Hollywood’s Leading Ladies Turn Out in Full Force

 The Women in Film Los Angeles Awards

Last night, a glittering crowd came out for the annual Women in Film Los Angeles Crystal + Lucy Awards, sponsored by Max Mara, Lancôme, and Lexus. Industry heavyweights and leading ladies including Lake Bell, Jane Lynch, Katherine Langford, Michaela Watkins, and Letitia Wright turned out in full force at the iconic Beverly Hilton hotel, packing the ballroom to capacity to honor 45 years of WIF as they advocate for and advance the careers of women in the industry.

The star-studded evening featured a host of female entertainment icons such as Grey’s Anatomy’s Ellen Pompeo, who presented the Lucy Award (named for Lucille Ball) for Excellence in Television to ABC Entertainment president Channing Dungey—who most recently made headlines when she canceled the network’s Roseanne revival following Roseanne Barr’s racist Twitter comment. Beyoncé protégés Chloe x Halle performed and presented the Artistic Excellence Award to the Grammy Award–winning songwriting and production team Nova Wav, aka Denisia “Blu June” Andrews and Brittany “Chi” Coney, whose work last year included A Wrinkle in Time. And actress Alexandra Shipp, of X-Men fame, received the Max Mara Face of the Future Award.

Oscar-winning actress Frances McDormand finally shared the story behind her acceptance speech “inclusion rider” closer, which set the film world abuzz earlier this year. “A couple of nights earlier, I heard about the idea at a dinner party from agent Blair Kohan,” she recalled. Fast-forward to the awards ceremony and “in the excitement of having all those women rise to their feet and stand with me in that room, I got flustered, and I improvised—little did I know. Now I know a lot more. And I’m here tonight to take some responsibility for my actions and to restate a call to action. If I may use a sporting metaphor: If you want to go fast, go it alone; if you want to go far, do it together.”

The last award of the evening—the Crystal Award for Excellence in Features—went to Brie Larson, who used the moment to promote a new kind of inclusion rider—this one calling for more diversity among film critics. “If you make a movie that is a love letter to a woman of color, there is an insanely low chance that a female critic of color will be able to review your movie,” she said. “I am thrilled to announce that [next year] Sundance will ensure that at least 20 percent of their top-level press passes will go to underrepresented critics.” She added that the Toronto International Film Festival would do the same. There was a physical takeaway from the night, too: McDormand’s red and black “Inclusion Rider” bumper sticker—inspired by the Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri movie signs. “Every revolution needs really good merch,” she quipped.

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Reel Sisters Becomes the First Qualifying Film Festival for Women of Color

Reel Sisters of the Diaspora Film Festival & Lecture Series has officially made history this year by becoming the first Academy Qualifying Film Festival for narrative shorts devoted to women of color! The festival’s new status is a game changer for women’s access to Oscar consideration in the Live Action Shorts category.

“Reel Sisters’ new designation will give women of color a path to getting on the Oscar consideration list and open the doors for all women directors. It is a milestone for women directors who rarely get nominated by the Academy Awards for Oscar worthy films,” said Carolyn A. Butts, Reel Sisters Founder. “We’re proud to kick off our film submissions season with this amazing news and opportunity for women filmmakers.”

In the Academy Awards 90-year history, only five women directors have been nominated for Best Director. Kathryn Bigelow was the only woman to win for Best Director in 2010 for The Hurt Locker.

The list for women of color represented in Live Action Shorts is just as short. Dianne Houston was the first African-American woman to receive a nomination in 1996 for Tuesday Morning Ride and Yuki Yoshida, an Asian-Canadian director, won an Oscar in 1978 for I’ll Find A Way.

Reel Sisters has presented over 3,000 films produced, directed and written by women of color, and has awarded more than $25,000 in scholarship money since 1997. The festival has set the agenda for creating opportunities for women in the film industry through advocacy and supporting other organizations with similar missions.

The organiation is currently seeking films for its 2018 season. Shorts, web series, animation, works-in-progress, narratives, features, documentaries and experimental works are eligible. Filmmakers will have their films screened in Reel Sisters Film Festival at Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Brooklyn from October 20-21, 2018 and other venues in New York City.

If you have a film that you would like to submit to the festival please submit using this link HERE.

The early bird deadline is May 7, 2018 with an extended deadline of June 22, 2018.

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At Sundance, The Films Took A Hard Look At Race In America

Storytellers behind seven major movies are working through the themes that haunt our national headlines.

