“The two shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile show that we are still in a system of racism,” local filmmaker Christopher Everett (“Wilmington on Fire”) says about the two men most recently shot and killed by police officers in Louisiana and Minnesota. He reflects upon the unimaginable sniper shooting at a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest in Dallas, too—one of hundreds, if not thousands, held last Wednesday across the country in response to the murders of Sterling and Castile. Five police officers were killed and several others were injured.
“Tragic events like this are nothing new,” Everett continues. “Black people in America have been victims of this type of police use of deadly force [for years], but now the whole world is seeing it because of cell phone technology and social media. . . . Films like ‘Out of Darkness’ examine and discuss what has just happened (police use of deadly force).”
“Out of Darkness” is a three-part documentary by director Amadeuz Christ (Δ+) which explores the history of African people, African cultural contributions to the world, and the events that led to issues impacting African-American communities today. Because of the support and reception he had for “Wilmington on Fire” last year, Everett is hosting a screening of “Out of Darkness” at Williston Middle School Auditorium on July 16.
“Also, it’s a film that most people in Wilmington have never heard of and I wanted to expose them to it,” he continues. “I want this film to educate as many people as possible . . . to be inspired and take action. We must first learn how we got into this current situation and we also have to learn how to get out of it.”
Everett has been following the film since director Amadeuz Christ’s crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo last year. Christ also featured two scholars (Dr. Claud Anderson and Dr. Umar Johnson) that appeared in Everett’s “Wilmington on Fire” (winner of encore’s Best Independent Film, 2016).
“I knew his film was going to be great,” Everett tells. “I am also a huge supporter of what Amadeuz has done with ‘Out of Darkness.’ He is a huge supporter of what I’ve done with ‘Wilmington on Fire,’ too.”
While Everett’s film is somewhat related to Christ’s—Dr. Anderson mentions the Wilmington massacre in “Out of Darkness”—they are still very different. “Out of Darkness” takes place across three acts, each an hour long. It’s designed to be more of a teaching tool rather than a standard documentary.
“I structured the film very much like a research paper,” filmmaker Amadeuz Christ explains, “almost in bullet points, in order to make the subject matter as clear and concise as possible. Still, I wanted to make the material very scholarly and factual, to the point where nearly everything said can be researched and is well-documented.”
Each act deals with its own area of study and includes three to five chapters focusing on a specific subject or theme. Act One covers African history; Act Two deals with racism and false notions of white supremacy; and Act Three delves into hip-hop as a social movement and ends with a chapter on nationhood and nation-building. Christ says the concept of “nationhood,” how it was lost and how to get it back, is the underlying theme throughout “Out of Darkness.”
“The film is essentially a walk through African history, from Nile Valley civilization to the present,” Christ continues. “It walks you through our experiences and explains how we went from ruling the most powerful nations the world has ever seen to being in our current state with that cultural memory almost completely forgotten. It sheds light on the greatness of our history that has been kept from us in what Dr. John Henrik Clarke would call a ‘Eurocentric intellectual universe.’”
Christ’s film examines origins of European racism—or “scientific racism” created as a means to justify global conquest by European nations. It also explores cognitive dissonance: having two conflicting realities in one’s mind, and having to reconcile that internal conflict by rationalizing thoughts and behavior. “This is key to understanding why this system of oppression exists,” he says.
“Out of Darkness” goes further to explore how it social, political and economic structures keep the African American population psychologically powerless. “I would argue everything pertaining to us is psychological,” Christ adds. “We have been taught away from what racism truly is. When you take the emotion out of it, racism is simply about being competitive, specifically, being able to compete with other groups in society and in the national and global marketplaces. We tend to think it is about some group of people not liking another group of people. It is about economics.”
It’s also about education—or miseducation. When the average person thinks about or addresses racism today, Christ says they’re typically only programmed with information that the power structure needs them to know. “The masses are not educated, they are trained,” he clarifies. “The system is designed to create workers, not thinkers. They do not want an educated class of people who know history, politics and economics. It is why we are miseducated, people of African descent especially, when it comes to racism. We tend to look at it from an emotional perspective instead of a strategic one. ‘Out of Darkness’ challenges that paradigm.”
Since its release in January 2016, Christ’s film has been shown from Los Angeles to Detroit, Houston to Atlanta, Boston to Charlotte, NC, and many cities in between. “Out of Darkness” was an official selection for the Pan African Film Festival and screened for three days in Baldwin Hills, CA. “They were packed with people standing, so the response from the community has been outstanding,” Christ says. “I know the Wilmington screening hosted by Chris Everett will be an epic event . . . and I’m sure it will bring much enlightenment to the city.”
In the spirit of bringing the community together, Everett has found a way to give back as well. In an effort to support their “Stop Summer Hunger” campaign, folks are encouraged to bring canned-good donations for the Food Bank of Eastern and Central NC at Wilmington to Saturday’s screening. A portion of the ticket sales will go to Williston Middle School students and Advance Youth Outreach, who will be onsite as well.
“I’ve loved what Vance Williams has been doing in the community for years, [especially with] Advance Youth Outreach,” Everett tells. “All of these organizations are helping youth in the community and we all must support them.”