african filmmaker

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In 1991 Julie Dash premiered her first feature, Daughters of the Dust, at the Sundance Film Festival, which went on to win the award for Excellence in Cinematography. The film is set in the early 1900s and follows a Gullah family of women preparing to move from the Sea Islands off the coast of South Carolina to mainland America. Daughters of the Dust was the first film directed by an African American woman to receive a national release. 

The film appears to be a source of inspiration for Beyonce’s Lemonade. The visual album echoes imagery from the film with shots of young African-American women in the Southern wild and desolate beaches wearing turn of the century garments. 

Daughters of the Dust screened at the Festival again in 2012 as a part of the “From the Collection” program. The film has recently been digitally restored by Cohen Film Collection and will screen at film festivals and theaters in addition to a Blu-ray release this fall. Click here to view a trailer for Daughters of the Dust.

Film stills courtesy of Daughters of the Dust

youtube

Beautiful video for Little Dragon by South-african photographer and filmmaker Kristin-Lee Moolman. Find her amazing photographs here.

The Five Heartbeats (1991)

A musical drama film directed by Robert Townsend, who co-wrote the script with Keenan Ivory Wayans.

The film’s main cast includes Townsend, Michael Wright, Leon Robinson, Harry J. Lennix, Tico Wells,Harold Nicholas of the Nicholas Brothers, and Diahann Carroll. The plot of the film (which is loosely based on the lives of several artists: The DellsThe TemptationsFour TopsWilson PickettJames BrownFrankie LymonSam Cooke and others) follows the three decade career of the R&B vocal group The Five Heartbeats. The film depicts the rise and fall of a Motown inspired soul act through the eyes of the film’s main protagonist, Donald “Duck” Matthews (portrayed by Townsend), who serves as a narrator throughout the film. However, a majority of the cinema is presented in a consecutive time line as opposed to traditional flash backs.

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These are some Filmmakers of African descent we loved in 2013!

1. Steve McQueen for his behemoth 12 Years A Slave. So many things we love about him, but our favorite is his side eye. 

2. Ava Duvernay, award winning filmmaker extraordinaire. From publicists, to black film activator, distributor and director. She even broke Twitter with her Scandal episode. Girl crush!

3. Bradford Young, cinematographer that makes everything look amazing. Mother of George and Ain’t Them Bodies Saints this last year. How can a machine make so much poetry? Someone give this man an award. 

4. Andrew  Dosunmu, photographer turned director, with Mother of George this year. An auteur, leading us into the philosophy of the African aesthetic in film. Everytime, he, without visual effects, turns Brooklyn into an unbelievably gorgeous African city…How?

5. John Ridley, Screenwriter. 12 Years A Slave. Period. 

6. Jahmil Qubeka, director, Of Good Report. This guy burned his passport when his film was banned. The world paid attention, and were not disappointed. What a great little film. Gorgeous black and white picture, and a story that is difficult to ignore or forget.

7. Chika Anadu, Lawyer turned director, winning awards for first feature 'B for Boy’. A grown up, female-driven drama that challenges archetypes for African women and female (mother/daughter) relationships on screen.

8. Frances Bodomo, for the short film that stole our attention ‘Afronauts’. A scifi short with a distinctive visual aesthetic based on the African space race. We can’t wait to see more!

9. Kibwe Tavares, director, Jonah. If you’ve seen this scifi short, set in Dar Es Salaam, and partial commentary on tourism and the environment without sacrificing the entertainment factor. Such great visual effects, notably the whale!!! I cannot wait to see what he does next!

10. Akosua Adoma Owusu, director, Kwaku Ananse. Currently rebuilding and opening the Rex Cinema in Ghana, Akosua’s body of work has the mark of a cinematic force to be reckoned with. All of it thoughtful and deliberate, with a distinctive artistic intention and style, we loved Kwaku this year and can’t wait to see her helm a feature length script.

There are many more filmmakers that made 2013 interesting, including those from the Carribbean, and other diaspora…Reblog with your additions!

Monica

npr.org
Restored 'Race Films' Find New Audiences
Some of the earliest movies by African-American filmmakers from the 1910s through 1940s languished in film archives over the years on poor-quality film prints. Now some have been digitally restored.

Despite the new conditions that allowed African filmmakers to be more productive, Sembène’s inveterate critical streak did not aid his cause. His screenplay for Black Girl, with its resolutely noncelebratory take on postindependence life for the Senegalese, was the only one ever rejected for production funding by the then head of the Ministry of Cooperation’s Cinema Bureau—the key funding body for francophone African cinema—on the basis of subject matter alone. Accordingly, Sembène invented the term mégotage (a riff on montage, translating roughly to “cigarette-butt cinema”) to describe the lengths to which African filmmakers had to go to scrape together budgets.