Courtesy of Sundance Institute
Clockwise from left: “Monster,” “Tyrel,” “Sorry to Bother You.”

“Representation” has become a buzzword over the past few years, often used to excoriate the limited diversity that Hollywood brings to our big screens. But, with the Sundance Film Festival come and gone, and a new year of movies revving up, it’s clear that when it comes to matters of race, popular culture has taken note of our national talking points.

No fewer than seven major Sundance movies tackled race relations in America and the issues related to them ― and that’s not counting documentaries. Storytellers had police brutality (“Blindspotting,” “Monsters and Men”), wrongful imprisonment (“Monster”), the Ku Klux Klan (“Burden”), microaggressions (“Tyrel”), code-switching (“Sorry to Bother You”) and the foster care system (“Night Comes On”) on their minds.

We’re witnessing a phenomenon in which socially-minded artists are processing the topics that make headlines almost daily. More than any other Sundance lineup before it, 2018′s was a heady and searing crop, aptly reflecting our national mood.

One year after Jordan Peele’s “Get Out” raised the bar for veiled social commentary, “Tyrel” presents a similar premise, sending a young black man (Jason Mitchell) into the woods for a weekend getaway with a batch of white dudes. Meanwhile, “Monsters and Men” evokes the real-life killing of Eric Garner and the persecution of NFL iconoclast Colin Kaepernick, and “Burden” (which won the festival’s audience award) portrays tensions among neighbors sharing turf in the South.

“Blindspotting,” a passion project co-written by “Hamilton” breakout Daveed Diggs and performance poet Rafael Casal, is a hip-hop-inflected tour through Oakland, California, where gentrification has tarnished the area’s working-class restaurants, and black residents watch white cops shoot their black neighbors at traffic lights. In “Monster,” racial profiling lands even a college-bound teenager (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) with a bright future behind bars. These movies portray a world, not unlike our own, in which only whiteness gets ahead; just ask the telemarketer Lakeith Stanfield plays in the surreal comedy “Sorry to Bother You,” who is advised to use his “white voice” if we wants to get sales.

For Hollywood, indie filmmaking is a platonic ideal, painting a progressive image that puts Sundance and its ilk one step ahead of the wider industry, in terms of style, content and representation. Still, that hip image doesn’t always prioritize women and filmmakers of color. (Women helmed 37 percent of this year’s lineup ― an above-average figure that still lacks parity.) But with 2018′s movies, the festival claimed a newfound sense of topicality. The conversations unfolding on Twitter, in the media and in many Americans’ homes are resurfacing right before our eyes. Artists are doing their best to sort out the issues plaguing the country.

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In the Next 2 Years, Only 15 Hollywood Studio Movies Will Be Directed By Women

Director Ava DuVernay / Image via Getty

When it comes to helming major Hollywood studio projects, the future for female directors in 2018 and 2019 doesn’t look too bright.

IndieWire reports on the 2018 and 2019 schedule for films coming out of studios like Warner Bros., Paramount Pictures, Sony, and finds that so far, only 15 of those projects will be directed by women.

There are plenty of bright spots and familiar names—like Ava DuVernay, Elizabeth Banks, The Handmaids Tale director Reed Morano, and The Diary of a Teenage Girl director Marielle Heller—leading highly-anticipated projects this year (hellooo A Wrinkle in Time!). And there are also three superhero movies directed by women, a development no doubt inspired by the immense success of Patty Jenkins’s Wonder Woman: there’s Gina Prince-Bythewood’s Spider-man spin-off Silver and Black, Anna Boden’s Captain Marvel, and Wonder Woman 2 of course. It’s as if Hollywood finally realized, yes, women can direct blockbuster action movies and people want to see them!

It’s important to point out that the report does not include movies that have yet to be scheduled, so there’s still hope for more women-directed movies to make their way to theaters in the next two years. But considering 92.7% of the 109 top film directors in 2017 were male, according to the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative’s study “Inclusion in the Director’s Chair? Gender, Race & Age of Directors across 1,000 films from 2007-2017,” the industry has its work cut out for it when it comes to hiring women at legacy studios.

“Yikes! I think I’m in over my head.” Or…making your first movie.

