Nurturing the Film Community: The North Carolina Black Film Festival continues shaping young filmmakers
A ll cities have cineplexes that usher in the week’s hottest blockbuster, but Wilmington proves itself a step above the rest. Offering countless film festivals throughout the year, including DocuTime, Cucalorus, the Jewish Film Festival (occurring for the first time next month), film viewing for locals retains the opportunity to meet with visiting filmmakers showing their work. As well, local filmmakers routinely embark on projects and premiere them locally.
This week will see another round of cinematic celebration via the North Carolina Black Film Festival. Kicking-off this Thursday at the Cameron Art Museum with the opening film “Things Never Said.”
“I had not had a chance to see [‘Things Never Said’], so when we were able to secure it for the festival I was extremely excited,” Black Arts Alliance (BAA) vice-president and festival director says. “I think its an excellent opener for the festival, and I’m really looking forward to it.”
Preceding the film will be a free mixer at 6 p.m. (sponsored by Ken Weeden and Associates), which will allow attendees, filmmakers, and industry experts to mingle. Attending this year’s ceremony will be the Wilmington Minority Professional Networking Group, adding an entrepreneurial component to the evening. The next three days will be dedicated to examining and reveling in African-American film.
Rhonda Bellamy founded the Black Arts Alliance, the organization behind the festival, back in 1998. Upon its inauguration, Bellamy began holding monthly showings of classic black films. From there the event snowballed into a full-blown film festival, at the time called CineNior, 13 years ago. Around five years ago, the name was officially changed to the North Carolina Black Film Festival (NCBFF).
Festival director Charlon Turner moved to Wilmington from Atlanta 10 years ago, and she procured a volunteer position as a board of directors member for the BAA eight years ago. Upon leaving, Bellamy handed the BAA over to Brandon Hickman (president) and Turner. Having garnered a degree in Fine Arts from UNC Greensboro,Turner’s passion for creativity made her the perfect candidate to run the NCBFF.
Over the course of her dealings with the festival, Turner’s seen exponential growth. When she first started producing the festival, she estimates that 300-400 people attended. That number has since grown to breach 1,000.
“We’re just trying to take [the festival] to the next level and grow [it], making it bigger and better,”Turner explains.
As always, the 2014 installation of the NCBFF will highlight the achievements of African-American filmmakers. Ranging from shorts to features, from documentaries to comedies, the festival’s diversified selection affords the opportunity for attendees to completely become immersed in a number of perspectives.
Adding to the mass of viewpoints exhibited, will be a block of shorts held at Jengo’s Playhouse on Friday night. Utilized annually by the Cucalorus Film Festival, headed by Dan Brawly, this will be the first year it facilitates a NCBFF block.
“Brawley is just a huge supporter [of the NCBFF],” Turner details. “We’ve had meetings with him and talked about ideas and suggestions. He’s offered Jengo’s Playhouse in the past, [but] it has not worked out.”
The cultural fixture will showcase the short “Natural Hair Diaries,” which will be emceed by members of Naturally Fly, an organization that perpetuates the burgeoning movement of black women to wear their hair chemical free. Other short selections found throughout the night include, “Red,” “Free Lunch,” “Jump,” and “The Takeover.” The shorts blocks will be followed by another chance for filmmakers and attendees to mingle in Jengo’s backyard.
Part of the film festival’s aim is to create a learning environment for visiting filmmakers—who foten come in the struggling, independent variety. The festival yields the opportunity to tour the Screen Gems Studios, where they will be exposed to professional equipment they may be unfamiliar with thus far in their career.
Turner beams as she describes how great it is to see so many artists soaking up knowledge of their craft. A number of the filmmakers return each year whether they are screening a film or not. Though she won’t be in attendance this year, young filmmaker Ramona L. Taylor, who’s become somewhat of a student of the festival, has evolved over the years she’s attended. This year her film, “The Inevitable” (playing Saturday afternoon at 1:30 p.m.), is likely up for an award during the Sunday night awards ceremony.
“She comes to the festival, she learns, and she goes back and applies it,”Turner says of the beginning filmmaker.
Further cultivating an atmosphere for learning will be a workshop curated by Working Films on Saturday at 11 a.m., at the main stage of the Community Arts Center. The workshop, entitled “Audience Engagement,” will discuss the ways films can incorporate non-profits to aid their efforts in commenting on social justice.
“A lot of it will be catered to documentary filmmakers, but feature filmmakers and other filmmakers can benefit from it,” Turner states. “Working films has a lot of knowledge of the industry and I think what they will be able to share with filmmakers will be very impactful to them.”
As well, this year will include a filmmakers brunch at 10 a.m., to be held in the Don Ansel Studio. Another discussion panel, consisting of an open discussion, will take place between screenings at 4 p.m.
Occurring on Sunday at 3 p.m., will be the second annual fashion in film show. Last year the event asked submitting fashion designers to create based off a list of classic black films. This year the theme will be Afro-centric, as it asks contributing artists to craft designs inspired by “Coming to America.”
The awards ceremony will take place at 4 p.m. on Sunday, while the closing film “The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete” will screen at 4:30 p.m.
For a full list of screening times and a place to purchase tickets, head over to http://blackartsalliance.org. All-inclusive passes are no longer on sale, but one can procure tickets individually for blocks. The opening and closing screenings run $10, the family block on Saturday morning is free, and all other blocks and feature-length screenings cost $5.
NC Black Film Festival
Thursday, March 13th, 6 p.m. – Cameron Art Museum, 3201 S. 17th St.
Friday, March 14th, 6 p.m. – Jengo’s Playhouse, 815 Princess St.
Sat., March 15th, 10 a.m. – Community Arts Center, 120 S. 2nd St.
Sun., March 16th, 3 p.m. – Cameron Art Museum, 3201 S. 17th St.