Co-Founder Donte McFadden Discusses Black Lens Program's Progress Since 2014

 Black Lens MKE Logo

Black Lens MKE Logo

Today, we have representation in all colors, ethnicities, races and genders that impact the overall view of the world. No one can tell our stories like us, better than people like us that’s why Donte McFadden along with others headed a revolutionary program in Milwaukee—Black Lens back in 2014.

McFadden is the co-founder and co-producer of Black Lens, where he’s been given a platform to give other Black directors, actors, actresses, etc. a platform of their own to show their work to a diverse crowd.

“We didn’t really know how difficult it would to be find a quality film,” McFadden said about the struggles he dealt with the first year of Black Lens programming, but nothing comes easy.

Black Lens is going on its fifth year soon and McFadden honestly didn’t the know the program would be going as far as it is. Black stories aren’t always attractive to the public, but McFadden knows and sees the need to have a space for Black film to thrive, especially in Milwaukee.

“If someone sees a film in our program that they really like,” McFadden said. “They’re curious to see other films in our program.”

For the second time, The Academy of Motion Pictures Art and Science awarded Black Lens a grant through Film Watch because Black Lens is a program that focuses on diversifying audiences. Film Watch grants “support curated screening programs at North America-based film festivals, film societies and other film-related organizations,” according to the Oscars’ website.

Robert Patla who works at HBO, and is responsible for finding new talent, got HBO to give $10,000 to fund Black Lens programming.

Black Lens is bridging the gap between Black films and reaching a bigger audience, and people are seeing the impact their making, so they’re helping Black Lens in anyway they can—to create an even bigger impact.

“I think we’re able to bring films that usually wouldn’t come to Milwaukee,” he said.” You get different stories, different types of Black experiences. It’s really important to understand there isn’t one black-fixed experienced.”

 Dewanda Wise visits University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. (Picture taken by Jake Hill for Milwaukee Film Festival)

Dewanda Wise visits University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. (Picture taken by Jake Hill for Milwaukee Film Festival)

Black Lens success is evident in this year’s programming. Netflix’s She’s Gotta Have It star Dewanda Wise came to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM) to discuss her role and other issues concerning Black women thanks to their recent funding. By bringing people with buzz can influence a community to come together and discuss, but most importantly listen.

According to McFadden, when Sundance Film Festival begins the Black Lens’ team begin to get an idea of what films and individuals to bring to Black Lens programming. Black Lens is a part of Milwaukee’s Film Festival which is an annual event held in Milwaukee during the fall.

Black Lens is not just about Black films, but what those films represent. Black Lens’ efforts are creating conversations with diverse crowds with a third of their crowd being Black.

McFadden asks himself ‘what kind of film would inspire great conversation?” and works from there.

“[Black Lens provides] spaces for conversations that haven’t always been available or accessible in Milwaukee,” said McFadden. “Getting the idea that when they engage with Black Lens they’re getting something they can’t get anywhere else,” is the goal.

To find out more about Black Lens visit their site at Milwaukee Film Festival.

 Black Lens MKE merchandise. (Picture taken by Jake Hill for Milwaukee Film Festival)

Black Lens MKE merchandise. (Picture taken by Jake Hill for Milwaukee Film Festival)

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