According to Tambay Obenson‘s article on indiewire.com, filmmaker Ava DuVernay‘s distribution company ARRAY is building a state-of-the-art, 50-set movie theater, which will be able to screen independent movies as well as be available for rental. To quote the article:
“Located west of downtown Los Angeles — a part of the city that doesn’t house many media moguls — it’s also the area’s only independent theater. And it comes at a time when exhibitors are apoplectic over the impact of Netflix and other major streaming companies.
ARRAY VP Tilane Jones said that’s one reason they chose to open it. “It’s really a labor of love, which is all driven by a desire to be in service of people,” Jones said. “Our filmmakers and our audience.”
The ARRAY library is an eclectic selection of independent films, many of which were directed by women and/or people of color, united by singular visions and themes of social justice — a template that mainstream distributors often dismiss out of hand. For DuVernay, who worked as a movie marketer and publicist for more than 14 years, this represented an opportunity.”
ARRAY is also working to create opportunities for filmmakers of color. Last year, ARRAY teamed up with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and producer Dan Lin to launch the Evolve Entertainment Fund, which provides promotion, grants, and gap financing for communities historically excluded from the entertainment industry.
ARRAY Alliance, which is the company’s non-profit division, plans to create grants for African American, Latino and Asian American film festivals, societies and clubs, as well as support the screenings, curriculum, and teacher training that will help young audiences learn the value of art, independent film, and social justice.
At the 50thNAACP Image Awards, the NAACP announced its historic “Jamestown to Jamestown” event partnership with Ghana, marking the 400th year enslaved Africans first touched the shores of what would become the United States of America.
An official event of Ghana’s “Year of Return,” Jamestown to Jamestown will allow for NAACP leadership, NAACP members, and members of the African American community to honor both ancestors and the struggle for Black liberation in a groundbreaking trek from Jamestown, Virginia to Jamestown in Accra, Ghana in August of this year.
“Jamestown to Jamestown represents one of the most powerful moments in the history of the Black Experience,” said NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson. “We are now able to actualize the healing and collective unity so many generations have worked to achieve in ways which bring power to our communities in America, Africa and throughout our Diaspora.”
The Jamestown to Jamestown events kickoff August 18 in Washington D.C., where participants will travel via bus to Jamestown, Virginia for a prayer vigil and candle- ighting ceremony marking the African “Maafa,” a term describing the horrific suffering embedded in the past four centuries related to the enslavement process.
Participants will then travel back to DC for a gathering at the National Museum of African American History and Culture (which was designed by Ghanaian architect Sir David Adjaye) prior to departing to Ghana on a direct flight for 7 to 10 days of cultural, spiritual and cathartic experiences designed to connect the present to the African past.
Some trip events include:
• Prayer Vigil at Jamestown, VA Settlement
• Direct Chartered Flight to Ghana from Washington, DC
In honor of Black History Month, on February 23/24 at 12pm PST,The Paley Center for Media in Beverly Hills, CA is screening a FREE Queen Sugarmarathon. It’s a chance for Queen Sugar fans to come together and enjoy several of their favorite episodes from the OWN series.
Exclusive merchandise will be given out to fans on a first come, first served, while supplies last.
“First Things First”
In the series premiere, directed by award-winning filmmaker Ava DuVernay (Selma), Charley, a savvy wife and manager of a professional basketball star living an upscale Los Angeles lifestyle, returns to her family home—an 800-acre sugarcane farm in the heart of Louisiana—after her father suffers a stroke and she receives alarming news about her husband. There, she reunites with her estranged siblings Nova and Ralph Angel. Together, they must navigate the triumphs and struggles of their complicated lives in order to run an ailing farm in the New South. (2016; 44 minutes)
“Give Us This Day”
Charley continues to make calculated choices regarding Davis’s (Timon Kyle Durrett) basketball career and her desire to secure an investor. Nova and lover Calvin (Greg Vaughan) finally reunite, but their union causes controversy in the community. Davis attempts to repair his relationship with son Micah (Nicholas L. Ashe), but he faces resistance. Aunt Violet (Tina Lifford) learns of Hollywood’s (Omar J. Dorsey) departure and tries to make amends, and Ralph Angel makes a shocking discovery that changes everything. (2016; 43 minutes)
“After the Winter”
Charley and Davis remain entangled, Ralph Angel tries to find his footing on the family farm, and Aunt Violet confronts her feelings for Hollywood. Plus, Micah has a dangerous encounter with a police officer. (2017; 43 minutes)
Charley’s shocking plan to save her business puts her relationship with Remy in jeopardy. Hollywood proposes to Violet, and Nova and Remy share an unexpected moment. Finally, Ralph Angel decides if he can forgive Darla. (2017; 65 minutes)
“From on the Pulse of Morning”
Ralph Angel receives some unexpected news, the fate of the correctional facility is revealed, and Charley makes a proposal on behalf of the farmers. Plus, Violet and Hollywood celebrate their love. (2018; 60 minutes)
About The Paley Center for Media:
The Paley Center for Media is a nonprofit organization with locations in New York and Los Angeles which works to expand the conversation about the cultural, creative, and social significance of television, radio, and emerging platforms. Drawing upon its curatorial expertise, an international collection, and close relationships with the leaders of the media community, the Paley Center examines the intersections between media and society.
