the movement festival

Ava DuVernay b. August 24, 1972

DuVernay is an American filmmaker and distributor. 

She graduated from UCLA with a double major in English literature and Africa-American studies. After graduation DuVernay began to work as a publicist for movies, eventually creating her own successful publicity firm. From 1999 to 2011 she is credited as doing publicity work on nearly 100 films and TV shows. While doing the work DuVernay developed a desire to become a filmmaker in her own right.  

In 2006 she directed her first short film Saturday Night Life. She followed this up with several short documentaries. In 2010 she made her feature film debut with the film I Will Follow which she entirely self-funded using $50,000 of her own money. Unable to find a distributor willing to release the film theatrically she created the African-American Film Festival Releasing Movement (AFFRM) and distributed the film herself.

By 2012 DuVernay made her second film Middle of Nowhere. With the film DuVernay achieved a long-standing goal to have her work shown at the Sundance Film Festival. Not only was it screened in the U.S. dramatic competition category but DuVernay also won the Best Director award making her the first African-American woman to win that category. 

Despite the festival success of Middle of Nowhere no distributors were willing to give the movie a theatrical release. DuVernay again released her film via AFFRM. She was offered work directing TV and commercials, but no movie offers came her way. In 2013 however David Oyelowo, who had starred in Middle of Nowhere, was attached to the movie Selma which had recently lost director Lee Daniels who wanted more money to make the film. Oyelowo asked the producers to consider hiring DuVernay which they did as she was willing to make the film for a budget of $20 million, re-write the script with no credit and the limitation that none of Martin Luther King jr’s speeches could actually be used. 

Selma was DuVernay’s first film with a studio distributor, an awards campaign, and a wide release. She became the first black woman nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Director and the first black woman to direct a Best Picture nominee at the Oscars. 

In 2015 DuVernay, who had kept AFFRM open and continued to give theatrical distribution to small films directed and or/starring African-Americans, partnered with Netflix and re-branded her company as ARRAY revealing that the scope of the distribution company would now also include a mandate to focus on films directed by women. 

The following year DuVernay partnered with Oprah’s company OWN to create the miniseries Queen Sugar for which she hired a directorial crew made up entirely of women. She also announced that she had secretly been filming a documentary called 13th, which would debut at the 2016 New York Film Festival making her the first person to have a documentary open the festival and the first black woman to open the festival. DuVernay also became the first black female director to be nominated for Best Documentary for her work on the film 

She is currently working on an adaptation of the book A Wrinkle in Time for Disney, a film with a budget of over $100 million making her only the fifth woman and first black woman to direct a live-action movie with a budget that size. 

Everything Wrong with Afropunk 2016:

Photos: (L): Photo of myself, taken by Driely S. | ®: Skin of Skunk Anansie, taken by my partner, Tom.

I am someone that, while I thoroughly enjoyed my time that weekend, was also very, very aware of how “un-punk” the festival was. Did I dance, eat, drink, and smile? Yup. I even got photographed a few times, so I can’t be mad at that. But the articles popping up about the festival becoming a “Black Coachella” are not negative.They are true. Here’s why:

Controversial Acts:

This year, Tyler The Creator headlined the Red Stage on Saturday. The rush to get to that area of the festival grounds was chaotic. But I must have been the only one who was thinking in the back of their mind “didn’t Tyler come under fire for some homophobic remarks a few years ago?” Back in 2008, when Afro-Punk documentary maker James Spooner was still involved in the festival, he actually got on stage to call out a band that ended their set with a cover of the homophobic song “Boom Bye Bye”. Because that simply didn’t fly with the vision Spooner had for this festival/movement. So I can only imagine that he must be cringing at the choice of having Tyler headline.

Also on the bill for Saturday was Cee Lo Green, on the Green stage.. who, admittedly, I danced to, because Cee Lo has had some serious bangers in his career. However, I couldn’t be the only one who hasn’t forgotten his deplorable stance on sexual assault. When your booked artist stands firmly against your banner of “No Sexism” which is what you pride your festival on, then you’ve got a real problem, and should re-evaluate what you want Afropunk to represent. Enough said.