Camera and Laptop

by

Sheree L. Ross @womenfilmofcolr

Sheree L. Ross

November 14, 2017

So you we wake up one morning from a fevered dream with what seems like a brilliant idea, “I want to make a movie”. And then miracle of miracles, somehow every day you move forward on it. It actually starts to take shape as you call in favors from friends, even the ones from first grade. Everyday it looks more and more like you are really going to make this movie. You do all of the steps, which include writing the most brilliant script ever written. How do you know? Because all of your friends and family who you let read it, say so. You even go one step further and actually let people who know what they are talking about (because you found a writing group in your town) read it and they give you feedback that is sometimes painful (yeah, you cried once…maybe more than once), but you listen, do the adjustments, write a few more drafts – and now you have a solid working script.

And even though you’ve never directed anything before in your life you decide that you are going to be the director. You want to be an Auteur and this film will be your first shot across the bow. But one thing you didn’t know about yourself is that you’re not much for the tiny details and after two days of doing the stuff good producers can do in their sleep you put an ad on Craigslist and take the first person that will call you back.

At this point, of course, you don’t have any money but somehow they’re willing to work with you and wait until you’re able to raise some. And for the first month or so they’re completely on board and you get through most of pre-production. You get casting done, you find locations, and you put together a pretty solid crew. You are feeling great. Now you are three weeks out before you shoot and suddenly the producer gets a gig that will actually pay them their rate and they quit. But hell, you’ve got this. You’ve got everything in place…who needs a producer anyway? You can just add this as another feather in your cap. You’re sure now that you can direct and produce this script better than anybody because you know it better than anybody. You still don’t have enough money but you are moving forward as if you do as…Thanksgiving approaches. And what luck, your favorite aunt – who loves movies – overhears that you are doing a film and says she’ll give you the rest of the money. What a relief! But a week out you call her and she doesn’t remember the promise, blaming it on the several glasses of wine she had before dinner was served.

Now you’re a week out and everybody wants something. The art department is calling you to try to figure out how to do your sets, the wardrobe and prop people need to start shopping. And you get a text from one of your actors asking about rehearsals and blocking. It’s too late to crowdfund, you didn’t even know you should do a rehearsal, and one of the locations that you were promised just fell through. The next night you wake from another fevered dream with a thought that could possibly get you disowned. You have a savings that your parents set up for you with just enough to get the movie shot and you’ll have to edit it yourself. After thinking about the pros and cons of this conversation at Christmas next week, you decide to go ahead and do it.

Yay! You are making your first movie, congratulations! Now this is just one example of how crazy this process can be, and this should in no way stop you from making your first film. If you are in the middle of this process I hope this makes you feel better about what you may be going through right now. If you’ve already finished your first film (web series, short, etc) I hope it made you smile. Filmmaking is not for the faint of heart, and many filmmakers struggle their first time out (and even the second and third time before they find a rhythm). There is no right or wrong way to make a film, web series, or short, etc. If you think you’re in over your head but you keep moving forward and you keep focused on your idea, as well as communicate with everybody as often as possible…more times than not, no matter how crappy things might get, the people that you have brought on board to help you will do their best to help you see your vision come true. People are more forgiving and flexible than you might think, as long as you are honest with them.

The other advice I’d offer is don’t lie about paying people. If you intend to pay people and then your money falls through, be honest about it. You may lose half of your cast and crew (maybe all!) but you’ll maintain your reputation and this industry is smaller than you might imagine. Another bit of advice is that though it is not impossible to produce, direct, and act in your first movie (in fact it might be wise to do so for your first project, you will learn a whole bunch) don’t spend a lot of money on the project. Let this be an experiment that you can share with your family and friends, and maybe put up on YouTube. But the chances that you will be able to sell it or make your money back might be very low so let it be an opportunity to learn. Ultimately, if you’re new to this make a short film. Something that doesn’t cost you over $1000. Maybe you can engage some of your friends over the weekend and feed them for pay. Bill Murray once said (highly paraphrased) that no matter how crappy the movie is, the fact that it has made it into some form of watchable content is a miracle and should be appreciated as such because it takes so many people to make a movie. It can sometimes feels like you’re drowning (you’re not). It’s a lot of balls to keep up in the air no matter how much money you have (or don’t). So learn from your mistakes, learn from your successes, and be proud of whatever you create. And most of all, please have fun. Why do it otherwise? Because it’s just a step in a long line of many steps that will culminate into being your career.

 

How TV Writer Angela Nissel Is Bringing Her Unique Voice to Tyler

the Creator’s The Jellies, and Why Black Female Writers in Hollywood Need to Be Heard

Angela Nissel; scenes from The Jellies (Adult Swim)

If you took a look at the writers’ room of some of your favorite television shows, you’d be hard-pressed to find a black person, and even harder pressed to find a black woman. But for the last decade, Angela Nissel has been leaving her mark behind the scenes on shows like Scrubs, The Boondocks and, now, The Jellies—Tyler, the Creator’s Adult Swim show, which premieres Oct. 22.

