Wednesday, May 27, 2015

ARRAY TODAY - Twitter takeover

Today THIS event is happening
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Ava DuVernay offers a free education on how to buck Hollywood

Stacia L. Brown | The Washington Post
Ava DuVernay, director of the film “Selma,” in November. (Chris Pizzello/Invision via Associated Press)
Ava DuVernay, director of the Academy Award-nominated film “Selma,” spent all of this Wednesday amplifying the voices of black film directors — 42 of them, in fact. Through her company, the African-American Film Festival Releasing Movement, DuVernay and her staff organized a “Rebel-A-Thon” conversation on Twitter that served as both a fundraiser (AFFRM donors are referred to as Rebels) and a marathon question-and-answer session between directors and fans. All of the funds raised through AFFRM Rebel membership contributions help make independent black films available to wider audiences:

Wednesday’s Rebel-A-Thon was star-studded: Everyone from mainstream, veteran moguls such as Oprah, Tyler Perry and Debbie Allen to younger indie directors such as  Nailah Jefferson (“Vanishing Pearls”), Shaka King (“Newlyweeds”) and Tanya E. Hamilton (“Night Catches Us”) participated. A common theme among participating directors was the idea that upstart filmmakers should “just do it,” rather than waiting to be asked to make their art. When asked about resource texts for studying the filmmaking craft, “Medicine for Melancholy” director Barry Jenkins responded that he’d recommend actual shooting experience over textbooks:

Neema Barnette (“Woman Thou Art Loosed: On the 7th Day”) seconded that, encouraging aspiring directors to take the low-budget route and to use social media to their advantage:

Most fan and film student queries centered on getting one’s foot in the filmmaking door, financing film ideas and distributing their work once complete. Many came into the conversation seeking solutions to greenlighting challenges and strategies for navigating a relatively white Hollywood community. Their concerns were well-founded: The University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism’s widely circulated 2013 study on Hollywood diversity found that “Across 565 directors of the top-grossing films from 2007-2012, only 33 (5.8%) are Black. This translates into a ratio of over 16 non Black directors working to every 1 Black director. There are only 2 Black females who directed a film across the 500 movies in the sample.”

These numbers were a backdrop to Wednesday’s conversation, as participating directors didn’t waste much time reiterating them before offering suggestions on how to change those ratios. Debbie Allen suggested the Web as a viable alternative for new filmmakers:

Many new black directors have already gotten the memo on the viability of the black Web series, as our own Soraya McDonald reported in her profile of Web production company Black & Sexy TV, whose YouTube channel has attracted mainstream attention:
Now in its third year of existence on YouTube, Black & Sexy has grown from one or two shows that could maybe be something to a slate of programming that’s not only caught the eye of development executives at HBO, but an agent at United Talent Agency. . . . The partnership opens an entirely new set of possibilities for Black & Sexy, because they now have UTA’s knowledge and resources at their disposal, something that could help grow the network’s subscriber base from its current viewership of 79,000 to several times that, and eventually, to several million.
Aspiring directors weren’t the only ones receiving advice on how to get around a Hollywood system that frequently keeps them sidelined. Matthew A. Cherry (“The Last Fall”) told actors it’s become imperative for them to create their own talent showcases:

Using Twitter to remove the velvet rope that separates professionals and amateurs and dispensing craft, financing and marketing advice to aspiring black artists is the kind of tactic DuVernay is becoming known for. Once, events offering this sort of insight used to be exclusive, expensive and held primarily in Los Angeles and New York, the hubs of most American cinema activity. It’s clear that DuVernay and AFFRM believe film education should be available to everyone who wants it. It’s the Rebel way.

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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Girlhood - Review


Written & Directed by Céline Sciamma
Produced by Produced by Bénédicte Couvreur, Rémi Burah and Olivier Père

Cinematography by Crystel Fournier

• Karidja Touré
• Assa Sylla
• Lindsay Karamoh
• Mariétou Touré

Released: January 30, 2015 (USA)

Summary: A girl with few real prospects joins a gang, reinventing herself and gaining a sense of self confidence in the process. However, she soon finds that this new life does not necessarily make her any happier.

Review: I thought this film was an excellent examination of what happens in a girl’s life when she grows up disadvantaged and still has to find herself. This coming of age story happens in a Paris suburb, but I feel could have taken place anywhere. Marieme is just a girl who feels out of place in school and at home. She doesn’t know what she wants, but she knows it’s not anything she has. Like any good tale, her journey takes many paths, but it’s really one we haven’t seen on screen—from this perspective. The perspective of a teenage black woman.

Karidja Touré as Marieme does a really good job with the complex role that is constantly changing as her character Marieme changes. You grow to care about what happens to this young woman and her story by the end is truly one of independence. The film is also filled with strong characters especially Assa Sylla as “Lady”.

I have to mention the great cinematography of  Crystel Fournier in this film. Fournier achieved her best work with dark skinned actors in dark rooms and at night. That is a hard feat to achieve and she does it beautifully. 

This is what I wrote for the Maryland Film Festival
The writer/director of this film, Céline Sciamma, stated that her goal as a filmmaker is “to show faces and bodies that we never see on screen” and she has done just that with her wonderful third film Girlhood (Bande de filles). As writer Anupa Mistry stated “Finally, a film about black girls strengthening each other." As Mistry points out, the film has “probably the best four minutes of cinema I saw in 2014.” Without giving too much away, that scene is where you truly fall in love with the characters.

