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NC Black Film Festival
March 24 – 27
Tickets: $5 ind. screening or $25 weekend pass
Screen Gems, Hannah Block USO Community Theatre, Cameron Art Museum

Rhonda Bellamy is a well-known name around Wilmington. An avid arts supporter, whose time has been creatively spent on the Cameron Art Museum’s arts board, as well as co-chair of the Mayor’s Task Force on Arts and Cultural Affairs, Bellamy continues leaving an indelible mark on our Port City. A stage actor for local and regional production houses, as well as producer of many one-woman shows, taking the spotlight isn’t an intimidating factor in Bellamy’s world. In fact, she shines it brightly back on what Wilmington offers its residents. She fights for its inclusion among prominent arts cities, currently even serving the steering committee convened by the North Carolina Arts Council to re-establish an arts council in New Hanover County. It only makes sense for Bellamy to also be one of the founding members of the Black Arts Alliance.

“We were founded in 1998 by a group of local artists, including accomplished musician Grenoldo Frazier, actor/storyteller Maxwell Paige and me,” Bellamy tells encore. “We were gathered to celebrate my 35th birthday and talked about how Wilmington was teeming with black talent in all disciplines.”

They focused on collaborating with others to help produce quality programming in local museums, at colleges, within organizations and groups. Among their joint efforts, they enlivened support from Cameron Art Museum, Cape Fear Museum, UNCW, CFCC, WHQR, Wilmington Chamber Society and Cape Fear Jazz Society. It wasn’t until 2000 that the NC Black Film Festival, then known as Cine Noir, became the topic of discussion.

“We had a deep appreciation for film,” Bellamy says. “We began a film series that screened films every other month, culminating with a restrospective of black films from the 20th century. As part of the retrospective, we invited director Haile Gerima, whose critically acclaimed feature ‘Sankofa’ was being screened. We didn’t realize at the time that he had first come to Wilmington as a graduate student to document the Wilmington 10 experience. Having him here to dialogue with the community about his work added another dimension and fueled our desire to bring in filmmakers.”

Considering Wilmington’s reputable film community, including the celebrated independent film festival Cucalorus, they wanted the North Carolina Black Film Festival (NCBFF) to focus on supporting and cultivating a stronger artistic backbone within the African American community. Ten years later, it continues going strong.

The four-day jury festival has welcomed a plethora of artists, including award-winning director Anthony Hemingway, director Giancarlo Esposito, and stuntwoman April Weeden-Washington in years past. “Each year has its own flavor,” Bellamy says. “Our first big major coup was ‘Standing in the Shadows of Motown,’ the film’s first public screening after its Grammy win.”

The NCBFF has screened Danny Glover’s “Honeydripper” and last year’s “Black Dynamite,” by North Carolina native Scott Sanders, winner of the Distinguished Filmmaker award. The 2011 event will feature animations (“Kirikou & the Sorceress”), dramas (“The Human Web”) and documentaries (“Ghetto Physics”), as well as shorts (“Punch Me”).

“We have strong blocks of shorts and documentaries and several great features, including ‘Scorn,’ by North Carolina filmmaker Nick Dalmacy,” she continues.

The festival also offers programs and even crowns Emerging Filmmaker Honorees, which will go to Charlotte sisters Tajiya, Keita and Saba (last names withheld), who started filmmaking as a hobby to amuse friends and family. Now the 13-, 17-, and 21-year-olds have crafted their own animation flick, drawing the characters, devising the script and even scoring the movie, along with producing and directing.

Annually, the film festival’s screening process is carefully crafted to ensure the bill remains varied and appealing. Bellamy works closely with programmer Brandon Hickman (DJ for Coast 97.3) for content and production value.

“The top films in each genre are awarded $500 cash prizes,” Bellamy says. “We accept films year-round, and we’ll post next year’s application on our website shortly after the March 2011 festival.”

Other events taking place during the NCBFF include a “Red Carpet Event for Youth,” allowing ages 18 and under free entry to watch age-appropriate screenings. “We’ll also have a photographer on hand to take pictures of youth who want to ‘glam it up’ for the red carpet event,” Bellamy says.

CAM will host the opening night reception on the 24th, from 6 to 7 p.m., which is open to the public for free. During the mixer, attendees are encouraged to walk through two exhibits celebrating African American culture: “Remembering BIG,” which showcases the work of the late Allen D. Carter, a.k.a. Big Al or Big, and “From Heart to Hand—African-American Quilts from the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts.”

“Many local artists, myself included, have had wonderfully rich experiences through our associations with other arts organizations,” Bellamy says. “It’s my hope that we can continue to foster those relationships while providing a platform for the uniquely African American experience.”

Full schedule of films can be found here.

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Encore Magazine regularly covers topics pertaining to news, arts, entertainment, food, and city life in Wilmington. It also maintains schedules and listings of local events like concerts, festivals, live performance art and think-tank events. Encore Magazine is an entity of H&P Media, which also powers Wilmington’s local ticketing platform, Print and online editions are updated every Wednesday.

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