Before Nissel’s foray into scripted television, she was best-known as one of the creators of Okayplayer and for her two sidesplitting memoirs that captured the essence of her formative years, and of being broke and biracial. Both The Broke Diaries: The Completely True and Hilarious Misadventures of a Good Girl Gone Broke and Mixed: My Life in Black and White were heralded by critics, as well as the likes of Oprah Winfrey and Halle Berry, and Nissel became the “it” woman of literature in the early 2000s.

It was those books that set the University of Pennsylvania grad (she graduated with a degree in medical anthropology) on her way to a career in TV. But, of course, Nissel’s ascent into television writing wasn’t easy, especially as a black woman. After being in the game for 15 years, she is still fighting her way into writers’ rooms, and she made it into The Jellies’ room even though she thought she hadn’t landed the gig.

“Me being old enough to be Tyler’s aunt, I said, ‘I’ve heard of him,’ but I don’t really know him. And then I researched him. I was nervous in the meeting, but when Tyler came in, he just wanted to get to know about me. Ten minutes later, the meeting was over. I called my agent and was like, ‘I’m pretty sure I didn’t get that job; they thought I was a total nerd,’” Nissel says.

As luck talent would have it, Nissel landed the consulting-producer-and-writing gig on the series, and so her work began. And, yes, she was once again the only black woman in the writers’ room. As Nissel segues back into animation (after lending her talents to The Boondocks), she notes that writing live action and books is totally different from writing for animation, especially when it comes to the fans.

“In books, everything you write, even typos, it’s your fault. When it’s live-action TV, people tend to realize there’s a writer behind the words,” Nissel says. “But in animation, people fall completely in love with those characters. I’ve never worked on anything quite like animation, where the fans are so into it. And with the way Tyler’s fans are, I can only imagine the response the show will receive,” Nissel says.

To call Tyler’s fans “die-hard” would be an understatement. From his music to his cartoons, they’re nothing if not loyal. Both Tyler and co-creator Lionel Boyce, who make up Odd Future, premiered The Jellies on Tyler’s Golf Media app in 2015. Some may think the premise of a family of jellyfish adopting a human boy strange, but to them, chances are it’s not.


The Jellies follows in the footsteps of cartoons like The Boondocks in that it is created by young black men. But as Nissel lends her comedy and writing expertise to yet another animated series, the question remains: Why is there still a lack of black people, particularly women, in Hollywood when it comes to writing? Veterans in the game, like Nissel, have paved the way for the Issa Raes out there, but it’s still a drop in the bucket.

“I’m usually the only black woman in the writers’ room. I remember I pitched a really shitty joke one time, but Tyler said, ‘No, maybe women will understand the joke.’ He was so good about listening to my point of view, where sometimes, in other writers’ rooms, I would get shut down,” Nissel says. “When you’re immediately shut down, you don’t feel like you ever have the space to speak up again. But he always gave me that space to feel free to speak my mind.”

It’s that aspect of being shut down that many writers have to deal with when they’re in the minority. Earlier this year, Tyler quickly had to shut down a question from a fan during Comic-Con, when he decided to change Cornell, the main character in The Jellies, from a white teen to a black teen.

“How many fucking black cartoon characters is it on TV right now?” Tyler responded. “Name five. I’ll give you time.”

Nissel shares similar sentiments about Cornell’s newfound blackness.

“If you don’t like Cornell being black, color him another color in your head. What is wrong with people wanting to see the representation of themselves on-screen?” Nissel asks. “That’s why I think their generation will do better, and hopefully build on what my old-ass generation wasn’t able to do. Tyler is an outsider coming into this industry and wants Cornell to look like him. I don’t understand how anyone can be upset with that.”


After watching the first two episodes of the new season, I was left wondering one simple thing: “WTF?” And it wasn’t a bad “WTF?” either. More like amazement at how and why jellyfish are living among humans and raising a black kid. Even with Cornell going through his own self-discovery and having jellyfish as parents, shortly after the 15-minute cartoon starts, you actually forget they’re even jellyfish. Especially when it comes to Cornell’s mother, who is a combination of Tyler’s and Lionel’s moms. She definitely has the whole “I’m tired of your shit” down to a T when dealing with her jellyfish husband.