In the story, fed up with her abusive family situation, lack of school prospects and the “boys’ law” in the neighborhood, Marieme (Karidja Touré) starts a new life after meeting a group of three free-spirited girls. It is through her friendship with those girls that pretty much everything changes for Marieme, leading her on a turbulent path to find the love, freedom and independence she truly desires.

Girlhood (Bande de filles) premiered within the prestigious Directors' Fortnight section at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival, and went on to screen within the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival and Sundance 2015.

I saw this film through the 2015 Maryland Film Festival and it’s simply one of the best I’ve seen this year.

You can read more about the film on IMDb here

 You can see all of our posts about the Maryland Film Festival here

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

My 2014 Maryland Film Festival Experience

Just in time for the 2015 film festival I’m here to share my experience from last year. LOL

I usually write on the spot reviews and post a review of my favorite film of the festival about a month after the annual festival. Last year I did not. I was exhausted. Last year I was “doing the most”.

I started a lot of it before the festival began. Starting with the MINORITIES IN FILM panel at the festival.
Pictured Left to Right: Michelle Farrell, Kim Moir, Monique Walton, Nicki Mayo, Dankwa Brooks
Eric R. Cotten and Darius Clark Monroe
I conceptualized the idea for the panel and brought in my friend filmmaker/Producer Eric R. Cotten to help me co-ordinate it.

Our plan was to engage the audience about what it’s like to be a minority filmmaker and the challenges we face as far as budget, staffing and resources. We want to educate the audience on resources in the region as well as production options available in the area.

Everyone on the panel was minority filmmakers from Maryland and we had two visiting filmmakers who were gracious enough to sit on the panel. Monique Walton was a Producer on the 2014 Official Selection Skunk and Darius Clark Monroe was the director of 2014 Official Selection Evolution of a Criminal.

I also wrote an article for the indiewire blog Shadow & Act about the black films playing at the 2014 Maryland Film Festival. You can read that article here

I saw a lot of great films like the ones below. (Each film is linked to their IMDb page)
•    Evolution of a Criminal
•    The Hip Hop Fellow
•    All Fall Down (formerly Baltimore in Black and White)
•    Everybody Street
•    Fight Church

My favorite film of the 2014 festival was actually the first feature film I saw. You can read about that here

As you can see before and during the festival I was doing A LOT. I still saw a lot of films and met a lot great people. I still posted lots of pics from the 2014 festival on the ‘Nother Brother Entertainment Facebook page below.

Photos from and about the Maryland Film Festival May 7-11, 2014
Posted by 'Nother Brother Entertainment on Thursday, April 10, 2014

 You can see all of our posts about the Maryland Film Festival here

My Favorite Film at the 2014 Maryland Film Festival

My favorite film of the 2014 film festival was Freedom Summer. I saw many of the other films by the director Stanley Nelson. After I saw his film Freedom Riders at the 2010 Maryland Film Festival I sought out his other films. I thought the others were excellent and Freedom Summer was no different.

I saw ‘Summer’ in May of 2014 and just last month (April 2015) it won a prestigious Peabody Award.  "Reflecting excellence in quality, rather than popularity or commercial success, the Peabody is awarded to about 25–35 winners annually"

"With archival images, animation and fresh interviews, “Freedom Summer” recalls the voter-registration “freedom rides” of 1964, a campaign planned and trained for like a Civil Rights D-Day. The documentary is not only inspiring and instructive; it holds surprises even for those who believe they know this epochal American story."—Peabody Awards

I wasn’t surprised because I loved the film. It really detailed the civil rights struggle and all that were involved.

I never got a chance to review Freedom Summer, but here is an excerpt of an excellent one by CNN.

"The goal of Freedom Summer, though, was to do more than register black voters. It was to empower blacks as well. The volunteers established Freedom Schools where they taught black Mississippians about black history. They established an interracial delegation to the 1964 Democratic National Convention that made a daring, nationally publicized bid to unseat Mississippi's all-white delegation.

Some of the most powerful segments in the film, though, come during its smaller moments: A burly white sheriff viciously tries to snatch an American flag out of the hands of a small black boy leaving a courthouse; the boy bravely holds on while he's swung like a rag doll. A former beauty queen from Mississippi recounts how family members were driven from their homes simply for having dinner with Freedom Summer volunteers. A boy photographed being educated in a ramshackle Freedom School explains how that summer changed the arc of his life; he is now a poised college professor and author.  
One of the film's most riveting moments comes when volunteer Linda Wetmore Halpern tells a story that, until then, she had been too embarrassed to share.

Halpern was walking alone on a Mississippi road one day in her summer dress when a group of laughing white men drove up, surrounded her, and told her they hadn't killed a white girl yet.
The men grabbed her, tied a noose around her neck and tied the noose to the car. Then they started to drive, forcing her to keep up while calling her "nigger lover." As they sped up, Halpern says, she thought she was going to die.

The men then stopped, untied the noose from the car and laughed as they drove away. Halpern stood alone in the road petrified.
"I peed all over myself," she says, her voice shaking years later. "I just stood there and peed."

As you can read there were many wrought moments like these in the documentary. You can read the full CNN review here and you can watch the trailer below.