- One is tempted to summarize “The Blood Is at the
Doorstep,” scheduled for three screenings at the 2017
Milwaukee Film Festival, by calling it the story of
such a label would be only partially correct, the
documentary’s producer-director Erik Ljung (a Swedish
surname, pronounced “young”) suggested in a recent
interview. “We let everybody have their say,” the
Milwaukee resident explained.
includes the family of Hamilton, a schizophrenic 31-year
old African-American man shot to death by a Milwaukee
police officer in Red Arrow Park downtown in 2014, as
well as the Milwaukee Police Department and police union
officials. “Basically,” said Ljung, who served as
his documentary’s primary cinematographer in addition
to producing and directing it, “I let the people
directly involved kind of speak for themselves.”
the biggest challenges in making “The Blood,” Ljung
added, was “to get all the people involved to talk to
us. Obviously this was a very controversial issue here
director said he and his crew - pre-eminently associate
producer-cinematographer Dan Peters and film editor
Michael T. Vollmann - didn’t go into their
documentary-making with preconceived notions. “We were
watching the media reports early on,” Ljung recalled.
“We were interested in talking to (Hamilton’s)
family and getting their perspective on things” to
supplement that of the MPD.
scene from Erik Ljung’s “The Blood Is at the
net result is a 90-minute movie, Ljung’s first feature
documentary, which joined the film festival circuit in
March but was still being “tweaked” less than a
month before the first of its scheduled MFF screenings
in Ljung’s adopted hometown.
did Ljung expend three years of his time and “a ton of
my own money” to bring this saga of a violent death
and its aftermath to the big screen?
think it’s important for everybody to get offered an
inside perspective,” the filmmaker said, “rather
than a two-minute news clip online - a new perspective
on all sides, an in-depth, nuanced look.”
34-year-old Ljung was born in northern California
(“wine country”) and followed a Ph.D.-pursuing
girlfriend to Milwaukee nine years ago. The relationship
ended, but Ljung stayed (after all, the cost of living
is far more palatable here), doing web and graphic
design work for the Pabst and Riverside Theaters and
becoming a freelance producer and director of
photography, or DP. Ljung won a regional Emmy Award last
year as DP for public television’s “Wisconsin Foodie”
series. He’s produced short documentaries for The New
York Times, Wall Street Journal and other entities, and
served as cinematographer for “Almost Sunrise,” a
doc about military veterans with Milwaukee ties that was
prominently featured at last year’s MFF.
be quite honest, I wasn’t a cinephile growing up,”
Ljung recalled. Rather, he and his pals were
skateboarders - “terrible skateboarders,” but kids
who nonetheless made skateboarding videos. From there to
a graphic design degree to “The Blood Is at the
Doorstep,” with several stops in between.
happy with how (‘The Blood’) turned out,” Ljung
stated. “I think it’s gotten a good reception
wherever we’ve shown it (Maryland, Texas, New York). I
learned a lot from making this film ... a great
he isn’t “actively working on” a follow-up film at
the moment, Ljung is mulling ideas as he and “The
Blood” stride along the festival circuit. “I should
do a rom-com (romantic comedy) just to make things a
little bit lighter” in “The Blood’s” wake, the
is the operative word here. It is the documentary genre
- definitely the documentary genre - that admittedly
captured, and continues to hold, Erik Ljung’s fancy.
as the 2017 MFF’s “centerpiece film” (its premiere
occurs at the midpoint of the two-week festival), “The
Blood Is at the Doorstep” plays at 7 p.m. Oct. 6 and
11 a.m. Oct. 7 at the Landmark Oriental Theatre, 2230 N.
Farwell Ave., and at 8:45 p.m. Oct. 10 at the Times
Cinema, 5906 W. Vliet St. Filmmakers and subjects are
slated to attend the screenings and discussion sessions
will follow. The MFF runs today through Oct. 12 at five
Milwaukee County locations.