“Cornell’s mom is so tired of her husband,” Nissel says. “He reminds me of my ex-husband, and that’s why it was funny to write her. If you had a husband like that, you’re going to drink just to forget about it. I look at her as the epitome of someone who’s had a hard upbringing and a hard life.”

In The Jellies season premiere, Cornell has to deal with his parents fighting, primarily over his father’s spending habits, and he decides to track down his parents’ favorite R&B singer, who ignited their love for each other.

So where does a teenager go to track down someone who was popular back in the day? The Gangster’s Paradise retirement home, of course. And yes, a life-size statue of Coolio welcomes each visitor. Viewers will also notice little jabs here and there at celebrities, as well as some pretty on-point pop-culture references. Basically, nothing is sacred.

People watching the cartoon will soon realize that the comedy isn’t for the faint of heart. Nissel realizes that and helped set the tone by cautioning against certain things making it from the script into the show.

“Sometimes I would say, ‘This may be going a little too far.’ Even if [Cornell’s mother] is a jellyfish, people might be offended. Sometimes you have to be that person, when you’re the only one in the room, to educate people on how others may view things,” Nissel says. “So, sometimes I’ve had to be the person to say, ‘Yeah, we’re all laughing in this room, but we all have the same type of humor. But when it gets outside of the room, it could be viewed differently.’”


As someone who has watched Nissel’s career and who considers her a black-writer heroine, I know she has experienced it all: from people promising to turn books into movies, to seeing others get their careers catapulted, all because they were social media famous, and most importantly, having to be somewhat of the oracle for everyone who isn’t white.

Adult Swim

“Being forced, till this day, to speak up for everyone who is not white is my biggest gripe. When they turn to you and ask, ‘What do you think a handicapped person would say about this?’ Having that burden of having to speak for everybody, when even among our own community, we all have different points of view,” Nissel relates.

“And then having to hold your breath when something comes out because you realize just because it has ‘written by you’ on it, [but] it has to go through the editor, studio and network, and someone is going to find fault in it. As an artist, you want people to be happy. In this day and age, when outrage sells, you don’t want people to be upset about something you create,” Nissel continues. “There’s not a lot of black women, or women, period, in comedy. We’re just exiting the era of ‘Women aren’t funny.’ We’re just now getting a black woman late-night talk show host. It’s slowly coming around.”

With the success of this summer’s blockbuster hit Girls Trip, the spotlight is now shining on funny black women in front of and behind the camera. And Nissel has some savory advice for the bigwigs in Hollywood.

“I wish more people realize that having one voice in the room sometimes isn’t enough because you’re only going to get one point of view. At the end of the day, I just wish people would go outside of the neighborhoods and make friends with people who aren’t exactly like them, so they can bring that to the room if they don’t have the budget to hire 25 women,” Nissel says.

“I really want to create shows that show that women over the age of 40 still have lives, and they can be messy,” she adds. “To talk about the imbalance of women and men, like my own personal story of paying alimony. I want to tell the richness of women of color over 40 because sometimes I look on TV and we’re all dead, except for Oprah.”

Nissel doesn’t mince words, and as far as The Jellies are concerned, it’s coming out at the right time. Between the doom and gloom of a Trump presidency, sex scandals and everything else shitty in the world, laughter is definitely going to be the best medicine that you don’t need health insurance for.

“I have grown tired of watching TV that shows the bad of the world. You go online and everyone is ranting about something horrible” she says. “The Jellies is a big bowl of WTF. It’s 15 minutes of Easter eggs and fun hip-hop references. It’s like traveling to a world of where jellyfish and humans co-exist. And you can just forget everything for 15 minutes. It’s just pure silly comedy, and I think that’s something comedy has gotten away from.”

The Jellies premieres on Adult Swim at 12:15 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 22.

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About the author

Yesha Callahan

Deputy Managing Editor. Don’t start none, won’t be none.

Lena Waithe Breaks Down …

…What It’s Really Like to Be a Black Woman in Hollywood

Image via Getty

Earlier this year, Lena Waithe became the first black woman to be nominated for an Emmy for comedy writing for her work on “Thanksgiving,” one of the best and most acclaimed episodes of the last season of Netflix’s Master of None. But Waithe is by no means resting on her laurels. She’s also producing her own series for Showtime called The Chi, has a role in the upcoming Steven Spielberg film Ready Player One, and has been getting Whoopi Goldberg on the phone (okay, that’s an old story).

