In Movies & TV

A Spike Lee joint and Vel Phillips highlight the Oriental's Black History Month offerings. (PHOTO: WikiCommons/Voces de la Frontera)

Celebrate Black History Month with cinema at the Oriental Theatre

With its nationally lauded Black Lens program, Milwaukee Film has made bringing black voices, faces and experiences to the big screen a key part of its mission in recent years. So if you thought they wouldn't do something to celebrate Black History Month – especially with an entire theater all to themselves – well, you would be wrong. And also what an oddly specific, negative thing to think.

The film festivities will begin at 3 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 2 with a special screening of Spike Lee's 1990 follow-up to his iconic "Do the Right Thing," "Mo' Better Blues," starring Denzel Washington, Wesley Snipes and Lee himself. The jazz-infused drama makes a perfect appetizer to Black History Month and a month that should hopefully end with Lee finally winning his first Oscar. (He's currently considered a frontrunner for Best Adapted Screenplay, as well as a key contender for Best Director, with last year's "BlacKkKlansman.")

Black History Month at the Oriental will continue on Wednesday, Feb. 6 with a showing of the Milwaukee Film Festival selection "Mr. SOUL!", a documentary about television host Ellis Haizlip and his show's unsung place in pop culture as it brought in the great black poets, musicians, thinkers and more of its time. The 6:30 p.m. screening will be followed by a conversation featuring cast member and activist Felipe Luciano, as well as post-movie live music from Cigarette Break next door at Landmark Lanes. And as a boozy bonus, the first 50 attendees will receive a complimentary drink.

For a special Black History Month-themed Valentine's Day, the Oriental Theatre presents "Black Love Through a Black Lens," a collection of romance-themed short films, on Thursday, Feb. 14 at 6:30 p.m. The screening will be followed by a community discussion, moderated by Dasha Kelly Hamilton, at 8 p.m. at the Back Room at Colectivo on Prospect.

The theater's celebration comes to a fitting close by putting a local trailblazer on the big screen with the documentary "Vel Phillips: Dream Big Dreams," chronicling the powerful life and actions of the ground-breaking Milwaukee public servant. The screening will take place at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 18 – what would've been the late local civil rights activist's 96th birthday – complete with a community discussion hosted afterward centered on Vel Phillips' legacy and the many issues and topics she fought for and defended throughout her life.

For tickets to any of these screenings, check out the Oriental Theatre's website.


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