News Column

Actor Hill Harper stresses value of indie films at Cinetopia screening

June 7, 2014

By Julie Hinds, Detroit Free Press



June 07--Actor, author and activist Hill Harper says events like the Cinetopia International Film Festival, under way this weekend in Detroit and Ann Arbor, are crucial for independent movies -- "the area," he says, "where the most innovative, unique stories are being told."

Harper spoke to the Free Press a few hours before appearing at tonight's screening of "1982" at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit.

In the searing drama, written and directed by Tommy Oliver, he plays a father in 1980s Philadelphia who's raising his young daughter (newcomer Troi Zee) while dealing with his wife's addiction to crack cocaine. The cast also includes Wayne Brady and Ruby Dee.

Although the screenplay was embellished in places, the film's story is inspired by Oliver's youth, and the movie was shot partially at his childhood home.

"1982" has won enthusiastic receptions at festivals in Toronto and Austin, but Harper, who played Dr. Sheldon Hawkes on the CBS police procedural "CSI: NY," says it needs the support of fans at screenings and through social media to reach movie theaters. In a Hollywood dominated by niche genres like superheroes, science fiction and comedy, a work like "1982" faces difficulty finding distribution.

"It's about an African-American family. It's a period piece. And Kevin Hart isn't in it or Tyler Perry isn't in it, so it doesn't fit a niche," Harper said.

The film helped kick off Cinetopia on Thursday night at Ann Arbor'sMichigan Theater. Oliver was at that screening, while Harper, whose production schedule kept him away, provided a taped greeting.

This evening, Harper got a standing ovation at the Detroit screening and participated in a question-and-answer session. While discussing the problem of distribution, he shared phone numbers for the Weinstein Company, which has supported many award-winning indie films.

"If on Monday opening of business, each person here calls Harvey Weinstein ... if he gets 150 or 200 calls about a film called '1982,' they will take notice," he said.

Cinetopia continues through Sunday. For more information, go to cinetopiafestival.org.

Contact Julie Hinds: 313-222-6427 or jhinds@freepress.com.

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(c)2014 the Detroit Free Press

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Source: Detroit Free Press (MI)


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