Waithe sat down for an interview with The Atlantic to talk about her career, the challenge in “selling complex minority characters,” and what her experience has been navigating Hollywood. And in true Lena Waithe fashion, she told it the way it was, giving us some really interesting insight on what it’s like for women of color in entertainment:

Honestly, [I learned about] decorum and the way specifically black women have to carry themselves in this industry. You can’t be pissed about a note, you can’t be angry about the way that something is happening, you can’t be unhappy about the creative process. When you handle it, you have to be Claire Underwood in House of Cards.

In that town, there is still a stigma that goes along with being a woman, particularly a woman of color, where people already want to label you difficult or not easy to work with. It’s happened to me. So we ultimately have to navigate this industry in a different way. We have to sometimes be kind to people who aren’t kind to us, we sometimes have to be polite, even when we’re not in the mood, we have to handle dealing with executives in a different way because otherwise we run the risk of being put in industry jail.

We’ve seen the films and shows. We’ve seen the data. We know for a fact that women of color are immensely underrepresented in entertainment, even though Hollywood is (slowly) waking up to the fact that it’s not the people “in charge” who are creating the culture that people actually want. But hearing what the experience is actually like, and what it takes to keep moving forward, is important and makes the success of women like Ava DuvernayGina Prince-BythewoodShonda Rhimes, and Waithe herself all the more notable.

Read the full interview here.

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BlackStar Film Festival

…celebrates filmmakers of color

Six years after filmmaker and curator Maori Holmes started the BlackStar Film Festival as an ad hoc film club for a few friends, the annual event has grown into one of Philly’s most significant showcases of indie films.

Dubbed “the Black Sundance” by Ebony magazine, the four-day celebration of films by men and women of color includes screenings of 12 features and more than 40 shorts — including half a dozen films by local directors — at International House in University City from Thursday, Aug. 3, through Sunday, Aug. 6.

Most screenings include a Q&A session with the filmmakers, who also will be on hand for a panel discussion, several receptions, and even a dance party at various venues in or near University City.

“I’m especially happy that this year we have so many world premieres,” said Holmes, who is director of public engagement at the Institute of Contemporary Art and has curated film programs at Painted Bride Art Center, Scribe Video Center, and Swarthmore College.

Six of the 12 features and more than a dozen shorts will be screened for the first time ever.

“And I’m proud that [Selma director] Ava DuVernay has found time to be with us this year.”

DuVernay, whose film 13th was nominated for an Oscar for best documentary feature, will appear Saturday night to receive the fest’s BlackStar Award.

‘It’s gratifying to see that we have a growing reputation in the industry,” Holmes said.

“I don’t want to sound corny but we got here because we led by intention and not because we’ve been chasing things simply because they are glittery or high profile.”

This year, the festival also includes a comprehensive youth program, a series of screenings of films by directors between the ages of 11 and 23.

Revisiting a revolutionary film

Among this year’s highlights will be a repertory screening of Wilmington 10 — USA 10,000, a 1979 documentary by Haitian-born activist-artist Haile Gerima.

Shot guerilla-style on a shoestring budget, Gerima’s controversial film reexamines the case of the Wilmington Ten, a group of nine men and one woman convicted of arson and conspiracy in 1971 in Wilmington, N.C.

“It will be the first time we will show an actual film print” as opposed to a digital file, Holmes said.

Gerima, 71, who will be unable to attend the screening, said in a phone interview he’s excited that his film, which has never been distributed for the home-entertainment market, has piqued renewed interest.

“It was shown recently in Paris at a retrospective of my work,” said the director, who is best known for his 1993 feature Sankofa, a drama about a narcissistic model who is transported back in time to a plantation in the West Indies, where she has to live the life of an African slave.

“[Wilmington 10] was shown recently at a retrospective of my work in Paris,” he said. “And I think more than anything, people were impressed that the people who speak up in the film about the struggle African Americans have had in America weren’t professors or officials but ordinary people.”

Gerima’s film will screen at 1:15 p.m. Thursday.

Dramatic politics and sexy comedies

Other notable entries this year include Hello Cupid: Farrah, a feature-length spin-off of the popular web series Hello Cupid from Black & Sexy TV cofounders Dennis Dortch, Tina Cerin and Numa Perrier.

“Black & Sexy TV started out as a YouTube channel,” said Perrier, 36, who will attend the screening at 9:45 p.m. Friday.

“Now we’re a full subscription service with original programming, a a black-owned and black-operated network that tells black stories.”

