(Part one in a series of articles about the Twin Cities Black Film Festival)
By Charles Hallman
Local filmmakers were featured at this year’s Twin Cities Black Film Festival (TCBFF). The MSR was in attendance at the four-day event held September 26-29 at St. Louis Park’s Showplace Icon Theaters.
“We had 11 [local] filmmakers, and his was the only one that sold out,” proclaimed TCBFF Founder-Director Natalie Morrow on Ménages, a two-hour film directed by Edith Rene Tchuichoui. It was part of her “Celebration of Minnesota Filmmakers.” The movie’s main characters are Samantha, a U.S. citizen and Joseph, a Cameroon immigrant are brought together who are forced to make choices based on emotions or interests.
“I started working on this movie in ’09,” said the filmmaker, who added that it was originally filmed as a short, but later lengthened it after audience reactions that saw it were positive.
“I’m a fan of horror movies,” says Director Chico O’Neal, who directed Com Carne, a 10-minute short on a woman literally having her date for dinner. “I figured out that this would take everybody by surprise to see a female character go to town on this guy.” He added that the film is part of a series, and disclosed that the character will meet her end at the conclusion.
Infidelity, an hour-long feature, was filmed entirely in North Minneapolis. “I wanted to base it in North Minneapolis because that’s where I stay,” explained director Briana Watson. “I want to base a lot of my films in the area where I live. Also I feature a lot of people [in the film] from my area so they can get experience in acting.”
“She’s only 19,” noted Morrow on Watson. “I just applaud her because she’s starting young and we know that she is going to be the next big filmmaker in Hollywood, and I want to encourage her.”
“I want to be famous in five years,” promised Watson. “I want to stay in independent films because a lot of the work is raw.”
“We touched on serial killers and on women taking back what’s theirs,” noted Mike Jackson on Vigilante, a 15-minute film. “I’m writing a feature right now – it’s a drama and a romance as well. It basically about what happens after you fall in love with somebody.”
“I thought it was a good selection,” says Morrow on screening False Positive, a six-minute vignette directed by 20-year-old Matthew Charles. It’s about a causal affair that brought unexpected surprises and harsh truths to light. “It wasn’t based on specifically on anything in my personal life,” he told the audience after the film. “Some of the things I have seen or heard . . . There are a lot of stories from people I’ve known.”
“I was just glad for the opportunity,” Charles later told the MSR. When asked his reaction to sitting with the audience watching his film, “It was a little nerve whacking because you don’t know how people will react to certain scenes. But I felt like the reception was very positive, and it was just fun because so much of my work is seen only by friends – I’m glad I did it.”
“Don’t be intimidated by how old you are,” advises Charles. “Whether you’re younger or older, if you have a story to tell and a film you want to make, there will be challenges but just go for it. My advice to any filmmaker out there is that opportunities are out there everywhere, and you got to take it and just got to do it. If you don’t know something, don’t be afraid to ask.”
“We need events like this one for filmmakers in Minnesota,” surmises Tchouichoui on the TCBFF. He told the MSR when asked about his next project, “I have ideas in my head: action, drama, and comedy, sci-fi. I haven’t decided which one to move on yet.”
“I found out about this through coincidence – my dad was reading the newspaper and said, ‘Hey, submit your film to this,” admitted Charles.
“I’m just beyond happy with the turnout,” concludes Morrow on this year’s festival. “We’ve done some different things from last year, and I can see from the results that it did work. I know next year it will be better and we will just improve on those things.”
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org