See real poverty on screen

  • The Second Annual Reel Poverty Film Fest will be at the Annex tonight from 7 to 10 p.m.
  • The festival features four student-filmed videos dealing with issues of homelessness and poverty in Milwaukee.
  • There will also be performances from members of the homeless community, including a choir from a homeless shelter and a poetry reading from a man who is homeless.

Leading up to last year's inaugural Reel Poverty Film Festival, former Marquette student Kurt Raether spent about a month visiting different soup kitchens and filming the stories of the people he met.

Instead of presenting a documentary full of statistics, Raether said he "really wanted to get the stories of the people."

Raether, now a sophomore film major at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, won first place in last year's film festival for his depiction of hunger and homelessness.

Similar films will be center stage during tonight's Reel Poverty Film Festival at the Union Sports Annex from 7 to 10 p.m.

The free festival is part of Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, sponsored by Midnight Run.

The event will feature four student-filmed pieces ranging from five to 10 minutes long, said Mandi Davis, a junior in the College of Education who helped plan the festival.

The films are centered on homelessness and poverty in Milwaukee, but student filmmakers chose how to address the subject matter. So the films will not necessarily all be shot in the style of a straight documentary, said John Ross, one of the festival organizers and a sophomore in the College of Engineering.

"We're trying to make a connection with people through the videos," Ross said. "Once you see these stories, these problems become a lot more apparent."

There will be additional presentations between the films, including a performance by a choir from Repairers of the Breach, a shelter and homelessness outreach center, as well as poetry readings from a man who used to be homeless, Davis said.

The combination of student films and performances from members of Milwaukee's homeless community "gives people more of a complete view" of homelessness and poverty, Davis said.

The festival will also feature a display of photographs submitted as part of a contest sponsored by Hunger Clean-Up, said Megan Heinen, co-chair of the Hunger Clean-Up fundraising committee and sophomore in the College of Nursing.

The photographs will focus on issues of hunger, homelessness and other aspects of social justice.

Festival attendees will be asked to donate money to the photographs they believe to best portray the topics, Heinen said.

The winning photographs will be displayed on the Dorothy Day Social Justice Living Learning Community floors in Straz Tower next year, she said.

Unlike last year's festival, none of the films will be competing for a prize, Ross said.

Heinen attended last year's festival and said it was a very positive event.

"It's a very eye-opening and enriching experience," Heinen said. "The video entries were amazing depictions of life in Milwaukee."

Raether said he thought last year's festival was very successful, especially because it brought in members of Milwaukee's homeless community who both performed for and interacted with the audience.

"That was amazing," Raether said. "Someone should have done a documentary about the festival."