The film stars Gabrielle Maiden (Sexless) as “a very passive, but eccentric virgin,” Perrier said, “who hasn’t learned really to stand up for herself and who doesn’t know what she wants from life.”

Nor, it seems, does the twentysomething heroine know if she wants to have sex with men or women.

Her life is turned upside down when she joins an online dating site.

“It’s a coming-of-age story,” Perrier said. “We follow her story as she goes from being a virgin to dating a variety of men and women, and as she gets a crash course on dating in the modern world.”

Philadelphia voices

Philly filmmakers represented at BlackStar this year include M. Asli Dukan, writer-director of the short Resistance, the Battle of Philadelphia (Prologue), the first part of a web series set in West Philly starring local stage actor Jennifer Kidwell.

“I have been part taking part in activities for social justice and resistance to police violence for years and I’ve been thinking about who to make a film about” the topic, said Dukan, who grew up in Harlem. “I usually work in speculative fiction, horror, fantasy, and science-fiction. I came up with this story set in the future that asks what would police brutality might look like in the future.”

The short is one of six episodes that will follow the experiences of different characters in West Philly as they have confrontations with authority, Dukan said.

The film will screen as part of a shorts program at noon Saturday.

Not everything at BlackStar will be so heavy or so political.

On the comic side, there’s Tales From Shaolin: Pt 1 “Shakey Dog”, which will be shown as part of the same shorts program.

The first part of a planned series of shorts inspired by hip-hop superstars the Wu Tang Clan, the story is the brainchild of director Louis Moore, a Philly native, and writer J. Michael Neal, who grew up in Camden.

“All the films will pay homage to the Wu Tang Clan, and each will be based on different members” of the group, said Moore.

The first part is inspired by Wu Tang’s Ghostface Killah.

“We take the lyrics to their songs and reinterpret them through little stories,” said Moore, who learned the craft at Los Angeles Film School.

The film, he said, “is a comedy about a drug heist gone horribly wrong. … Ghostface takes along a young accomplice and things take a comic turn a that will be totally unexpected to both Ghostface and the audience.”

The BlackStar Film Festival

Thursday, Aug. 3 through Sunday Aug. 6 in University City. Most screenings will be at International House, 38th and Chestnut Streets.
Tickets: All-access pass: $150. Single tickets: $12; $8 students and seniors.
Information:

267-603-2755, blackstarfest.org.

SOURCE

84 Films By and About Women of Color

… Courtesy of Ava DuVernay and the Good People of Twitter

If you were on Twitter recently, you might have seen
director Ava DuVernay’s clever call to social media to name films with “black,
brown, native or Asian women leads” which were also directed by women.

Though it seems like common sense that these films exist,
the question proved to be a serious challenge for Twitter, with many listing
the same handful of titles.

The clear point is that there are too few films that fit the
above criteria, and that those of us claiming to support diversity in
entertainment should do our part to change that. All of this helps bolster the
case for DuVernay’s AFFRM + Array
Releasing
, which distributes black films and is in the midst of an annual
membership drive.

With efforts like AFFRM, the ACLU’s
push for an investigation into Hollywood’s hiring practices
and other recent
initiatives for the inclusion of women and diverse voices in film, change
appears to be on the horizon.

In the meantime, here’s a list of the films that Twitter
came up with starring women of color and helmed by women directors. When
cross-referenced with data sources from The Black
List
, Shadow
& Act
and others, there were about 85 titles that fit the bill.

Find them below. Watch, enjoy and most importantly, support!

“35 Shots of Rum” by
Claire Denis (2008)

“A Different Image” by
Alile Sharon Larkin (1982)

“A Girl Walks Home Alone at
Night” by Ana Lily Amirpour (2014)

“Advantageous” by
Jennifer Phang (2015)

“Ala Modalaindi” by
Nandini Bv Reddy (2011)

“All About You” by
Christine Swanson (2001)

“Alma’s Rainbow” by
Ayoka Chenzira (1994)

“Appropriate Behavior”
by Desiree Akhavan (2014)

“B For Boy” by Chika
Anadu (2013)

“Bande de Filles/Girlhood”
by Céline Sciamma (2014)

“Belle” by Amma Asante
(2013)

“Bend it Like Beckham”
by Gurinder Chadha (2002)

“Bessie” by Dee Rees
(2015)

“Beyond the Lights” by
Gina Prince-Bythewood (2014)

“Bhaji on the Beach” by
Gurinder Chadha (1993)

“Caramel” by Nadine
Labaki  (2007)