Black Girl, then, can be understood as the product of a lifetime of negotiating challenging power relations. Sembène subsumes this wellspring of complexity into the radiant, statuesque form of his central character, Diouana, who is first seen lonely and shaken at the docks, having arrived in France from Senegal on a boat whose horn blares like a demonic warning clarion against viciously whipping winds. The film’s first words—articulated in Diouana’s plaintive voice-over—are: “Has anyone come for me?” A point-of-view shot takes us into her head space as she watches the hustle and bustle with a dispassionate gaze; it’s an unspectacular yet thrilling moment, fully immersing us in the world of an African character. It’s clear, immediately: this is her story. (It’s worth pointing out that funding constraints forced Sembène to dub Diouana’s minimal yet poetic interior monologue in French, a compromise that has the powerful dramatic effect of reflecting the psychic weight of colonialism: she must craft her inner self in a language she cannot speak.)

BLACK GIRL: Self, Possessed by Ashley Clark 

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EMEMBERING GORDON ROGER ALEXANDER BUCHANAN PARKS (November 30, 1912 - March 7, 2006)
Gordon Roger Alexander Buchanan Parks was an African-American photographer, filmmaker, writer and composer who used his prodigious, largely self-taught talents to chronicle the African-American experience and to retell his own personal history. He is best remembered for his photographic essays for Life magazine and as the director of the 1971 film, Shaft. In 1948, Parks became a staff photographer for Life magazine, the FIRST African American to hold that position. Parks, who remained with the magazine until 1972, became known for his portrayals of ghetto life, black nationalists, and the civil rights movement. A photo-essay about a child from a Brazilian slum was expanded into a television documentary (1962) and a book with poetry (1978), both titled Flavio. Parks was also noted for his intimate portraits of such public figures as Ingrid Bergman, Barbra Streisand, Gloria Vanderbilt, and Muhammad Ali. Gordon Roger Alexander Buchanan Parks received the: Spingarn Medal · National Medal of Arts · NAACP Image Award – Hall of Fame Award (1984) and
Gordon Roger Alexander Buchanan Parks was born in Fort Scott, Kansas on November 30, 1912. He died March 7, 2006, in New York City, New York at the age of 93.

2015 CANNES FILM FESTIVAL (FESTIVAL DE CANNES) SHORT FILM CORNER SCREENING

Hey everybody! I got some great news from France that I wanted to share… My film “Orisha’s Journey” will be screening this May at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival Short Film Corner section! The Short Film Corner is a part of the Cannes Court Métrage program, where they feature short films they believe have merit and contain a message they feel resonates in the world today. I am truly honored to be featured in this years festival and I want to give a huge thanks to my family and ALL my friends for their help and support! I’ll definitely give an update once they send me more info. Thanks!

-Abdul

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The True Story Of This Great Dane Time-Lapse Video Is Even More Moving Than What You’ve Heard

South African filmmaker Dave Meinert wasn’t sure how long Pegasus the Great Dane would have when he took her home. She had some bad prospects, due to her breed, compounded by her specific provenance – people Meinert describes as irresponsible breeders, who’d produced pups especially prone to health problems, including deafness and blindness.

Read our full interview with the owner about how this pup is thriving. 

By Maureen Lee Lenker, who is an avid TCM fan, and a Los Angeles based writer and actress who writes a monthly column, “Dame in the Game,” about women in Hollywood history for Ms. in the Biz.

With the success of last year’s Selma, the first Best Picture nominee directed by an African-American woman, Ava DuVernay and independent African-American female filmmakers came more fully to international attention than ever before. DuVernay had already made history as the first African-American woman to win Best Director at the Sundance Film Festival for her 2012 feature Middle of Nowhere, making its TCM premiere tonight (though that success did not translate into the same visibility and access that Selma has granted her).

DuVernay is an outspoken champion of black female directors, recently challenging her Twitter followers to devise a list of films starring a female protagonist and directed by a woman of color. DuVernay regular points out inequities on her social media platforms and calls for change in the entertainment industry.

This furthers an effort she began in 2010 to distribute and promote independent films directed by women and people of color. At that time, she founded the African-American Film Festival Releasing Movement (AAFRM), now renamed ARRAY. The organization is a distributor as well as a resource collective for independent filmmakers.

Though DuVernay calls the number of female African-American filmmakers out there a “small sorority,” there are a number of women who blazed the path before her, including tonight’s co-host Julie Dash, whom DuVernay has named as a big inspiration.

In “Black Women Film-makers Defining Ourselves,” Alile Sharon Larkin explains Hollywood’s role in excluding people of color from telling their own story:

From the moment that Africans were brought to the Americas and made slaves, we lost much more than our freedom. We lost control of our image. Film and television have been crucial in this legacy of loss, our loss of name and culture, for Hollywood has the power to rewrite, redefine, and recreate history, culture, religion and politics. Hollywood has the power of the spoken word and the visual image and all sounds and dreams.

