Still from It Must Schwing!: The Blue Note Story

7 Milwaukee Film Festival Screenings for Music Lovers

The Milwaukee Film Festival (October 18-November 1) is back and it’s more focused on music than ever. Here are some films for music buffs to check out.

Read all of our Milwaukee Film Fest 2018 coverage here.


It Must Schwing!: The Blue Note Story

This documentary is a look at the legendary New York City jazz record label Blue Note, founded by two men who escaped Nazi Germany in 1939 and became pioneers in the industry, recording legends like Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Thelonious Monk.


  • Tuesday, Oct. 23 | 3 p.m. | Oriental Theater West
  • Sunday, Oct. 28 | 12:30 p.m. | Times Cinema
  • Wednesday, Oct. 31 | 4 p.m. | Fox-Bay Cinema Grill


Matangi / Maya / M.I.A.

A story of a Sri-Lankan-immigrant-turned-international-pop-star, this film focuses on the struggle, the success and the controversy that seems to always embody the London-based rapper M.I.A.


  • Friday, Oct. 19 | 6:30 p.m | Jan Serr Studio Cinema
  • Sunday, Oct. 21 | 4:30 p.m. | Oriental Theater East
  • Thursday, Nov. 1 | 5:45 p.m. | Oriental Theater East



A documentary on the influential and revolutionary live music television program Soul!, which aired during a turbulent time in American history (1968-1973) and provided a much-needed platform for up-and-coming black artists and big names like Stevie Wonder, Earth, Wind and Fire, Al Green, Gladys Knight and more.


  • Thursday, Oct. 25 | 4 p.m. | Oriental Theatre Main
  • Sunday, Oct. 28 | 9 p.m. | Avalon Theater
  • Wednesday, Oct. 31 | 6 p.m. | Jan Serr Studio Cinema



The no-rules, confrontational world of battle rap meets a white graduate student (Disney Channel alum Calum Worthy) who gets caught up in the competition after choosing to write his thesis on the subject. The film (which was produced by Eminem) is not for the easily offended as the lyrical tangents devolve into the most provocative subjects.


  • Wednesday, Oct. 24 | 9 p.m. | Oriental Theatre East
  • Wednesday, Oct. 31 | 9:30 p.m. | Oriental Theatre East


The Milwaukee Music Video Show

A yearly tradition, this screening is a collection of the best local music videos. This year features work from 13 different Milwaukee bands, including Amanda Huff, Von Alexander, Platinnum Boys and Calliope. The winner (voted on by a jury of WMSE DJ Erin Wolf, Cactus Club booker Kelsey Kauffman and R&B singer Lex Allen) earns a $5000 prize.


  • Tuesday, Oct. 30 | 9:30 p.m. | Oriental Theater Main


Ryuichi Sakamoto: Coda

A poignant deep-dive into the grand intellect and exceptional creative process of Japanese composer Ryuichi Sakamoto, who scored such epic films as 1987’s The Last Emperor and 2015’s The Revenant.


  • Monday, Oct. 22 | 9 p.m. | Avalon Theater
  • Tuesday, Oct. 30 | 3:30 p.m. | Avalon Theater
  • Thursday, Nov. 1 | 12:30 p.m. | Times Cinema


Stop Making Sense

A Milwaukee Film staple (and almost always the most enjoyable screening), the infamous Talking Heads music film brings festival-goers to their feet every year.


  • Saturday, Oct. 27 | 9 p.m. | Oriental Theater Main



Kevin is a freelance writer residing in Milwaukee. He’s contributed to The Shepherd Express, Third Coast Daily, Pop Matters and the sadly now-defunct A.V. Club Milwaukee. He looks forward to forging a deeper connection with the city’s impressive music scene during his gig as a Music Notes blogger. His talents include music criticism, riding a bicycle, drinking tasty beers and a crafty croquet swing. His weaknesses comprise Jean-Claude Van Damme movies, professional wrestling and his ever-growing record collection. He’s in desperate need to find more physical (and hard drive) space for the exceptional albums Milwaukee musicians keep churning out.