I'm always excited when I get the chance to cover events celebrating the arts. In fact, when I got the call earlier last week to attend opening night of the 22nd Annual African American Film Marketplace I couldn't have been more stoked. As you may know, I'm a creative writer (Number of completed scripts: 75% of a feature and 25% of a short - but that's not the point), so you know I was anticipating rubbing elbows with a few black film pioneers.
Opening night, commonly referred to as the Black Academy Awards, was held at the Harmony Gold Theater on Sunset, and was dedicated to honor those who've paved the way for many black entertainers. The red carpet was lit with some of the brightest up and coming filmmakers in black Hollywood.
Floyd Marshall, a filmmaker from Philly, was excited to be in attendance. His project, entitled A Child of God, explores one of the many taboo topics in the black family. It’s a story about a young man who’s transitioning, and the obstacles he faces with acceptance in his community. Although his mother is supportive, his father’s acceptance doesn’t come as easy seeing as he runs one of the largest African American churches in their community.
Whoever said that black films aren’t diverse, lied. I had the chance to chat with a few other filmmakers on the carpet, and their stories were just as compelling as Marshall’s. Joy Parris’ film Sexless after 40, No. was also on the roster to show this past weekend and from the looking at the title, I’m sure it wasn’t one to be missed. Penda Diakite is a young filmmaker from Portland, by way of Mali, West Africa, showed two shorts in the festival – Words from a Silence and Diary of Reflection.
Hosted by William Allen Young (aka Frank Mitchell, bka Moesha's dad), the event kicked off with a beautiful performance by Korie Davis, an outstanding violinist from Antioch. Young presented the first award of the night, Community Service Award, to LaRita Shelby, a media professional with a heart of gold whose mission is of ensure that students have access to music and the arts. Jazzy Rita’s acceptance speech set the tone for the rest of the night: Inspirational, Celebratory and REAL.
The beautiful Vanessa Williams (Soulfood) presented the Lifetime Achievement awards to a few major entertainment pioneers: Ron Brewington, seasoned radio broadcaster; Billy Woodberry, independent filmmaker and educator; and the incomparable Julie Dash, filmmaker extraordinaire.
Thoroughly impressed with the night, I left feeling motivated to continue sharing the stories of our people. I wish the best to all of the filmmakers sharing their art, some for the first time.
Visit the BHERC’s website for more information on the annual festival and for a detailed schedule of the films showcased, here.