It’s crucial then that women, especially women of color, have the opportunity and agency to speak for themselves.

In a book on black women’s literature and film, Judylyn S. Ryan describes how true equality requires “a democracy of narrative participation.” Ryan goes on to explain how the work of Julie Dash as a director demonstrates the need for “representation and participation in national cinema and national history.” Ryan points specifically to Dash’s Illusions (1982) as a film that makes this argument by revising the history of classic Hollywood.

           Tonight’s featured film Daughters of the Dust (1991), which Dash fought to get made from 1975 through its 1991 Sundance debut, also speaks to this need for “a democracy of narrative participation.” The film stresses family ties and historical awareness as crucial to the women at its center, even keeping the dialogue in Gullah without subtitles; it emphasizes a historical consciousness that can be heightened by cinema. As Ryan explains, “black women filmmakers frequently return to the past in order to reinscribe the history of Black women’s agency as a basis for constructing future agency.”

           All of tonight’s films focus on this construction of future agency for their black female protagonists. Dash accomplishes it by reclaiming a narrative of the past and figures traditionally marginalized in the historical record. Losing Ground (1982), Just Another Girl on the I.R.T. (1992) and Middle of Nowhere (2012) tell the stories of contemporary black women who already possess agency as a philosophy professor, a girl with college aspirations and a medical student, respectively. Circumstances in their life force them each to go on a further journey of self-discovery to develop a more internal sense of agency.

           Women of color often feel excluded from the feminist conversation because of the tendency of some white feminists to ignore issues of class and race. Audre Lorde critiqued white feminist attitudes in the 1980s: “By and large within the women’s movement today, white women focus upon their oppression as women and ignore differences of race, sexual preference, class, and age. There is a pretense to a homogeneity of experience covered by the word sisterhood that does not in fact exist.”

           Thus, in a programming series that celebrates sisterhood and Trailblazing Women behind the camera, it’s essential to include a night of viewing dedicated to African-American independent female filmmakers—to allow their voices to be a part of the conversation; to reclaim their history and their stories. Only now, they’ve become a part of the historical narrative, the story of women in film, themselves.

Sources:

Cooper, Nekisa (November 1, 2012). “Love on the Outside”Filmmaker Magazine.

 Dargis, Manohla (December 2, 2014). “Making History: With ‘Selma,’ Ava DuVernay Seeks a Different Equality”The New York Times

Larkin, Alile Sharon. “Black Women Film-makers Defining Ourselves: Feminism in Our Own Voice.” In Female Spectators: Looking at Film and Television, edited by E. Deidre Pribram. London and New York: Verso, 1988.

Lorde, Audre. Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches by Audre Lorde. New York: Crossing Press, 1984.

Ryan, Judalyn S.  Spirituality as Ideology in Black Women’s Film and Literature, Virginia: University of Virginia Press, 2005.

variety.com
‘Crazy Rich Asians’ Adaptation Lands at Warner Bros. (EXCLUSIVE)
Warner Bros. has acquired “Crazy Rich Asians” and has fast-tracked the romantic-comedy for production. It will be one of the only major studio movies to feature an exclusively Asian cas…
By Brent Lang

Warner Bros. has acquired “Crazy Rich Asians” and has fast-tracked the romantic-comedy for production. It will be one of the only major studio movies to feature an exclusively Asian cast. Rights for the project attracted a heated bidding war.

“Crazy Rich Asians” unfolds in a world of opulence, as new and old money collide among a set of Chinese families living in Singapore. It’s being pitched as a combination of “Devil Wears Prada” and “Pride & Prejudice,” and follows Rachel Chu, a Chinese-American economics professor and her boyfriend, Nick Young. When Nick invites Rachel to attend his best friend’s wedding in his home town of Singapore, he fails to mention that as the heir to a massive fortune, he is viewed as the country’s most eligible bachelor.

Color Force’s Nina Jacobson her partner Brad Simpson came on board two years ago when Kevin Kwan’s book of the same name was still in the manuscript stage.

“It was just a page turner in and of itself,” said Jacobson. “It was a delight to be taken into this world that as a Westerner I didn’t know. It felt so new and fresh and gave you so much insight.”

Color Force, which produced “The Hunger Games” series, brought in Ivanhoe Pictures, the maker of “In the Bedroom,” and developed the project and packaged the film with Jon M. Chu directingfrom a screenplay by Adele Lim (Fox’s “Lethal Weapon”) and Pete Chiarelli (“The Proposal”). To get the gig, Chu, a first-generation Asian-American, put together a visual presentation that included family photos to show his deeply personal connection to the material.

