Structured as a visual love letter, 'The Heartland' explores the childhood experience for Black kids growing up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. From the moment when they lost their innocence to the outwardly expression that defined their voices, three Milwaukee natives recount the most vulnerable moments of their adolescent lives. Now all grown up, this film gives space to these young adults to reconcile the relationship with the place they call home.
Historically, Black kids in Milwaukee unfortunately became aware of the politics of themselves at very young ages. At every turn, they were made aware that folks and systems in this city just simply did not like or love them. Whether it be racial discrimination, lack of resources, being denied from spaces and even the terrifying fear of going missing, Black kids in this city have had to undergo a lot.
Despite this unrequited love, Black kids created their own spaces to grow, to foster identity and to freely express themselves. Whether it be through their vernacular usage of the phrase, "On What?!" or their preference to refer to Nike Air Force Ones as Dookies or even the animated expression of the dance style, twang, Black kids in Milwaukee forged an existence that the city could never deny.
This is why, this is their Milwaukee forever. The greatest goal of a Black kid in Milwaukee was to grow up enough to leave and to never look back. In this film, these young adults have chosen to stay and reflect and reconcile the unfortunate truths of a city that they love dearly.