If you grew up in Minneapolis with an interest in movies, you may have heard the name Al Milgrom. I have always heard the name Al Milgrom. It has a weird connection to movies, and it has always intrigued me. In John Pierson’s book about the indie film scene, Milgrom makes a noteworthy appearance. Early in the book Pierson describes being snubbed by Milgrom when he didn’t invite him to dinner with German director Wim Wenders. He wasn’t just irascible, he was rude. We profiled Milgrom lovingly on Split Screen 22 years later. No hard feelings. – John Pierso
The Coen brothers name checked Milgrom in their film Inside Llewyn Davis. This kind of recognition can lead to mythical status for some of us junior cinephiles. More important than any pop culture reference is how Milgrom changed the cultural landscape of Minneapolis and St. Paul starting in the ‘60s. Milgrom founded an institution, the University of Minnesota’s U Film Society, that regularly brought hard-to-see films from around the world and ran them at the Bell Museum in Minneapolis for all of us to see.
Milgrom fought with journalists when they gave one of his films a review he felt was unfair. He was a master of grassroots publicity, finding local émigré communities who would come see cinema from their homelands. Milgrom wrote most of the program notes for the Film Society and was notorious for the slides he hand-typed and projected before each feature.
After doing this for more than 20 years, Milgrom decided Minneapolis needed a film festival. He had been attending festivals all over the world and created the Rivertown Film Festival — later called the Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival. After running the festival and U Film Society for over 50 years, Milgrom parted ways with the University of Minnesota and embarked on a new career following his true passion – filmmaking.
Written by David Roth
Look for Al’s Cinema Resources here in the near future.