Twin Cities Black Film Fest continues to draw top talent

(l-r) Brandyn Lee Tulloch, Chidi Nobi and Natalie Morrow
Photo by Charles Hallman

After a pandemic year in 2020, the Twin Cities Black Film Festival (TCBFF) has resumed its annual fall weekend of Black films. Founder-Director Natalie Morrow held her 19th film fest on Oct. 21-24 at the downtown Minneapolis Radisson Red Hotel.

“One of the reasons why I have the platform [is] because I do want people to have a place to show and experience someone watching your film,” Morrow told the audience after showing Michael Winingham’s “Car Jack.” The film is about two women parked in a public garage and confronted by a violent stranger who holds them hostage.

“This is the first film I ever submitted to [a] film festival,” said Winingham, one of several filmmakers who participated in short audience Q&As conducted by Morrow after their work was screened.

Morrow explained that she and her committee watch all of the submitted films. “It’s a hard process,” said Morrow. “We get about 200 films, and we have to narrow it down.”

Something for everyone

This year’s TCBFF slate featured nearly 50 films, mostly shorts, and the subjects ranged from Black history, sports, suspense and murder, comedy, and current events.

“It’s Alright Dad” is about a young boy who befriends a skateboarder and wants him to meet his father. “This is our fourth short film,” said Lynn Dow, adding that her film was influenced by “The Sixth Sense.”

Black-owned breweries make up less than 1% of the nearly 9,000 U.S. breweries, a fact featured in “One Pint at A Time” by Aaron Hose. “Gangsta Island” is a fully animated short by Ken Lewis on the all-time greatest hip hop artists.

“Chicago Guy” by Shahari Moore asks viewers what they would do with their last 24 hours of life. “This was my fourth short film,” said Moore after the screening, adding that her film took about three days to shoot in Chicago. She also reported that she was among four filmmakers who received a grant from a local organization to do their film: “Mine was way longer than [what] they wanted, but it was worth it,” said Moore.

She later told the MSR, “It’s an honor to screen [her film] in Minneapolis. I’m happy to be here.”

“I came here for the [Derek Chauvin] verdict,” admitted Chidi Nobi, the New Yorker on his “B.L.M. Voices” short. “It’s one thing to watch it, it’s another thing to be living here. So it was important for me to be able to talk to somebody that was from here.”

Local activist Brandyn Lee Tulloch is prominently featured in Nobi’s film, which was shot entirely in Minneapolis. “They say ‘Minnesota Nice,’ but this is not the nicest place for us to live,” he said, adding that he, like the rest of the world, saw the George Floyd murder video last year. “I was upset, then I was angry. I needed to turn this into something. That’s when I started going out [on protests]. I’ve been outside ever since.

“[The] first protest I went to was outside of Derek Chauvin’s house,” recalled Tulloch.

Tyler Griffin’s “A Loc + A Twist,” filmed in California, examines the negative view of Black hair. Griffin told the audience after his film screened, “It was really important for me to make sure that I was informing African American men and African American women of their issues that they may be going through…over hair.” 

Griffin himself wears his hair in braids but was told by his corporate employer to “keep my hair above my shoulders. I don’t really think it’s being spoken enough that Black men are going through things in regards to their hair and employment [similar to Black women],” he said.

Filmmaker Amber Patton
Photo by Charles Hallman

“I like character-driven stories,” explained Amber Patton on “After Forever,” a short about a couple reuniting for the first time after the death of their newborn child. “It’s always interesting to see what happens to people when things don’t go as planned.” 

Patton also noted that getting her script to film wasn’t easy: “I went quite a few different paths, and when I wrote the script I sat on it for a while because I was a little nervous to put it out there.”

Patton added that her plans are to work on a feature script of “After Forever” because “we want to tell the full scope of that story, the beginning of their relationship, this section of their relationship [featured in the short], and what happens afterward, and give that closure to people.”

Now that the 19th TCBFF is in the books, Morrow told the MSR, “I’m grateful for the films that we did select. We had about 12 filmmakers come in from out of state, which I was excited about. 

“We are just elated that more people are submitting their films, and hopefully this will be a destination for all the filmmakers to come,” said Morrow. “We’re going to go into [our] 20th year. We’re going to do something really big.”