Sunday, October 18, 2015

A Coen Brothers Character and Minnesota Film Legend

In 1970, Al Milgrom was teaching film history at the University of Minnesota. Next weekend at the Flyway Film Festival in Pepin, Wisconsin, he will be in attendance for an October 23rd screening of his documentary about some events that occurred near campus that same year.

Some may know Milgrom as the Minneapolis St. Paul figure who inspired the Coen brothers to tag a character to him in 2013's Inside Llewyn Davis. Others may remember that he founded and ran, for decades, the Twin Cities area's International Film Festival. But few could have predicted that in 2015, at age 92-93, he would be traveling the festival circuit in support of his own debut documentary, premiering it at the aforementioned festival that he founded back in 1981.

Milgrom almost didn't make it to this twilight triumph. A few years ago, at the Berlin International Film Festival, he faced a serious medical emergency and was hospitalized there for several months. But he's healthy now, has a short as well as the documentary, which is called The Dinkytown Uprising and documents a 40-day local protest against the arrival of an outpost of the burger joint Red Barn.

Milgrom founded the University of Minnesota's Film Society in 1962. Fittingly, a man who got his start around that same time and is also still kicking, Bob Dylan, allowed Milgrom to use one of his songs, "Dear Landlord," in the Dinkytown documentary.

The Dinkytown protest was less about burgers and more about the Vietnam War, Cambodia and the Kent State uprising. In the end, Red Barn never did open the planned Dinkytown location.

Getting back to the Coen brothers shout-out, the character played by Adam Driver in the film is a cowboy singer who goes by the stage name of Al Cody. But at one point in the film, it is revealed that his real name is Al Milgrom. Here's how Milgrom reacted in December 2013 when the Star-Tribune informed him of the nod:

"I take it as a high compliment but it sort of surprises me," Milgrom said. "I wouldn't think I'd be involved in their universe. How do they remember all this stuff?"

[The Dinkytown Uprising]

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