And then there is the band Trash-Talk, who I didn’t research before going, and who’s set I didn’t see. But in the aftermath, I kept seeing photographs of a white singer, crowd-surfing and moshing with the audience, and wondering who this could possibly be? Turns out that Afropunk has officially ditched its “you ha[ve] to have a black singer” policy, in favor of simply getting any old hardcore punk band with some black members to keep your credibility up as a punk festival. Ouch. Their only saving grace were the amount of amazing black, female-fronted rock and alternative acts I saw on the Green stage (especially Skunk Anansie).

The List of What You Can’t Bring Into the Festival:

Bags that you can fit more than a cell phone in; although they seemed to be more lenient when you actually arrive with a bag, the official festival website’s FAQs scares you into not wanting to bring anything, lest it be confiscated. Other prohibited items included lawn chairs, your own food and drinks, picnic baskets and coolers, and umbrellas. Now, with that being said, I saw more than a handful of people with chairs, and umbrellas that weekend. I do not know if they were simply being lenient on certain people, or if there were chairs and umbrellas for sale on the festival grounds. But it’s not a good idea to risk having to go back to your car or having it confiscated, if you decide to defy the the organizers.

The Choice of Music Spun by DJs:

I’m not anti-hip-hop, rap, or R&B. I’m not anti-pop. But the lack of alternative & punk music (not even black-made punk music) was very apparent at Afropunk this year. Perhaps it had something to do with the “theme” (they have themes now?); “Power to the Party”. What that means, I have no clue. But there was an abundance of hip-hop and rap that I honestly didn’t recognize (because I’m uncool and can’t keep up), with lyrics about “fuckin’ hoes”, and “suckin’ dicks”, and all that cringe-worthy stuff that shouldn’t really be played at a festival whose banner reads “No Sexism”. I literally found myself stopping in the middle of dancing when I would hear lyrics like that, and glance at my partner like “wtf did I just hear?”

White People:

As the festival gains more popularity, more white people are feeling okay about showing up, with their friends in tow. This is probably the most problematic thing about Afropunk, and could lead to its downfall. There are white people coming into a space that was made exclusively for alternative black people, standing through/ignoring black-made music that isn’t for them, to see artists that they could have seen at any other festival (i.e. Tyler, Ice Cube, Cee Lo, Janelle Monae, Trash-Talk). The future of Afropunk could very well look half white, as time goes on.

Cultural Appropriation:

We all know what this is. But we as Black people don’t seem to think it applies to us. I saw more than a handful of black girls with Native American headdresses on, and more than half the people on the grounds sporting the Indian nostril piercing look (you know the one). This isn’t okay. There isn’t much more I need to say on this. Especially since other festivals have come under fire for this sort of behavior before.

Punk as an Afterthought:

At the end of the day, Afropunk is looking to cash in, rather than serve the people it originally intended to serve. With non-punk or alternative headliners, and pricey admission, it’s become more about aesthetic than anything else. Even with Sunday night’s power jam, featuring Living Colour, Fishbone, and Bad Brains, punk was an afterthought. The fact that George Clinton (who was also on stage with them) had to even say “there would be no Afropunk if it wasn’t for Bad Brains” to hype up the crowd (who were all mostly waiting for Ice Cube), says it all. And it’s too late for the festival to turn itself around.

6

Isang Bagsak! Meaning: If one falls, we all fall. Almost fifty years after the struggles and solidarities of the farm workers’ movement, and coming parallel with the highly-anticipated release of the film Cesar Chavez, Marissa Aroy’s independent film tells the lesser-known background of the Great Grape Strike of 1965. Aroy brings light to the significance of organizer Larry Itliong and the 1500 Filipino farm workers in Delano, California who helped light a movement which gave political voice to Chicano, Filipino, Chinese migrant workers and the development of the United Farm Workers. Delano Manongs pays respect to the elders of the American labor movement, and their shared passion, sacrifice, and sense of unity.

If you live in the philly are you should see this show!! I’m in it and our cast and crew have worked hard for this! I will post a link to buy tickets, I especially recommend buying them early online and for the earlier shows, so you are guaranteed a seat! Last year we nearly sold out every show, and the last one was completely sold out!