'Black Lens' film festival goes virtual this year as it continues to spotlight Black voices, culture

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Black Lens is Milwaukee’s film festival that puts the spotlight on Black voices and culture.

It returns for Black History Month – but in a much different way.

Not only does Black Lens share the incredible work of Black filmmakers, the festival invites conversation and community.

It’s normally at the Oriental Theater, but going virtual means even more access for the public.

Black Lens is part of the nonprofit organization Milwaukee Film.

Geraud Blanks, director of cultures and communities, said more than 30 films will be shown during Black Lens this February.

That’s about five-times the number shared at last year’s festival.

“In person, you either see it at its designated date and time or you don’t. You miss it. Virtually, you have the entire month," explained Blanks.

He believes that Black History Month is a perfect time for this event.

“I know there are some people that feel like it’s the coldest, shortest month of the year. Who cares? It’s just an opportunity for us to celebrate Black culture, which is American culture," he said.

Junebug is a featured short film this month.

Midwest native Winter Dunn is its director.

“It’s exciting to see that other people are seeing themselves in the work, and they’re seeing themselves and their own stories," said Dunn.

Dunn said she’s grateful for festivals like Black Lens that honor the rich history of Black people.

“I think it’s really important, especially now that the industry is changing a bit, awareness is changing a bit, that we go full force," she added.

Because of the pandemic, festival organizers decided to go virtual.

Blanks said the move created an overwhelming public response – increasing membership and giving them a big boost on social media.

“I would say we’ve probably gained in the past few months hundreds and hundreds of new followers online, new subscribers to our YouTube page," said Blanks. "Like, most people didn’t know we had a YouTube page, but that’s where we store all of our events now.”

In addition to the film lineup, Black Lens is also hosting many virtual events that are free on the Milwaukee Film and Black Lens social media pages.

To find out more about Black Lens, click here.

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