By Charles Hallman
Local Black auteurs are actively seeking their place as independent filmmakers, following the cinematic path forged by Spike Lee and Robert Townsend, and Oscar Michaeaux before them.
Twin Cities Black Film Festival (TCBFF) Founder-Director Natalie Morrow says that although she uses a selection committee, “I’m usually the final person to pick the films, so I take that seriously [because] it is hard for [Black filmmakers] to get their films exposed,” she admits. She points out that this year’s TCBFF, held October 15-17 in downtown Minneapolis, featured the most locally based films (five) in its eight-year history. The MSR interviewed four of the makers of these films.
“It has been awesome to be in the midst of so many wonderful films,” says Lee H. Jordan, who produced and directed We Turned the Page, which is about a grandfather who tells his grandkids how he got his library card.
“Between the time that I wrote it and contacting people, I think it took nearly a month to really get everything together, including wardrobe,” he points out of the nearly 10-minute film.
“I [did] everything: the editing, sound and the camera,” says Century College Professor D. Eric Harmon, who produced the documentary The Science of Race.
“I wanted to do a series: one about how the Bible was used by slave owners, who quoted certain Scripture [that supposedly meant] that God liked slavery; and I did this one to show how science back then and also today is still used to justify White supremacy and to suggest that the problems Black people have are because of some genetic disposition.”
Kareem McCoy and Carole Harris, husband-and-wife filmmakers from St. Paul, presented Admonitions, about a teenager with ESP who has realized these powers should be used in a positive way.
“I knew I was a writer, but I never knew that I would be a filmmaker,” admits Tyeastia (Tye) Green, the creator, director, writer and executive producer of TH3M, which follows the lives of seven same-gender-loving women in a serial format. â€œIt is a show about life, love and people.
I think anybody can pull out parts of this show and see themselves in it.
That is what I wanted to portray, to show our Black community that there is no difference [between the characters in the film and anyone else]. It is not a gay show.”
Green shot all four episodes in the Twin Cities this past May. “I didn’t just select the best actresses, but I selected people who felt right to me,” she explains of the cast who also are from the area. “For most of the cast, this was their first time acting.”
Dion Strawhorn, a Chicago probation officer, and his wife Susan started 9×18 Productions and have filmed and produced three films, including The Concert, which was shown at the TCBFF. It is about a widower raising his teenage son, who is torn between the death of his wife and still holding on to his fast growing-up son. “Initially the plan was to [film] this over a two-day period, but due to budget crunch and time constants we knocked it out in one day,” says Strawhorn. â€œWe started at three in the afternoon and ended at two in the morning, with one camera.”
“I think it’s awesome that we have a venue here for Black films,” says Harris of TCBFF. “This is one place where you can come together to meet and talk to people, to get to know other writers and other filmmakers, and see that there are other people trying to do the same thing. They might not be necessarily where they want to be, but it’s nice to see that they are working on things and making progress.”
“I got all kinds of stuff,”says McCoy on his projects, including the comedy-drama Cupid’s Bad Aim. “It is about a Cupid who keeps shooting the wrong people,” he says with a smile.
After their respective films were shown, “I was initially nervous but the response was great,” Jordan says. “I’m very, very proud of it, and looking forward to doing my next film.”
“It was well received and I appreciated it,” adds Dion Strawhorn.
“I am just glad that people have an open mind to watch it,” says Green.
When asked what more can be done for Black filmmakers to be more embraced, “Right now, we have to carry our own load,” says Jordan. “As a film producer, director and writer, to have a story to tell is a wonderful thing.”
“I think there is a huge opportunity here in Minnesota,” believes Harris of local independent Black filmmakers. “We have a lot of resources [and] a lot of talent.”
Black filmmakers just want “to do what we want to do, and that is to make good films,” concludes Jordan.
For more information about the abovementioned films or the Twin Cities Black Film Festival, go to www.tcbff.org.
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.