MKE Film was founded in 2008 by Chris Abele, Jonathan Jackson, Bill Haberman, and Carmen Haberman (the latter two of the Herzfeld Foundation) with the goal of putting on a world-class film festival to rival the world’s largest. But the team also had a vision of strengthening the film industry in their humble Milwaukee, a city not known for its film culture but one that had long had a vibrant yet little-known film scene, including a small-but-mighty filmmaking industry, the now-defunct Milwaukee International Film Festival, UW-Milwaukee’s renowned film department, and slews of film buffs, fans, heads, and maniacs.
In 2009, the Milwaukee Film Festival had its inaugural run. That year, MKE Film screened more than 100 films at three venues. In 2017, more than 300 festival-quality films were screened across five Milwaukee venues. Festival attendance has increased every year since its inception; in 2017, attendance hovered around 84,000, and about 4,000 of those folks were our beloved MKE Film members.
In addition to the annual Milwaukee Film Festival, MKE Film organizes year-round educational and community programming, helps manage the Milwaukee Filmmaker Alliance, and operates the historic Oriental Theatre. We also produce a weekly film-related newsletter, host forums and other events, and indoctrinate local youths with the gospel of film and film studies.
In short, we’re a ragtag team of film lovers, scholars, and professionals who believe film and the filmgoing experience are powerful vehicles for social change and personal introspection. We seek to make our city, its communities, and the world better places by sharing cinematic experiences, instigating meaningful dialogues, and cultivating the local filmmaking economy.