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Wrong Al Milgrom?

Al Milgrom

Stalwart Program Director


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Background Information

Employment History


University of Minnesota Film Society


Artistic Director - Emeritus

Film Society of Lincoln Center


Pulse of the Twin Cities


Festival Program Director
Minnesota Film Arts

U Film Society

University Film Society

Web References (62 Total References)

Al Milgrom, ... [cached]

Al Milgrom, MSPIFF's longtime Artistic Director

The blame for this was generally laid at the feet of the festival's artistic director, Al Milgrom. He can be a handful - when I was arts editor at the Minnesota Daily, Milgrom would regularly call me in his capacity as longtime head of the U Film Society. First he would demand that I review one of the movies they had playing, and, after the review came out, he would call back to berate me for not writing what he would have preferred I write.
But if Milgrom was the source of the festival's chaos, he was, and remains, the source of its considerable success, which is built on keen and expansive curating.

"It really is one of the ... [cached]

"It really is one of the strongest representations of films in the last 24 years," said Al Milgrom, M-SPIFF's stalwart program director.

Film / Video ยป Walker Film [cached]

Minneapolis, thanks largely to the M-SPIFF's Al Milgrom and crew, hasn't been nearly as parched as most U.S. cities when it comes to foreign-language film libation from beyond the West, but that doesn't mean All for Free et al. isn't a gift.

"I'd love to bask in nostalgia, ... [cached]

"I'd love to bask in nostalgia, but I don't have time," said the legendary Al Milgrom, M-SPIFF's artistic director and programmer for each of its 25 years, and the event's public and private face.

His 84 years of age are swept back in gray locks that bunch up behind the ears, and his corduroys and knit socks have seen better days.He's been spending the afternoon helping staffers find missing printouts about Scandinavian shorts and figuring out how to slot in a film for a Sunday and ship it off to the San Francisco Film Festival on Monday.
A City Pages article claimed as recently as mid-March that there was no opening film or established festival dates and that the size would be half of last year's 135 films.The Oak Street Theater might be sold to keep Minnesota Film Arts (MFA)--the organization running the event--solvent.But Al and the others have worked around the clock on a $20,000 budget and bent themselves into peculiar contortions to ensure a program of 108 screenings of 80 films over a 10-day swath beginning this Thursday, April 19.
Al is running the festival for no pay at all, surviving on Social Security checks."I'd hand the fest off tomorrow, if someone would be around to pick it up."
He doesn't deny that he's cantankerous and difficult to get along with--observations noted by the likes of former collaborators and rivals Randy Adamsick (former executive director of the Minnesota Film Board), Amy Borden (former program director at Oak Street Cinema) or Bob Cowgill (former director of Oak Street Cinema, who helped raise $40k last year to keep it open), to name a few.Al said he wouldn't write any memoirs because they'd be full of excuses or problems.
"All it proved was that the film fans in town had to drive 35 miles more to see a movie," Al says.He received a traffic violation on the way there and was jailed for an unpaid parking ticket.
Al laments this."Money was spent so uselessly that the bottom line was not one of the most profitable."
He complains that the "villainous Netflix phenomenon" steals away viewers whose ability to "read subtitles has declined."He complains the M-SPIFF has "become a chore to do because it's expected" and it's "a challenge to be a mentor to lots of new staff people each year."
Yet he keeps returning to lead the festival.He tosses out a lame explanation that he needs a job, but this year he's not even being paid.
"Al scoured the earth to find these films," says M-SPIFF's office manager and volunteer and print traffic coordinator, Jim Brunzell.
Al has spent two-and-a-half months this past year combing festivals all across the world for titles to bring back with him.

Pulse of the Twin Cities - Locally Grown Alternative Newspaper [cached]

"It really is one of the strongest representations of films in the last 24 years," said Al Milgrom, M-SPIFF's stalwart program director.

"They're barking up the wrong Oak Tree," Milgrom said of Cowgill's group.
Milgrom and the board claim the Oak Street isn't profitable and that its losses are responsible for the MFA's shortfall.
Additionally, Milgrom had heart bypass surgery in February.He has recovered well, but he is 83 years old.
Milgrom has traveled throughout the world to select films for this year's festival, as he's done every year.
"[This year's] titles are distillations from a lot of very close viewings at Toronto, Munich, Montreal, Seattle, Berlin," he said."Almost everything except Cannes, not that I'd want to go there."
Milgrom is a constant for an event and an organization that eke by on a budget less than half that of Portland's or Denver's comparably sized events.He says he needs more staff to raise more money, while others say his staff would be larger if he didn't have a "far-reaching reputation for abrasiveness," as one City Pages writer put it.Whether Milgrom is the Twin Cities' scholarly film conscience or an irritable old film curmudgeon, the MFA manages to present more than 400 titles that reach over 100,000 people per year through showings at the M-SPIFF and the year-round programs at the Bell and the Oak Street.
The M-SPIFF began life as the Rivertown Film Festival founded by the old U Film Society back in 1983.The festival's name changed to the M-SPIFF (actually MSPIFF, the hyphen appeared just last year) in 1996 to more readily identify itself with the Twin Cities.The U Film Society later merged with Oak Street Arts (operators of the Oak Street Cinema for 10 years) to form MFA in 2002.
Through it all, Milgrom has been the event's essential public persona and, really, the face of independent and art house cinema in the Twin Cities for over 40 years.He helped found the U Film Society in 1962 and was its (and later the MFA's) first and only director until 2005.This is the first year that he hasn't been the M-SPIFF's managing director.
Few can deny he is a Twin Cities film legend whose connections have earned the M-SPIFF an impressive reputation in the world film community.Milgrom has brought such luminaries as Jean-Luc Goddard and Pauline Kael to past festivals.
Mylan and Milgrom believe that programming is the key to attracting large audiences and that this year, it's second to none.
"Go to the festival," Milgrom entreated M-SPIFF fans.
The festival has a strong lineup of GBLT films this year, and at the top of Milgrom's and Mylan's list is the documentary "Camp Out."

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