‘Give Me Liberty’ celebrates Milwaukee; U.S. premier at Oriental Theater on Aug. 22

MILWAUKEE — Great cities have inspired dozens of memorable films.

New York has its “Manhattan,” Rome its “Roman Holiday.”

Playwright Alice Austen co-wrote “Give Me Liberty,” which is a “warm, fiercely independent comedy-drama,” according to Variety.

And now Milwaukee has its own cinematic love letter in the form of “Give Me Liberty.”

Directed and co-written by Milwaukee transplant and Russian Jewish immigrant Kirill Mikhanovsky, the film follows Vic, a hapless young Russian American as he drives a disability transport van through the streets of Milwaukee, encountering characters along his route, including a black woman with ALS, and even transporting a bus full of elderly Russians to a funeral.

Based on Mikhanovsky’s own experiences as a medical transport driver, and co-written by Milwaukee resident and renowned playwright Alice Austen, the often comedic, day-in-the-life drama isn’t so much a celebration of the city’s landmarks, industry or night life — you won’t see hipsters at play in the Third Ward – but the humanity of its people, many of them disenfranchised. As Vic’s van winds its way through the city on a cold winter’s day the film becomes a heartwarming snapshot of how a city can bring people from disparate groups together.

How to Go
What: “Give Me Liberty” U.S. premiere
Where: The Oriental Theatre
When: 7 p.m. Aug. 22
Tickets: Tickets can be purchased online at MkeFilm.org.

Among the non-professional actors who make up the cast are the members of the Theater Freylekhs, a Milwaukee-based Russian choir, and the Society of Soviet Jews of Milwaukee.

Director and co-writer Kirill Mikhanovsky, a Milwaukee transplant and Russian Jewish immigrant.

The movie received rave reviews at both Sundance and Cannes film festivals and is slated to have its U.S. premiere at the Oriental Theater on Aug. 22. The Hollywood Reporter calls “Give Me Liberty” a “wonderfully anarchic dark comedy” and a “very satisfying film about real people living real lives.”

As for how the movie got its title, Austen said she and Mikhanovsky were working on the script in a local cafe when a man walked into the eatery wearing a t-shirt with a picture of a blindfolded Statue of Liberty that read: “Give me Liberty.”

Although the filmmakers received no tax incentives for shooting in the city and found no one here who wanted to finance the movie, they were still determined to make a film about Milwaukee in Milwaukee, Austen said.

“(When we saw that) we knew we had found our title,” Austen said.

For more information on the film, and how to purchase tickets, visit: MkeFilm.org.