The legendary Al Milgrom, known as the Godfather of the Twin Cities’ film scene, died peacefully, surrounded by his family, on December 20, 2020, at the age of 98.
Al founded what is today the MSP Film Society, in 1962, as the U Film Society. He became artistic director of the MSP International Film Festival in the mid-eighties. For more than 50 years he introduced countless Minnesotans of all stripes to the best (and most original) of international cinema, and to the concept of film as an important art form. He was an influencer long before that term became part of the standard lexicon.
Al’s impressive ability to recall details about films and filmmakers, from directors to actors to dates, shots, lines, and lengths, was enlightening and inspirational. Many local cinephiles can trace their love of film to Al’s relentless enthusiasm and tenacity to deliver remarkable film programming to this community. This not only during the annual MSPIFF, but throughout the year with screenings of hidden treasures he would discover from around the world. Al approached programming as an art form and with a driven artistic fervor, outdone only by his dedication to sharing these cinematic stories with his fellow Minnesotans.
After stepping away from ‘active duty’ at the Film Society in his mid-eighties, Al became an ardent attendee at our films, finally allowing himself to sit through those of which he approved from start to finish, always taking copious notes on his yellow legal pad. Inspired, and with extra time on his hands, he decided it was time to become a filmmaker. Referring to himself as the Oldest Emerging Filmmaker, he was always juggling new film projects. A few of them were completed including: Rediscovering John Berryman (2014), The Dinkytown Uprising (2015), and Singing in the Grain (2019). He was completing a documentary about his trip to Russia in the 1950s when he passed away.
Whether you knew Al as a colleague, student, teacher, friend, filmgoer, linguist, reader, theater-goer, cinephile, or other, you understood the extent of his passion and influence. With the endorsement of the Milgrom family and estate, we affirm our commitment to upholding the legacy of our founder and friend, Al Milgrom. Please direct questions about Al’s work or estate to: EstateOfAlMilgrom@gmail.com.
We want to hear your stories and reflections about Al. Read others’ memories and share your story here.
Please read these thoughtful and insightful articles as well:
Godfather of the Minnesota film scene, Al Milgrom dies at 98 — Star Tribune
University Film Society Director Al Milgrom, Remembered — MSP Magazine
Elegy for Al Milgrom, the Soul of Minnesota Cinema — Ira Brooker
photos of Al Milgrom: Click on each to open the gallery.