AfroPoP, a showcase for filmmakers of color


Ava DuVernay’s directorial success with Selma is not unparalleled

Two DuVernay films – Middle of Nowhere and I Will Follow both were shown at the Twin Cities Black Film Festival, notes Founder-Director Natalie Morrow.  The acclaimed director is just one of many Black female filmmakers who successfully produced small and big-screen cinematic pieces, which typically get exposure at annual film festivals such as Morrow’s.

The National Black Programming Consortium (NBPC) years ago saw a need and provided a platform for filmmakers of color, especially females, notes Executive Director Leslie Fields-Cruz.  She said in a MSR phone interview that the attention DuVernay rightfully is getting couldn’t have come at a better time.

“I’m glad it coincided with what Ava is doing because she is an incredible filmmaker in her own right,” says Fields-Cruz.  Also, three of the five films featured on NBPC-produced AfroPoP, who in January began its seventh season on PBS, were done by Black women.  “I try to find stories that don’t make it in the mainstream but definitely would be worthy of showing to the American public,” she explains.

This season’s series of films deal with an array of issues, such as The Carrier by Maggie Betts, which follows a 28-year-old woman living in a polygamous marriage in Zambia, who learns that she is HIV-positive and pregnant.  “It is one of my favorite films.  It is shot beautifully,” notes Fields-Cruz.

Jocelyn Cooper co-produced AFROPUNK presents The Triptych, which premiered February 9 on PBS’ World channel.   She told the MSR, “We wanted to create the film to help spread the word about the importance and beautiful work” of three artists: Sanford Biggers, Wangechi Mutu and Barron Claiborne.  “It’s about their work and their lives, and what inspired them.”

Securing the necessary financing in order to complete an independent film can be a challenge but “is getting better,” says Cooper.

“Having a multi-platform approach” is important for independent films by Blacks and other people of color in order to reach the intended target audience,” says Fields-Cruz. AfroPoP, for example, isn’t readily available on all PBS stations, but Fields-Cruz points out that NBPC has been streaming its shows for several years.

“We’ve been streaming AfroPoP content for the last 3-4 seasons,” she continues.  “The shows are available online for at least 30 days: “If you don’t have [it] in your area, you can watch it online,” she added.

Fields-Cruz, however, wants Black viewers to contact their local public television station if they want programs like hers regularly aired.  “Public television is a great platform for us,” she surmises. “We need the audience and our supporters to tell public television stations that we want to keep that forum for independent voices because there is a need for it.”

Finally, “We do well online, but we need both [online and traditional media],” concludes the NBPC head.  “We need to make sure that the independent voice is accessible in prime time as well as online around the country.”

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