News Column

Black Film Festival highlight diverse films, filmmakers

August 17, 2014

By Teri Greene, Montgomery Advertiser, Ala.

Aug. 17--What started in 2002 as a one-night-only screening of a single film has become a daylong event that draws hundreds of audience members. The mission: Get people talking about significant issues as they exit through the theater lobby, and have those conversations continue into the streets and beyond.

The annual Black Film Festival, from 9 a.m. until about 11:30 p.m. Saturday at the Capri Theatre, will present free screenings of first-run and award-winning features, inspiring documentaries and locally and regionally produced short films, as well as writer/director Q&A sessions. The festival is presented by the ASU National Center for the Study of Civil Rights and African-American Culture.

Founder and director Joseph Trimble said for the festival's 12th year, the centerpiece is "12 Years A Slave," last year's Academy Award winner for Best Picture. But that film's two screenings will be surrounded by titles both known and obscure, old and new, long and short. They may be set centuries or miles apart from one another, might be documentaries or features or shorts -- but there is a timely thread that runs through nearly all of them, Trimble said.

Before the screenings at the Capri, the festival kicks off at 6 p.m. Friday at ASU's Hardy Student Center with a screening of "The Marines of Montford Point: Fighting for Freedom," followed by a discussion with the director, Melton McLaurin, and retired Lt. Col. Clarence Willie, who was part of the group of Marines on which the film centers. The two also will be on hand for a discussion at 2:15 p.m. Saturday, before the movie's second screening.

"Not many people know about the Marines of Montford Point," Trimble said. "They were black Marines that weren't allowed to train with white Marines. At Camp Johnson, 20,000 blacks trained there, in separate quarters. The stories of the Tuskegee Airmen and the Buffalo Soldiers are often told. This is the Marines' story. It tells of the struggles they went through."

Those stories tie in with contemporary struggles, he said. The link is evident in the documentary "Hoodwinked," which will screen at 4:15 p.m. Saturday at the Capri, followed by a discussion with writer/director Janks Morton. Morton, a statistician, explores the way current data about black men, and the black population in general, is used by the media to sway the public's perception.

The day of the festival always opens with a classic, and this year, it's "Killer of Sheep," a film by Charles Burnett.

"That is arguably the best black film ever made," Trimble said. "It was ahead of its time. It's talking, again, about the black male's struggle. A man lives in Los Angeles and works a harsh job, where he kills sheep in a factory. Then, he faces racism out in the world at the same time. That ties into the statistics that are in 'Hoodwinked.' " He said it also ties into the theme of brutal slavery depicted in "12 Years a Slave," which will screen at 10:30 a.m. and 9 p.m. Saturday.

There is lighter fare that still has a significant story to tell, including "20 Feet from Stardom," the 2014 Best Documentary Oscar winner about the black back-up singers for famous artists such as Bruce Springsteen, Mick Jagger, Sting and more. It screens at 7:15 p.m. Saturday.

"Sisters of Selma," an independent, Alabama-produced short, focuses on the efforts of a group of black nuns from Missouri who were deeply involved in the civil rights movement in this state.

More than 14 hours of nonstop film and discussion is a lot for most folks, and Trimble realizes that.

"Most people come in and see one film and then come back later," he said, noting one exception -- a lady named Miss Ellis, "who has seen every film for every festival."

The audience is always diverse, and what plays at the next year's festival rests largely on viewers' shoulders.

"We do a survey every year, and people nearly always say, 'I didn't know about this film. Thank you for bringing this topic up.' It makes them think. That's the vision of the film festival, to make these films accessible to people and open up discussion."

WANT TO GO?

WHAT: The 12th annual Black Film Festival, presented by ASU's National Center for the Study of Civil Rights and African-American Culture

WHEN: 9 a.m. to about 11 p.m. Saturday Aug. 23--

WHERE: The Capri Theatre, 1045 E. Fairview Ave.

ADMISSION: Free

INFORMATION: Call 229-4824 or 229-4106.

NOTE: --The film festival kick-off will be a discussion/screening of "The Marines of Montford Point: Fighting for Freedom" at 6 p.m. Friday at the Hardy Student Center on the ASU campus. Admission is free and the public is invited.

12th Annual Black Film Festival schedule

--6 p.m. Friday at the Hardy Student Center on the ASU campus: "The Marines of Montford Point: Fighting for Freedom," followed by a discussion with the film's writer/director Melton McLaurin and retired Lt. Col. Clarence Willie. Admission is free.

Saturday at the Capri Theatre

--9-10:30 a.m.: "Killer of Sheep" (1979, not rated) Writer/director Charles Burnett's examination of the black Los Angeles ghetto of Watts in the 1970s through the eyes of Stan, a sensitive dreamer who grows detached and numb from the psychic toll of working at a slaughterhouse.

10:30 a.m.-1 p.m.: "12 Years A Slave" (2013, rated R) The winner of three 2014 Oscars, including Best Picture, tells the story of Solomon Northup, a free black man in 1840s America who is shanghaied by a pair of nefarious white men and finds himself on a ship to New Orleans, where he is sold into slavery. He bides his time, waiting for the chance to reclaim his rightful name and his family.

--1-2:45 p.m.: "Polly" (1989, not rated) A musical adaptation of the book "Pollyanna," set in the 1950s in which an orphan (Keshia Knight Pulliam) tries to use "gladness" to unite the people in a small Alabama town.

--2:45-3:15 p.m.: McLaurin and Willie talk about the making of the documentary "The Marines of Montford Point: Fighting for Freedom."

--3:15-4:15 p.m.: "The Marines of Montford Point: Fighting for Freedom" (not rated): The Marines of Montford Point fought for the U.S. in World War II while contending with racial prejudice in American society in general, the rigid racial segregation of the American South and, with strong initial resistance, from the Marine Corps itself.

--4:15-5:45 p.m.: "Hoodwinked" (2012, not rated) is writer/director Janks Morton's look at the hyper-saturated negative racial statistics that promote the premise of black inferiority, and how organizations manipulate data and information for funding and as money-extraction propositions.

--5:45-6:15 p.m.: Q&A session with "Hoodwinked" director Janks Morton

--6:15-7:15 p.m.: "Sisters of Selma: Bearing Witness to Change" (2007, not rated): In 1965, at a time when church leaders were reluctant to address the treatment of blacks in the South, a courageous group of nuns from St. Louis defied authority to take their message to the streets of Selma.

--7:15-8:45 p.m.: "20 Feet from Stardom" (2013, PG-13): This Oscar-winning documentary boasts interviews with Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder, Mick Jagger, Sting and others. But these famous names take a backseat to the diverse array of backup singers whose lives and story take center stage in the film.

--9-11:20 p.m.: "12 Years a Slave"(2013, R), an encore screening

12th Annual Black Film Festival schedule

--6 p.m. Friday at the Hardy Student Center on the ASU campus: "The Marines of Montford Point: Fighting for Freedom," followed by a discussion with the film's writer/director Melton McLaurin and retired Lt. Col. Clarence Willie. Admission is free.

Saturday at the Capri Theatre

--9-10:30 a.m.: "Killer of Sheep" (1979, not rated) Writer/director Charles Burnett's examination of the black Los Angeles ghetto of Watts in the 1970s through the eyes of Stan, a sensitive dreamer who grows detached and numb from the psychic toll of working at a slaughterhouse.

10:30 a.m.-1 p.m.: "12 Years A Slave" (2013, rated R) The winner of three 2014 Oscars, including Best Picture, tells the story of Solomon Northup, a free black man in 1840s America who is shanghaied by a pair of nefarious white men and finds himself on a ship to New Orleans, where he is sold into slavery. He bides his time, waiting for the chance to reclaim his rightful name and his family.

--1-2:45 p.m.: "Polly" (1989, not rated) A musical adaptation of the book "Pollyanna," set in the 1950s in which an orphan (Keshia Knight Pulliam) tries to use "gladness" to unite the people in a small Alabama town.

--2:45-3:15 p.m.: McLaurin and Willie talk about the making of the documentary "The Marines of Montford Point: Fighting for Freedom."

--3:15-4:15 p.m.: "The Marines of Montford Point: Fighting for Freedom" (not rated): The Marines of Montford Point fought for the U.S. in World War II while contending with racial prejudice in American society in general, the rigid racial segregation of the American South and, with strong initial resistance, from the Marine Corps itself.

--4:15-5:45 p.m.: "Hoodwinked" (2012, not rated) is writer/director Janks Morton's look at the hyper-saturated negative racial statistics that promote the premise of black inferiority, and how organizations manipulate data and information for funding and as money-extraction propositions.

--5:45-6:15 p.m.: Q&A session with "Hoodwinked" director Janks Morton

--6:15-7:15 p.m.: "Sisters of Selma: Bearing Witness to Change" (2007, not rated): In 1965, at a time when church leaders were reluctant to address the treatment of blacks in the South, a courageous group of nuns from St. Louis defied authority to take their message to the streets of Selma.

--7:15-8:45 p.m.: "20 Feet from Stardom" (2013, PG-13): This Oscar-winning documentary boasts interviews with Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder, Mick Jagger, Sting and others. But these famous names take a backseat to the diverse array of backup singers whose lives and story take center stage in the film.

--9-11:20 p.m.: "12 Years a Slave"(2013, R), an encore screening

___

(c)2014 the Montgomery Advertiser (Montgomery, Ala.)

Visit the Montgomery Advertiser (Montgomery, Ala.) at www.montgomeryadvertiser.com

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Source: Montgomery Advertiser (AL)


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