts program)

From the tingling sensation of the alcohol spray following a haircut to the quick-paced hand games of our youth that occupied us for hours, the essence of Blackness has continuously worked as a dynamic archive of rites of passage and traditions that hold a special place in defining who we are.

Treasured Heirlooms is a short film program delving into how Black folks globally are actively engaged in preserving, archiving and creating approaches to ensure the endurance of our cherished traditions. This reflective cinematic offering aims to encourage us to embrace our traditions intimately, connecting us with both our past and future selves. Featured shorts include:

Wild Magnolias directed by Alexandra Kern
More Than Hair, directed by Fitch Jean
Glitter Ain’t Gold, directed by Christian Nolan Jones and Dominick Cormier
Quilted Education, directed by Kayla Robinson
Over the Wall, directed by Krystal Tingle
Ampe: Lean Into the Sky, Black Girl, directed by Ife Oluwamuyide and Claudia Owusu
Feb. 15: Nanny w/post-screening discussion

Aisha, a young immigrant woman, ventures to New York City and secures a crucial job as a nanny to a wealthy Upper East Side family. Yet the fragile, unstable foundation upon which Aisha has built her new life threatens to implode when she must grapple with a powerful secret.

Feb. 17: Invisible Beauty

Fashion revolutionary Bethann Hardison looks back on her journey as a pioneering Black model, modeling agent, and activist, shining a light on an untold chapter in the fight for racial diversity.

From walking runway shows alongside Iman to discovering supermodels like Tyson Beckford and mentoring icons like Naomi Campbell, Hardison has been at the epicenter of major representational shifts in fashion. Catalyzing change requires continuous championing, and as the next generation takes the reins, Hardison reflects on her personal journey and the cost of being a pioneer.

In tandem with Frédéric Tcheng (Halston, Dior and I), Bethann Hardison and her co-director trace her impact on fashion from runway shows in New York and Paris in the ’70s to roundtables about lack of racial diversity in the early 2000s. Interviews with industry players speak to the state of fashion, while friends and family attest to Hardison’s rebellious and ambitious spirit. The film is an absorbing record of Hardison’s accomplishments and a rare contemplation on the life of a radical thinker.