Jacobson and Simpson knew that finding the right studio home would take a lot of time and effort. Aside from “The Joy Luck Club,” which was a hit when it came out in 1993, and “Memoirs of a Geisha,” which was not when it bowed 12 years later, there have been very few U.S.-backed films centered around Asian characters and experiences. It also comes at a time when the romantic-comedy genre is struggling. It’s been a long time since “Pretty Woman” and “Notting Hill” filled theaters, and with a few exceptions, such as “Trainwreck,” most studios have largely stopped making meet-cute films. The “Crazy Rich Asians” producers think that there story and setting is a novel way to revive the genre.

“At a time where we keep asking how we can compete with TV and other offerings, it’s important to give people something different,” said Simpson. “We’re taking them to a world that hasn’t been shown much on film.”

The story may be a rarity for Hollywood, but it hits at a time when the issue of diversity is being hotly debated across the entertainment industry. The Chinese film market is second only to the U.S., but despite its box office contribution, very few films feature Asian characters. Only 5% of speaking parts in film, television, and digital programming were played by Asian actors in all of 2014, according to a study by USC. Indeed, there have been several instances of white actors playing roles that were originally designated for Asians, including Emma Stone in “Aloha” and Scarlett Johansson in the upcoming “Ghost in the Shell.”

“Inclusion is good business,” said Jacobson. “Inclusion is a way of reaching new and broader audiences and keeping material fresh.”

Production may begin as early as this spring in Singapore. The producers are embarking on a worldwide search for the cast. “Crazy Rich Asians” was a bestseller upon release, with nearly one million copies in print worldwide. Kwan saw the novel as the first in a trilogy. His follow-up, “China Rich Girlfriend,” was a commercial success, and the last installment in the series, “Rich People Problems,” debuts next summer. Kwan felt so strongly that Color Force and Ivanhoe were the right companies to produce the film that he optioned the novel for a dollar.

“I am beyond thrilled that the amazing film my fans around the world have been waiting for is finally happening,” said Kwan in a statement. “I have such tremendous respect and trust in Nina, Brad, Jon, and Warner Bros, and I know they are going to create an incredible, history-making movie.”

Simpson and Jacobson will produce along with Ivanhoe President John Penotti. Kwan will serve as executive producer along with Ivanhoe’s Chairman Robert Friedland. Courtenay Valenti and Jon Gonda will oversee the project for Warner Bros. The studio has been trying to increase diversity both in front of and behind the camera — it lined up a female director in Patty Jenkins to oversee “Wonder Woman,” and enlisted African-American filmmaker Rick Famuyiwa to oversee “The Flash.”

The deal for “Crazy Rich Asians” was negotiated by Ziffren Brittenham LLP. Kwan is represented by Alexandra Machinist at ICM and Chu by WME and Principato Young.

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Represent: Interactive by Li Sumpter

AACC + MLK Weekend Wrap-Up

Thank you, Philadelphia. The Museum’s 2015 MLK Jr. weekend was the best one yet. The local community affirmed—in record-breaking numbers—just how golden a moment this was for the Museum and American history in the making.

The celebration kicked off Friday night with over 1,700 attendees for the Art After 5 dance party with old-school DJ Rob Base on the wheels of steel. Saturday’s gala fundraiser was a sold-out affair, featuring a lively keynote address from Dr. Richard J. Powell, Dean of the Humanities at Duke University. And what’s better than a fancy Museum party? A party with a purpose. At the gala, Trustee Dr. Constance E. Clayton was honored for her contributions to the Museum, the African American Collections Committee, and Philadelphia. Also, proceeds from the fundraiser were used to support a new fellowship opportunity in Dr. Clayton’s name to advance diversity in the curatorial field.

Over 5,000 people attended Sunday’s Martin Luther King, Jr., Family Day Celebration and Monday’s Pay What You Wish Day of Service programs. Activities were inspired by Dr. King’s legacy and the art of “Represent: 200 Years of African American Art,” featuring dance performances, art making, and a community talkback called “Conversation of Kings: Black Lives Matter…Let Us Breathe” led by NewCORE’s Rev. Malcolm T. Byrd.

Something magical happens when the stars align.

Director Ava DuVernay’s film “Selma” was released at a time when violence and unrest in Ferguson, New York, Paris, and Nigeria were breaking news. This demonstrates synchronicity hard at work. The timely vision of one filmmaker has made an undeniable impact on the country. The power of the film underscores the power of the people—especially artists and visionaries—to transform the world, one dream at a time. As we watch DuVernay blaze trails for African American filmmakers and female directors, the opening of “Represent” and the Museum’s doors to curators of color feels like part of a greater alignment toward peace, justice, and equality for all across the globe.

 

Thank you, Philadelphia and Museum friends everywhere for getting this journey through the African American collection started on a good foot. March on. Represent.

Stills from Director Ava Duvernay’s Selma (2014) Paramount Pictures