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Festival Program Director
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Al MilgromFestival Program DirectorAl Milgrom is the founder of the legendary U Film Society, and has spent the better part of five decades bringing cutting edge national and international cinema to the Twin Cities.He has directed the M-SPIFF for all of it's 23 years, and remains an active and impassioned advocate of International cinema.
Festival Program Director Al Milgrom is the founder of the legendary U Film Society, and has spent the better part of five decades bringing cutting edge national and international cinema to the Twin Cities. He has directed the M-SPIFF for all of it's 28 years, and remains an active and impassioned advocate of International cinema.
Al Milgrom, who founded the festival in 1983, is confident that the festival will remain strong regardless of the outcome of Oak Street. WHEN: Through May 2 TICKETS: Prices vary and can be purchased online or at the box office the day of the show, www.mspfilmfest.org 'By the time all the paper work has been done, the wrecking ball might not come for another six months,' Milgrom said. Milgrom heads Minnesota Film Arts, the nonprofit organization that runs the festival.MFA formed in 2002 when the University Film Society, also once headed by Milgrom but now defunct, joined with the Oak Street Cinema.Since then the relationship has been rocky, according to Milgrom.Much of the troubles were due to debt that MFA acquired when it purchased Oak Street Cinema. Even with shadows of doubt looming around MFA's future, Milgrom remains positive, and the outlook for this year's festival is impressive.Recent years have seen a steady decline in the number of films screened, from 140 in 2005 to just 80 last year.This year, MFA has worked to get the festival back on track.After reaching an agreement with St. Anthony Main Cinema, Milgrom acquired 135 films to fill the five screens at the theater. The schedule for this year's festival looks as if MFA is already distancing itself from Oak Street.The vast majority of films will be screened at St. Anthony Main, while only 11 films will screen at Oak Street. As usual, this year sees a wide variety of films, with special guests coming to the Twin Cities to talk about their work.Hip-Hop legend Chuck D will be in town for a short talk before the debut of his documentary, 'Welcome to the Terrordome.' Several directors and actors will also be on hand at the debuts of their films, including the director of a documentary partially filmed in Minnesota titled 'Witnesses to a Secret War.' The film focuses on a group of Hmong people's relation to the Vietnam War, with accounts of the poverty in refugee camps and the immigration to the Twin Cities after. Milgrom was excited about several films including a German Oscar submission titled, 'Edge of Heaven' and another Oscar contender from Poland called 'Cotton.' One more film to watch out for is the adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk's novel 'Choke.' The film of the same name won the Special Jury Prize at this year's Sundance Film Festival.
As you may know, [Russian director Alexander] Sokurov cancelled his press conference with a day's notice,due to ever-worsening health problems, it's been said,so, in combination with the fact that his film Alexandra has been reasonably well-received (I'm seeing it tomorrow), we shouldn't discount him as a contender, the scale tipped, perhaps, by what they call the "sympathy vote."You gotta love Al Milgrom, who helped launch MN Film Arts more than 40 year ago (as the U Film Society), and is now one of the last remaining staff: His wee-hours post on Monday at the new Save the Oak Street blog was about as impolitic as PR gets.Before inviting fans of the financially troubled Oak Street Cinema to volunteer for MN Film Arts (which runs the repertory movie house, and screens documentaries at the Bell), Milgrom berated the audience ("Where were you guys this weekend?"), old colleagues ("[MN Film Arts is] a very unhappy moniker...MN Film Arts's essential 16mm rarity series at the Bryant-Lake Bowl, Search and Rescue, is also confirmed for February 8. (Last month featured a great little educational film on how phonograph records are made.) Anyway, Milgrom says the Oak Street will stay open at least through April's Minneapolis-St.Paul International Film Festival.For more backstory, here's some commentary on Jamie Hook's dubious 2005 tribute to Milgrom, a 2001 profile of Milgrom before the merger between U Film Society and Oak Street, which created Minnesota Film Arts, and more on Cowgill's 2004 departure after the merger.
Al Milgrom's new film, The Dinkytown Uprising, looks at a 1970 social protest and its reverberations
A playful trailer for Al Milgrom's new film, The Dinkytown Uprising, begins with a dramatic trumpet fanfare from Mahler's Symphony No. 6 in A minor ("Tragische"). Al Milgrom: I've got some other things I want to get done. (Photo: Mordecai Specktor) Al Milgrom: I've got some other things I want to get done. (Photo: Mordecai Specktor) In 1970, Milgrom was a junior instructor in the university's humanities program. "I was teaching film history… I always wanted to get into film," he explained during an interview last week at the Jewish World offices. The original footage for The Dinkytown Uprising was shot on an Eclair 16mm movie camera. "I had it sitting on my basement shelf, until about 1990, and I thought, 'Well, gee, I better start doing something with this,'" said Milgrom, about the old Dinkytown footage, which features interviews with protest leaders and street-level scenes from the "uprising." More than 30 years after the actual events in Dinkytown, Milgrom started shaping his movie. "I started in 2003, I got a Jerome grant, which got me going," he recalled. Then the interview with the AJW veered into Milgrom's family history - his parents in the "Pale of Settlement," in Berditchev ("Rabbi Nachman country") and Ostropol, Ukraine, and the migration to Pine City, Minn. How did the family get to Pine City? "By Northern Pacific Railroad," Milgrom replied, and added, at some point, "It's the standard Midwest diaspora Jewish story." Milgrom said that he's "92 and a half." The film about the popular movement opposed to the construction of a Red Barn hamburger outlet in Dinkytown focuses on several rabble-rousers in 1970, and then interviews them more than 30 years later. The follow-up interviews took place between 2003 and 2014, according to Milgrom. In addition to The Dinkytown Uprising, Al Milgrom, who founded the University Film Society in 1962, directed Rediscovering John Berryman, which also will be shown at MSPIFF next month. The 27-minute documentary is about the life of the late renowned poet, who taught at the University of Minnesota. Milgrom was his teaching assistant for a time. The film - which features music by the band Okkervil River - had its premiere at the "John Berryman at 100" symposium, which took place last October at the U of M. "The newer generation… college kids rediscovered Berryman as sort of a cultural hero of the '60s… a tragic hero, in contradistinction to people like Dylan Thomas, Robert Lowell, even Sylvia Plath," remarked Milgrom. Berryman committed suicide by jumping off of the Washington Avenue Bridge, in 1972. "I've got some other things I want to get done," Milgrom commented toward the end of the interview. "I've shot a lot of film on Czech heritage; because I grew up with a lot of Czech kids in Pine City." Czech-American businessmen "helped my father during the Great Depression in a very good way," Milgrom explained. "I shot about 25 hours of a polka band in New Prague, the Eddie Shimota Band, and that's my next project." Finally, Milgrom just submitted a proposal to make a film about the Yiddish Vinkl, the group of Yiddish speakers that meets at the Sabes JCC in St. Louis Park.