The general public can access the Paley Center’s permanent media collection, which contains over 160,000 television and radio programs and advertisements, including the expanded collection of African-American Achievements in Television, and participate in programs that explore and celebrate the creativity, the innovations, the personalities, and the leaders who are shaping media.
According to jbhe.com, Southern Illinois University Carbondale and the Illinois Institute of Technology have partnered with the Kapor Center to launch the Illinois SMASH Academy – a 5-week, all-expenses paid STEM summer camp for high school students from underrepresented groups in Chicago and Southern Illinois.
The Kapor Center, based in Oakland, is dedicated to leveling the playing field in tech, making the field more diverse, inclusive and better equipped to address society’s challenges and opportunities.
The Kapor Center has already established SMASH academies in California, Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Michigan. According to the center’s data, every SMASH student graduates high school and 91 percent earn a college degree within five years, 31 percentage points higher than the national rate.
The new program will accept 35 ninth graders from Chicago and 35 from Southern Illinois for the first year of the academy, which will be held at the Illinois Institute of Technology. The deadline to apply is March 1.
Participating students will attend the summer camp for three years, until they graduate from high school. They will study a variety of disciplines including math, biology, chemistry, and engineering. They will also receive SAT and ACT test prep in order to prepare them for college.
“These are future leaders,” said Meera Komarraju, interim provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. “Even one kid, if they are able to pursue their dreams, for their family and the part of society they live in, this can have a big ripple effect.”
Anyone interested in the program can find more information here.
The Pan African Film & Arts Festival announced today that it will celebrate its 27th Annual Opening Night on Thursday, February 7, with a screening at the Directors Guild of America in Los Angeles of Amazing Grace, the long-awaited Aretha Franklin concert documentary.
Amazing Grace, produced by Alan Elliott, was originally filmed and directed by Sydney Pollack in 1972 at New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles, California. A rare gem, the documentary has not been seen or released before now due to technical and rights issues.
The festival, which presents a slate of over 170 new projects by black filmmakers from the US and around the world and exhibits more than 100 fine artists and unique craftspeople, runs from February 7 through Monday, February 18, with most films shown at the Cinemark Rave 15 Theatres and the adjacent Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza in Los Angeles.
“It’s such a blessing to open the festival this year with Amazing Grace,” expressed PAFF Co-Founder and Actor Danny Glover. “Aretha Franklin is a rare treasure. To be graced with this film is an honor and a testament to the perseverance and long-standing prominence of the festival’s impact.”
Over the past 26 years, The Pan African Film & Arts Festival has sought to increase cultural awareness and bridge diverse communities from the African diaspora by providing a creative safe space for the development and expression of the Black narrative through film, poetry, art and music. This year, PAFF will “amPAFFify” and ignite the Pan-African experience through next-generation storytelling.
To further “amPAFFify” PAFF’s proud history, the organization recently launched an “#IAMPAFF” Meme Generator, designed to allow festival supporters to share their own stories on social media. Festival supporters can join in the fun by creating a meme to tell their story at paff.org/iampaff.
“27 years ago, we made a political, cultural, social and intellectual decision to get involved in film festivals as it became clear that a platform to showcase Black films was needed,” shared Ayuko Babu, Executive Director and Co-Founder of PAFF.
“It’s been a privilege to be a platform for many filmmakers and talent to share their unique stories through the lens of their own experiences, visions and creative artistry. The on-going challenge is… who’s story gets told on the small screen and big screen? The Pan African Film Festival is a way of showing distributors the stories that matter to people of color.”
This year’s program features the Filmmakers Brunch, ARTFest, PAFF Institute Panels, StudentFest, LOL Comedy Series, Children’s Fest, SpokenWord Fest, Seniors’ Connection and much more.
Individual screening tickets and all festival passes can be purchased at paff.org/tickets. Group sales discounts are also available. For more information, visit the PAFF website at paff.org or call 310-337-4737.
More than 80 movies by and about African Americans will be screened in D.C. next week as part of the inaugural Smithsonian’s African American Film Festival.
The four-day festival, which runs from Oct. 24 – 27, includes films ranging from Hollywood hits to experimental shorts. The event is organized by the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
The festival’s goal is to introduce the breadth and depth of African American film to a wider audience, according to Kinshasha Holman Conwill, the museum’s deputy director.
