Inevitably, we all invest some time in late December reflecting on the year that’s about to pass. For Milwaukee Film – and really for the arts in our community – one of the biggest things to happen this year was the premiere of Milwaukee-made “Give Me Liberty.”
At least a couple of thousand of you will remember attending that premiere weekend, when “Give Me Liberty” creators Alice Austen and Kirill Mikhanovsky brought the little-project-that-almost-didn’t-but-actually-could back home to Milwaukee, back to the place where they spent many years giving life to a film they called "our American dream."
And even more of you will remember the global accolades that preceded the film’s Milwaukee premiere – wowing audiences at Sundance and Cannes, and packing houses in Paris, St. Petersburg, and Moscow.
But after its amazing premiere weekend and a strong run at the Oriental Theatre, this film – much like the transport van in the story – still hasn’t stopped moving.
Here are nine of the biggest things that have happened for “Give Me Liberty” since the August premiere here in its hometown:
- Showed on hundreds of screens around the globe
New York, L.A., Detroit, London, Portland, Philadelphia, San Diego, Chicago, D.C., and sooooo many more locales showed off our city through Mikhanovsky’s lens.
- Made top-10 lists from two Hollywood Reporter critics
Both Jon Frosch and David Rooney put “Give Me Liberty” in their top 10, while Sheri Linden gave it an honorable mention. Frosch put the film at No. 2, sandwiched in between projects that had multi-million-dollar budgets. In fact, looking at Frosch’s top three, “Give Me Liberty” was made with about 3% of the total budget for the three films.
- Received four Independent Spirit Award nominations
Film Independent gave nominations to lead actor Chris Galust, supporting actress Lauren “Lolo” Spencer, and writer/director Kirill Mikhanovsky for best editing, and the whole project is up for the Cassavetes Award, given to the best featured produced under $500,000.
- Took home best international film honors in Macao
The International Film Festival and Awards Macau (IFFAM) recognized “Give Me Liberty” as best picture in its international film section. Holding the prestigious prize in front of a massive crowd, Mikhanovsky noted, “Us being here is an utter miracle.”
- Won best film at the Arctic Open film festival
Galust also was recognized for his acting debut at this festival, which takes place in Arkhangelsk – a city in far northern Russia.
- Chris and Lolo gave one of the 25 best performances of the year
Hollywood Reporter critics loved the film, but they also put the performances of acting novices Galust and Spencer in their top picks for performances among all actors in 2019. These newcomers are in the same list as Alfre Woodard and Brad Pitt.
- Screened three times during the Milwaukee Film Festival
We couldn’t help but bring this Milwaukee masterpiece back for our Festival! We even got to host Galust for a Q&A at a packed Rivoli Theatre.
- Listed by the Washington Post as one of the 10 best movies of 2019
And it received a beautiful quote from critic Ann Hornaday: “… it deserves pride of place now as one of the most revelatory cinematic experiences I’ve had all year.”
- Became part of a Christmas wish for a Screen International critic
Finn Halligan, reviews editor and chief film critic for Screen International, tweeted that what she wants for Christmas is “a Best Supporting Actress nomination for @itsLOLOlove [Spencer]” for her “tour de force” performance in “Give Me Liberty.” Santa/Oscars voters, are you listenin’?
Looks like this film is still pretty far from running out of gas.