“Circumstance” by Maryam
Keshavarz (2011)

“Civil Brand” by Neema
Barnette (2002)

“Compensation” by
Zeinabu irene Davis (1999)

“Daughters of the Dust”
by Julie Dash (1991)

“Double Happiness ” by
Mina Shum (1994)

“Down in the Delta” by Maya
Angelou (1998)

“Drylongso” by Cauleen
Smith (1988)

“Earth” by Deepa Mehta
(1998)

“Elza” by Mariette
Monpierre (2011)

“Endless Dreams” by
Susan Youssef (2009

“Eve’s Bayou” by Kasi
Lemmons (1997)

“Fire” by Deepa Mehta
(1996)

“Frida” by Julie Taymor
(2002)

“Girl in Progress” by
Patricia Riggen (2012)

“Girlfight” by Karyn
Kusama (2000)

“Habibi Rasak Kharban”
by Susan Youssef (2011)

“Hiss Dokhtarha Faryad
Nemizanand (Hush! Girls Don’t Scream)” by Pouran Derahkandeh (2013)

“Honeytrap” by Rebecca
Johnson (2014)

“I Like It Like That” by
Darnell Martin (1994)

“I Will Follow” by Ava
DuVernay (2010

“In Between Days” by
So-yong Kim (2006)

“Introducing Dorothy
Dandridge” by Martha Coolidge (1999)

“It’s a Wonderful
Afterlife” by Gurinder Chadha (2010)

“Jumpin Jack Flash” by
Penny Marshall (1986)

“Just Another Girl on the
IRT” by Leslie Harris (1992)

“Just Wright” by Sanaa
Hamri (2010)

“Kama Sutra” by Mira
Nair (1996)

“Losing Ground” by
Kathleen Collins (1982)

“Love & Basketball”
by Gina Prince-Bythewood (2000)

“Luck by Chance” by Zoya
Akhtar (2009)

“Mi Vida Loca” by
Allison Anders (1993)

“Middle of Nowhere” by
Ava DuVernay (2012)

“Mississippi Damned” by
Tina Mabry (2009)

“Mississippi Masala” by
Mira Nair (1991)

“Mixing Nia” by Alison
Swan (1998)

“Monsoon Wedding” by Mira
Nair (2001)

“Mosquita y Mari” by
Aurora Guerrero (2012)

“Na-moo-eobs-neun san
(Treeless Mountain)” by So-yong Kim (2008)

“Night Catches Us” by
Tanya Hamilton (2010)

“Pariah” by Dee Rees
(2011)

“Picture Bride” by Kayo
Hatta (1994)

“Rain” by Maria Govan (2008)

“Real Women Have Curves”
by Patricia Cardoso (2002)

“Saving Face” by Alice
Wu (2004)

“Second Coming” by
Debbie Tucker Green (2014)

“Something Necessary” by
Judy Kibinge (2013)

“Something New” by Sanaa
Hamri (2006)

“Still the Water” by
Naomi Kawase  (2014)

“Stranger Inside” by
Cheryl Dunye (2001)

“Sugar Cane Alley/Black Shack
Alley” by Euzhan Palcy (1983)

“The Kite” by Randa
Chahal Sabag (2003)

“The Rich Man’s Wife” by
Amy Holden Jones (1996)

“The Secret Life of
Bees” by Gina Prince-Bythewood (2008)

“The Silence of the
Palace” by Moufida Tlatli (1994)

“The Watermelon Woman”
by Cheryl Dunye (1996)

“The Women of Brewster
Place” by Donna Deitch (1989)

“Their Eyes Were Watching
God” by Darnell Martin (2005)

“Things We Lost in the
Fire” by Susanne Bier  (2007)

“Wadjda” by Haifaa
Al-Mansour (2012)

“Water” by Deepa Mehta
(2005)

“Whale Rider” by Niki
Caro  (2002)

“What’s Cooking?” by
Gurinder Chadha (2000)

“Where Do We Go Now?” by
Nadine Labaki  (2011)

“Whitney” by Angela Bassett
(2015)

“Woman Thou Art Loosed: On
The 7th Day” by Neema Barnette (2012)

“Xiu Xiu: The Sent-Down
Girl” by Joan Chen (1998)

“Yelling to the Sky” by
Victoria Mahoney (2011)

“Young and Wild” by
Marialy Rivas (2012)

What are your favorite films that tell the stories of women of color, which are also directed by women?

jai tiggett is a
writer, content creator and curator. Find her at jaitiggett.com

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