By Charles Hallman
Women ruled at this year’s Twin Cities Black Film Festival (TCBFF) as several female produced and directed films and shorts were screened in September.
“Anyone who takes the time and the courage to do this, I’m all for that,” notes TCBFF Founder-Director Natalie Morrow. “I’m not a filmmaker, but I know that it’s a lot of work that goes into filmmaking — just trying to find your funding, your actors, your editing and all that.”
“I write a lot [but] I went to school to learn how to edit so I can do my own projects,” said writer-director Schonte Hamilton.
“We’re looking at short after short… that’s just wonderful to see,” observed Deedra Miller, who wrote and also starred in her own film.
The MSR briefly spoke with several female actors, writers, and directors whose films were screened at this year’s festival:
Patrice Johnson — Hill and Gully
Patrice Johnson has an extensive acting resume, which includes writing, directing and producing.
The Jamaican born and New York raised Johnson wrote, directed, and starred in Hill and Gully. It’s “an urban Cinderella story” set during the 2008 election year of Barack Obama around a mother (Johnson) who works at a Caribbean restaurant named after the film title, who has a mother who won’t leave the house and a 10-year-old daughter who is constantly acting out at school.
“It took eight days to shoot it, and four and a half years to edit it,” joked Johnson during an audience Q&A after the screening of her third feature film. She noted that the film touched upon “many different levels: the romance that takes place between two people — one looking for love — and one after the fact. She says no, but doesn’t have an answer for the no.”
Although Johnson for several years has appeared on stage and screen, and worked on both coasts, for her, getting plum roles are still the exception. “There are just not enough real good roles,” she admits. “At a certain point you don’t complain because it doesn’t get you anything. You have to be proactive and start creating.”
Hollywood still sees Blacks in stereotypical roles, Johnson points out. “When I go out to audition and I have to play a crack hoe,” she says, recalling an NYPD Blue audition “for a heroin addict, and they gave me the part, but [told] her to change it to crack. They loved me, but I was too slow. I had to write, and I enjoy doing it.”
Johnson later told the MSR, “We got to sling-shot our way outside of the system” to get more Blacks, other people of color and women in behind the scenes roles such as directing and producing “in order to create.”
“I can’t wait to do my next [film],” concludes Johnson.
Deedra Miller — Fractions
A married couple who were college sweethearts has an open marriage in “Fractions,” an 11-minute short film written by Deedra Miller, who played the wife.
“I had a dream one night that I was sleeping with [Chicago Bulls guard] Derrick Rose,” admitted Miller, who then pitched the idea to director Anthony DuBose.
“We wrote this last year. It was nice seeing your baby [on the big screen],” she told the MSR after seeing her film along with the festival audience.
“It was great seeing people react,” adds DuBose.
Schonte Hamilton — The House with the Bright Light
A young girl is not allowed to play outside in her Chicago neighborhood because of the violence that takes place daily. She decides to writes a letter to the President of the United States about the nightly violence in her Chicago neighborhood.
“It was told through the eyes of a child,” explained Schonte Hamilton, the writer-director of The House with the Bright Light, a 12-minute film. Her sister Tashi Hamilton played a grieving mother: “Her family actually has been affected by gun violence. So [her scene] came from a real place,” she concluded.
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