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Milwaukee Filmmaker Guides Child Stars to Rave Reviews in 'Mister and Pete'

Film still

While known for its array of films, the Milwaukee Film Festival also pays tribute to people who have made significant contributions to film culture as a whole.

One of those being honored is Milwaukee native George Tillman, Jr.  Tillman has directed and produced numerous movies, including of “Soul Food,” “The Barbershop” series of films, and “Men of Honor."

Tillman will screen his newest film, “The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete,” which premiered earlier this year at the Sundance Film Festival.  The movie was written by another Milwaukee native, and tells the story of two young boys forced to fend for themselves one summer in Brooklyn.

The film is led by young actors Skylan Brooks (Mister) and Ethan Dizon (Pete), who have received rave reviews for their performances. But it's likely they have received the most praise from their director.

"These kids, even though they were 13 and 8 at the time, they understood and were passionate about the movie and put every ounce of energy and talent and guts into the movie that they had," Tillman says.

Calling his actors his "partners in crime," Tillman felt he could trust these relatively inexperienced actors with the story because of their unique perspective - as children.

Tillman says around the film's Brooklyn set, his young leads interacted with other kids "in the projects," who had been abandoned or whose parents were dealing with addiction or other problems.

"They were able to have these conversations with these kids, and somehow the kids are able to see the behavior, the human aspects, sometimes, because they don't judge, and they are able to really hone in on these behaviors and make the movie feel real," he says.

The film is making its Midwestern premiere at the festival on Saturday at the Oriental Theater, and Tillman will be giving a talkback.

You can watch the film's trailer below.

Bonnie North
Bonnie joined WUWM in March 2006 as the Arts Producer of the locally produced weekday magazine program Lake Effect.