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Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2013

Honoring the Milwaukee International Film Festival

Mayor Barrett presents founders with a proclamation on its 10th anniversary

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Mayor Tom Barrett presented a proclamation to the Shepherd Express’ publisher/editor Louis Fortis and Arts and Entertainment editor David Luhrssen on the 10th anniversary of their founding the Milwaukee International Film Festival, which ran Nov. 6 through Nov. 16, 2003. 

At the Oct. 31 presentation at City Hall, the mayor remembered that at the time the festival was being organized, he had just left Congress after serving five terms in the House of Representatives and was a private citizen for the first time in almost 20 years.

“Louis came to me and explained his vision for a Milwaukee International Film Festival and how quality international cinema, through providing people with an understanding of the lives and cultures of others, can help break down the barriers of racism, hatred and various forms of discrimination, and I share Louis’ goals in creating the film festival,” Barrett said.

Barrett, who felt that a major international film festival was important for Milwaukee, became a serious volunteer. At that time Barrett was uncertain whether he would ever enter public life again, but cared deeply about the city where he was born and raised, and wanted to do whatever he could to break down the barriers that divide people. Unknown to anyone at that time, a year and half later, he would become Mayor Tom Barrett. Even after becoming mayor he continued to volunteer on behalf of the festival. 

“The festival was in November, which was later than we had wanted, because we didn’t want to interfere with the schedules of existing events—the Jewish Film Festival and the LGBT Film Festival,” Luhrssen said. 

Reaching 253,000 readers, the Shepherd Express put all of its resources behind the new festival and was able to grow the event into a major film festival in just five years.

Today the Milwaukee Film Festival continues to grow and has become an important celebration each fall in Milwaukee. 

Barrett continues to be a major supporter. “It is important for the city to support the entrepreneurs—those who create private businesses, but also the social entrepreneurs who create institutions like the Milwaukee International Film Festival,” Barrett said.  “So I am proud to present this proclamation and also proud of the fact that I was invited by Louis to participate in creating an important institution in Milwaukee.”

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