Real-life issues dominate Twin Cities Black Film Festival slate

The cast of What A Shame (L-R): Demitri McGee, writer-director Davar McGee, Gabi Del Mora, Mike Chevalier and Antonio Jones (Charles Hallman/MSR News)

More than in previous years, serious, real-life headlines were front and center at last weekend’s Twin Cities Black Film Festival (TCBFF). Founder-Director Natalie Morrow told the MSR that she noticed this as well during the four-day event. “It wasn’t planned but we had a lot of serious [films]. All of them were powerful and had deep messages,” Morrow reflected.

The films’ themes centered on such issues as wrongful shootings of Blacks by police, as evidenced in 911, about a Black female emergency operator who took a distressed call from a Black couple during a traffic stop. Another offering, Rise Up, told the story about four young Black girls in Chicago who each were directly affected by gun violence.

Other vintage-themed films included Greenwood, a fictional drama based on the Tulsa riots in the early 20th century, and The Government Gang, a gangster film set in the 1930s on a crime spree was shown. “It is going to be a trilogy,” explained Reggie Henderson, who produced and directed the crime film. He was among a festival-high 11 local filmmakers.

Henderson told the audience during a Q&A that he shot his film in two days in Chaska, Minn. and is working on a third draft of the script in hopes to make it into a full-length feature film. “Hopefully this time next year we will be shooting” the film, said Henderson.

Davar McGee was the only local filmmaker who had two films in this year’s festival. One such film was Suspect, a short with little dialogue about Black males being arrested on the street. The film was shown on the festival’s first night of films (October 12) at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (MIA) — one of four TCBFF sites. McGee said he wrote the script in one day, and shot it in two days.

There were some light-hearted films, as well, including McGee’s second film, What a Shame that closed the festival’s final day at downtown Minneapolis’ Radisson Red Hotel last Sunday. “I wrote my script in about a week,” McGee said on the comedy short set in a restaurant.

Two films were based on and shot in Detroit — Perspective about a young Black man fatally shot by police while helping a friend who was falsely accused of shoplifting, and Destined, starring Cory Hardrict in an inner-city crime drama that was the opening night’s feature.

The star also took part in a post-film Q&A at the MIA, and a meet and greet in downtown Minneapolis last Thursday. “Cory Hardrict was amazing and did a great job,” reported Morrow.

Not Black Enough, which featured interviews with Professor Henry Louis Gates and Vanessa Williams, among others, was about the long-standing rift in the Black community regarding skin color, hair styles and attitudes. It was the only full-length documentary on the festival slate.

Two shorts based on real-life issues or dramatization of such topics: Traits (about sickle cell) and Sterile (about Black females were sterilized without their proper consent) were among the October 14 screenings at Minneapolis Community and Technical College.  TCBFF and the school’s Black student group partnered and co-hosted the screenings, said Morrow.

A couple of foreign based films — The Lost Café about a Nigerian woman attending a film school in Norway, and C’est Moi based in France, were also shown.

The annual TCBFF fashion show, “Black Hollywood” was “over sold out,” said Morrow of the capacity crowd who attended the October 13 show at St. Paul’s Can Can Wonderland. The show featured fashion designs by Jacqueline Amissah-Addison, among others.

Finally, Morrow has established a GoFundMe site to raise funds for a permanent site for her festival.

In future MSR editions, look for feature interviews with actor Cory Hardrict, filmmaker Davar McGee and actress Naiyah Scaife, among others.


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