Each year the Milwaukee Film Festival (http://mkefilm.org) pays tribute to members of the film world who have made an impact on the industry. This year, one of the tributes is George Tillman Jr., director of "Notorious" (2009) and producer of the "Barbershop" movies. Saturday, Sept. 28, Tillman's newest feature film "The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete" was shown at The Oriental Theater at 7 p.m. as a way of honoring the successful Milwaukee-born director.
Milwaukee Film Artistic & Executive Director Jonathan Jackson introduced several guests before the screening including Potowotomi General Manager Mike Goodrich, who praised the filmmakers for creating a film that celebrates diversity, and Mayor Tom Barrett, who proclaimed that day, Sept. 28, to be George Tillman Jr. Day in Milwaukee. After the film, Jackson ran a Q & A with Tillman, writer Michael Starrbury (another Milwaukee native), actor Ethan Dizon, and actor Skylan Brooks.
"The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete" tells the story of 14-year-old Mister (Skylan Brooks) and 9-year-old Pete (Ethan Dizon), who are left to fend for themselves in Brooklyn after their drug-addled mothers abandoned them. Mister begrudgingly takes Pete under his wing and the two spend the summer begging for food, fending off neighborhood delinquents, and hiding from the police in order to avoid a negligent children's home.
People do what they have to do to survive out here.
This film is one that deals a lot in hardship and challenging topics such as drug addiction, child abuse, starvation, and neglect to name a few. All of these aspects of the film, while difficult to watch, are important elements to the story so as not to make it seem like another "Home Alone" and to focus on more insightful points on poverty and the often ignored economic state of some of the nation's largest cities. However, while there is a lot to take in terms of hardship and struggle, Starrbury remarkably manages to include bits of comedy, reminding the audience that they are following two young boys who can find ways to keep their spirits up in the most dire of circumstances.
"I cant do it alone." | "None of us can."
While the ability to introduce comedy into such a serious film is notable, the two young actors who play these resilient boys, Skylan and Ethan, are indisputably the most impressive parts of the film. The film is very well cast with Anthony Mackie ("Notorious", "Million Dollar Baby") playing a monstrous pimp and Jennifer Hudson ("American Idol", "Dream Girls") transformed into Mister's frigid, heroin-addicted, prostitute mother. But Skylan and Ethan produce the kind of emotion and commitment that even the most experienced of actors don't always emit. In a pre-screening interview, the two young actors said they got along immediately and became like family. They showed constant appreciation for Tillman, saying that the three of them were a team throughout filming and that any time one of the young actors wanted to do a scene again, the director would have it reset without hesitation. They also added how much they enjoyed working with Mackie, Hudson, and the rest of the cast, Ethan saying, "They were awesome. We learned a lot from them. They were so nice!" Skylan wholeheartedly agreed exclaiming, "Amazing!!"
While Skylan and Ethan said they had lots of fun working on the film together, they agreed that there were challenges that came with their roles. When asked what for the most difficult part about being in the film, Ethan said, "The emotional parts, when you get all worked up." Skylan added,
Most of the time I was able to snap out of it quickly, but in the motions of doing that, of trying to escape that, I still had to fight and struggle to get through that.
But overall, the two young actors used their friendship and sense of humor to snap out of their emotional scenes. Because the two actors, and characters, are so young, "The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete" can be extremely difficult to watch at times and is not the kind of movie where one might want to bring take their young children.
While it may seem cliché, "The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete" will make you laugh, cry, wince, and take you through the emotional spectrum. It's a film worth seeing for the acting alone, especially for the two outstanding young actors in the lead roles. Both Skylan and Ethan are doing work in comedy now, with Skylan appearing in "Oliver, Stoned" and Ethan working alongside Jason Bateman in "Bad Words" and Brian Cranston/Anna Kendrick in "Get a Job". Please see the attached video to hear the two young actors share what they hope audiences take from the film. Singer Alicia Keys was a big part of producing the film and along with Anthony Mackie and Jennifer Hudson are cast members Jeffrey Wright ("Casino Royale", "The Manchurian Candidate") , Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje ("Lost","The Bourne Identity"), and Jordin Sparks ("American Idol"). "The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete" will release in theaters on Oct. 11, and Tillman encourages his fellow Wisconsinites to support the film opening weekend at the Mayfair Mall theater.
For more information on "The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete" (and for trailer and clips), visit http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2113075/. For more information about The Milwaukee Film Festival, visit http://mkefilm.org.