UWM alum’s film ‘Give Me Liberty’ garners nationwide acclaim

“Give Me Liberty,” the Milwaukee-made film by UWM grad Kirill Mikhanovsky, is racking up rave reviews and national acclaim.

The movie has been gaining media attention since its sold-out U.S. premiere at the Oriental Theatre on Aug. 22.

Directed by UWM graduate Mikhanovsky and co-written by Alice Austen, who has taught film classes at UWM, “Give Me Liberty” references Mikhanovsky’s experiences as a Russian immigrant in the city. The film features an authentic portrayal of daily life in Milwaukee’s ethnic and disabled communities.

Since the film’s debut, “Give Me Liberty,” which screened at the Sundance and Cannes film festivals, has scored an 92% “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes, a score calculated from the opinions film critics nationwide.

Here is a sampling of the reviews:

The New York Times praised the film as a “jolt of a movie,” and describes Mikhanovsky as “a virtuoso of chaos,” despite this only being his second feature film.

A report from NPR responded to the film’s chaotic energy: “If it’s not exactly an optimistic movie, it’s at least a tenacious one, and that, ultimately, is what makes it feel like an American dream.”

A film critic from Variety calls the movie a “boisterous and freewheeling joyride”: “‘Give Me Liberty’ catches us off guard with its sense of humor, which amplifies the sheer absurdity of certain situations while respecting the fundamental humanity of its characters—further reflected in the choice of casting actors with disabilities.”

The Hollywood Reporter credits the film for featuring local artists and musicians, which solidifies Milwaukee’s reputation as a hub for artists and filmmakers.

The review describes Mikhanovksy’s work as being a “very satisfying film about real people living real lives” as it embodies a “wonderfully anarchic dark comedy, which deftly welds its frenetically farcical structure to a humanistic portrait of marginalized communities thrown together.”

In a rapturous review, the Los Angeles Times calls the movie remarkable for its authenticity and “a full-blown farce on wheels, a master class in controlled, escalating chaos.”

After the film’s success at the Sundance Film Festival, IndieWire’s Eric Kohn called Mikhanovsky’s work “a breathless dark comedy that takes occasional tragic and bittersweet detours.”

Audiences have been similarly enthusiastic.

“Everywhere this film goes, people who see it seem to be absolutely floored by it,” said Karina Henderson, marketing director at Milwaukee Film, which operates the Oriental Theatre and runs the Milwaukee Film Festival. “Before it came to Milwaukee, it sold out theaters in France and Russia, and since it’s traveled to New York, L.A. and points in between. No matter who’s watching, they seem to connect with the power of this movie and the core messages it delivers… It’s amazing to see something Milwaukee made — especially something that Milwaukee Film has supported since pretty much day one — connect with people around the world.”

The movie has struck a chord in Milwaukee too.

“The film has had an incredible response from audiences at the Oriental Theatre,” Henderson said. “For all its chaos, the movie delivers a powerful message about kindness and dignity — and I think that is really hitting home with our audiences.”

“Give Me Liberty” is showing at the Oriental and at select Marcus Theatres in Wisconsin, and will be expanding to other markets across the nation, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Mikhanovsky graduated from UWM in 1998 with a triple major in linguistics, Russian and film.

To learn more about “Give Me Liberty,” visit the project website.

Top Stories