Wednesday, January 12, 2011
I wouldn't call it a resolution, but I do intend to cover more films of color on Tinsel & Tine in 2011. It's a shame that it takes effort, but if you're not a fan of Tyler Perry there's not a whole lot to see during most years. Good for Tyler Perry that he found his niche, his abundance and his audience, and I did intend to see For Colored Girls, but ... Well, I'm hoping other black/multi-racial filmmakers emerge with a storytelling style more to my aesthetic.
To that end, I attended last week's Reelblack's Showcase of Short Films by Emerging Artists of Color (I House). Reelblack headed by Mike D has been celebrating, promoting and creating great events around black film in Philly for years; it's certainly not new to me, I've been to other Reelblack film nights and always kept abreast of their happenings, but now that Mike grants me a press pass, you may be seeing more T & T coverage.
First in the line up was This Time (15 min) by Matthew Cherry - this film was done in association with Our Fallen Soldier, a non-profit that provides mental and financial assistance for families who have lost a loved one to war or are helping to care for an injured soldier.
The strength of this short was it's ability to draw you into the characters very quickly. The story opens at a club where Cheyenne (Reagan Gomez) is in the midst of enjoying her bachlorette party, when her old boyfriend Kevin (Michael Moss) walks in. He's come with his boyz, to celebrate finishing his tour of duty in the military. You come to find out Kevin broke things off with Cheyenne before going overseas, but now that he's back he doesn't want her to go through with her wedding.
A simple enough romantic premise, but with a little twist at the end. The trouble is I felt like the visuals that clue you in to the ending needed to be larger and filmed longer, otherwise you could miss the whole thing. In my opinion, it's also important when it comes to fantasy segments, that you don't cheat the audience. If we had seen Cheyenne lost in thought after her conversation with Kevin at the Club instead of before, the story as a whole would be more satisfying.
The Dance Lesson (14 min) by Chinonye Chukwu - This story with a Philly backdrop, is about a young African American girl (Chioma Dunkley) who falls in love with ballet and wants desperately to take lessons. Not as schmaltzy as it sounds. I'll let the filmmaker's bio fill in the rest: Chinonye Chukwu is a Nigerian-born, Alaskan raised screenwriter and director. Artistically, she is most concerned with images that are rich with cultural nuances, often dealing with the complex and contradictory issues of ethnic identity, dual identity, and cross-cultural (and cross-generational) interaction.
Chinonye was not able to attend the screening, the film was represented by Tanya Jackson of The Philly Slam a monthly Film Screening Competition held at The Arts Garage (1533 Ridge Ave). I'd like to check it out, but I'm a little afraid this might be the section of Ridge Ave that I drive through very quickly. Gotta say, I like the fact that the flyer says the $10 admission includes Food and Drink!
My favorite short of the night was Romeo and His Juliet (19 min) by Davis Northern which involves the off-stage relationships of two actors doing monologues from Romeo & Juliet and their director. Shakespeare's language underscores a montage of drama going on behind the scenes. It's rather effective!
Northern's background and affinity for acting and directing plays shows through in his film.
"I took to Shakespeare early on, when I was going through stuff in the garage and came across my father's book of the complete works of Shakespeare, all the sonnets, poems and plays; when I revisited this, it became the birth of Romeo and His Juliet - I love playing with subtext and I love theater, it's like an actor's playground to roam".
Northern is a graduate of NY Film Academy where he's created almost a dozen shorts, but this was the first project that required he raise funds and gather a larger film crew. I asked him about his choice to cast white actors, as a black director (which I applaud, as it's natural for white directors to work with black actors).
His response, "It wasn't deliberate. It was organic. When a particular role calls for a certain race and that's what it has to be, then fine; but I didn't go into the auditions knowing what my cast was going to look like. It was all about the delivery. All races came through, we had an age range for the casting call, but other than that, those that read came in all shapes and sizes."
T & T: Did the cast need time to adjust to working with you?
DN : "I don't feel anyone ever stopped and said wait a minute, this is a white cast and we got a black director, the cast and crew's symmetry flowed, it was phenomenal.
T & T: They were good Shakespearean actors.
DN: I had an amazing cast (Julia Trinidad, Peter Danzig and John Schultz), that was one of the requirements, because projecting the lines of Shakespeare is an arduous thing and then to fill in the subtext behind the lines and still project those emotions... they worked well and allowed me to push them and go the limit.
Other shorts featured during the evening were:
Porches (5min) by Tatiana Bacchus (pictured lft) (St. Lewis Productions, LLC.) & Cymande Lewis -documentary featuring five African-American women living in Philadelphia who range in age from 90 to 105. The film is looking for support to expand the project, which gives our elders a voice and educates our youth to real, living history.
The People Outside (14 min) by Jameel Saleem - Sci-fi mystery of a man locked in what appears to be a mental institution.
Last year, Saleem was interviewed on Shelly Rio's blog: Where do you see yourself in 5 years? JS: In five years I will be the first african-american director to win an Academy Award for Directing, and much much more...
The Visit (48 min) by Kaloni Davis (Northstar Visions) - Narrative about a self-serving lawyer, who treats everyone in his life, including his pregnant wife, as expendable nuisances, but soon discovers you reap what you sew. (pic lf to rt. actor, Rob Jefferson, K. Davis)
Tinsel & Tine wishes much success in 2011 to all the emerging filmmakers.
Philadelphia Stories 8
Tell us your story! Filmmakers of the Greater Philadelphia area with stories to tell, the ambition to create and determination to complete, we invite you to submit a program for Philadelphia Stories 8.
Selected programs will air on MiND TV as part of Philadelphia Stories (airing in May 2011) and receive the following award amounts.
Submit your finished projects to Philadelphia Stories 8.
We're looking for:
5 Minute Category- $1,000
15 Minute Category- $2,000
30 Minute category- $3,000
All genres will be considered: narratives, documentaries, animation, experimental and otherwise. Works should reflect superior production and artistic value. Productions must be linked to the Greater Philadelphia, PA region. This is an opportunity for all our area's filmmakers to tell the stories that reach across gender, class, age, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity and economic background. Collaboration between producers, media arts centers and other independent entities is encouraged.
The deadline is fast approaching -Jan 31st, 2011.
You can download your submission form HERE: