Singin' in the grain-
A Minnesota Czech story
The story of a village polka band and its city cousins, shot in a bread-basket corner of the nation, “Singin’ in the Grain” captures what it means to be Czech-American today and, by extension, defining American ethnic identity. The Eddie Shimota polka band its small-town world, tracked by camera for more than 40 years by documentarist Al Milgrom (“The Dinkytown Uprising”) meets a new immigrant combo specializing in gypsy rock.
From distant Moravia in the Czech Republic, it’s a far cry to Eddie’s world in Minnesota’s “Czech Triangle” – New Prague, Montgomery, Veseli and Lonsdale and St.Paul’s Sokol Hall. The yearly rituals of the old and the new generations – from symbolic food, music, dance, parades and language – defining and preserving who they are – becomes a passport for exploring America’s historic immigrant odysseys.
A doc feature in 16 mm color. Beyond a travelogue, this cultural journey visits the abodes of Tolstoy, Gogol, Chekhov, and Dostoyevsky and provides a unique filmic look at everyday life in the Soviet Union.
One of the first US cultural exchanges with Russia, this month-long trip with a small group of University of Minnesota students was a rare look at Soviet life during a brief era known as "The Thaw". Soon after, the Cold War brought the Iron Curtain down, separating people once again.
Originally edited in 1961, "Russian Journey" was shown with Al's live narration at Universities across the US. In 2019, the film is being re-edited, with new narrative, including a look at Russia today.
Al milgrom - director
Between jobs running the U Film Society (a number of hats) since its founding in 1962 and the Mpls/St.Paul Int’l Film Fest since 1983 (known then as “Rivertown Int’l”), Al Milgrom's filmography includes a first version of his debut doc feature “Russian Journey” (1959); “The Bramble Experience”(a short, 197l); “Rediscovering John Berryman” (a short, 2014); “The Dinkytown Uprising” (feature, 2016); and “Singin’ in the Grain” (feature, 2019). The 2019 “Russian Journey” will result in a remastered print and story.
Milgrom grew up in the small town of Pine City, Minnesota; the eldest son of emigrants fleeing the 1918-20 Bolshevik Revolution. He worked as newspaperman after graduation from the University of Minnesota from 1947, in over half a dozen U.S. cities, Australia and Germany, until 1962, when he became an instructor in Humanities and Film Studies at the University of Minnesota.