Give Me Liberty


"F***ing Siberia! F***ing Wisconsin!" It is hard being a 25-year-old medical van driver in Milwaukee. Over the course of one adrenaline-fueled day, Vic, our shambling hero, must find a way to balance the demands of a dozen hilariously kvetching, adamantly unassimilated, elderly Russian funeral guests (plus an accordion player) with his special-needs clients, some of whom come from the low-income, African American community. Give Me Liberty is a humane comedy that manages to never patronize any of its multiply marginalized subjects-people who are usually overlooked, both in society and on film-but instead to show the way that these characters survive within a rigged system. As much a portrait of a struggling city as of its residents (Milwaukee is the most heavily segregated urban area in the US, according to the Brookings Institution), this film offers a slangy, surprising, wildly funny representation of both Russian-Jewish immigrant and African American life in this corner of the Midwest. With a largely nonprofessional cast led by Chris Galust-a first-time actor who resembles a young Leonardo DiCaprio in both looks and talent-and Lauren "Lolo" Spencer as Tracy, a lovely, tough Black woman with ALS, who says, "The one good thing about repeating your mistakes is that you know when to cringe."  - Tien-Tien L. Jong

Kirill Mikhanovsky moved from Russia to the US, studied Linguistics and Anthropology at the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee and graduated from the New York University's film program. The director used to work as a driver for people with disabilities. He heard many affecting stories at that job-however, the director said the film was not autobiographical, although inspired by real life. Mikhanovsky decided to shoot in Milwaukee and shared his idea with Alice Austen. She supported it, and in 2015 the project was underway.

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