“There’s something for the cinephile who knows film like that back of her or his hand, and there’s something for the person who’s just learning about African American film,” she said. “From the most popular to the most provocative, it is all here.”
Most of the screenings will take place in the museum’s Oprah Winfrey Theater, though the Freer|Sackler and National Gallery of Art will also host some screenings.
The festival kicks off on Wednesday night with Widows, a new film starring Viola Davis that doesn’t hit theaters until mid-November. The director, Steve McQueen, became the first black filmmaker to win an Academy Award for Best Picture for his 2013 film 12 Years A Slave. If you’re interested in attending the Widows screening, you’re unfortunately out of luck – it’s already sold out.
The festival will also give audiences the chance to see films from the museum’s extensive collection. These range from Garden, a five-minute experimental short from 2017, to Black Panthers, a 1968 documentary about the Black Panther Party and its members’ fight to free their imprisoned co-founder Huey P. Newton.
And while the 2017 Marvel superhero movie Black Panther isn’t part of the lineup, attendees of the festival’s “Night at the Museum” celebration on Oct. 25 will be able to see the costume worn by actor Chadwick Boseman in the blockbuster film on display for the first time. The museum acquired the costume and other objects from the film earlier this year.
Netflix will stream its new documentary Quincy on Friday, Oct. 26. The film tells the story of the iconic music producer and singer Quincy Jones; it was co-produced by his daughter, the actress Rashida Jones. The titular Jones will speak on a panel following the screening.
If you’d rather talk than watch, you can attend one of the festival’s free Exchanges forums at the Freer|Sackler. Discussion topics include stop-motion animation and the museum’s home movie digitization project, Great Migration. Under that program, visitors can bring in home videos made on obsolete media (we’re talking eight-millimeter film and cassettes) and get them digitized and preserved.
“What it allows us to do,” said Rhea Combs, the museum’s film and photographer curator, “is tell the American story through the African American lens. Literally.”
The festival also builds upon work started by the D.C. Black Film Festival to highlight lesser-known black filmmakers and actors for the Washington audience. “We don’t ever want to be the all-consuming Smithsonian that comes into a community and takes over,” Conwill said of its role in the broader film festival ecosystem. The D.C. Black Film Festival celebrated its second event this year.
The African American Film Festival’s closing day features an awards ceremony for the juried film competition. Fifteen finalist films are competing in six different categories: Best Documentary Short, Best Narrative Short, Best Documentary Feature, Best Narrative Feature, Best Experimental & Animation, and the Audience Award.
The festival closes Saturday night with a screening of a film adaptation of James Baldwin’s 1974 novel, If Beale Street Could Talk.
You can buy tickets for specific films or events here, and see the full slate of screenings here. The festival is scheduled to recur every other year at the museum.
Making its world premiere at the Los Angeles Film Festival (LAFF) this Sunday, September 22 at the LAFF, is director Brett Fallentine‘s Fire on the Hill, a feature-length documentary that tells the intriguing story of the last public horse stable in South Central Los Angeles called Hill Stable, where a relatively unknown culture of urban cowboys is under threat, with focus on the lives and struggles of 3 inner-city cowboys.
The western-documentary’s synopsis reads: South Central Los Angeles was once home to one of the most recognized cowboy communities in the Nation. Yet after decades of urban development and rising street gang activity, this community – which had produced world champions – shrunk to all but a one-block horse stable known as “The Hill.” When a mysterious fire destroys the Hill Stable in 2012, the future of this once thriving culture finds itself at the brink of vanishing forever.
The film follows three cowboys in the wake of the fire. Ghuan, seeing the fire as an opportunity to resurrect the stable in his own vision must win over the broken cowboy community and hunt down the land’s estranged owner before developers get to it first; Chris, a rising bull rider from Compton, enters into his rookie year of professional rodeo and discovers that the L.A. streets aren’t so easy to leave behind; and Calvin, having found freedom on the back of a horse, must choose between the cowboy lifestyle and his family when his inner demons come back to haunt him.
This genre-bending documentary shines a new light on what it means to be a “cowboy” in America today, depicting a Los Angeles that has rarely been seen before.
Fire on the Hill is a Preamble Pictures Production in association with RYOT, Contend and Enzo, and is written, directed and produced by Brett Fallentine.
For festival tickets and other info, visit the LAFF’s website. Check out the trailer below:
Since becoming the creative director for American Express Platinum in December 2016, Pharrell Williams has worked closely with the financial services company to bring awareness to the importance of arts education and advocacy. Nearly two years later, the “Happy” singer is taking his efforts one step further with the inaugural Yellow Ball gala.
The event will take place on Monday, Sept. 10 at the Brooklyn Museum and will benefit the Young Audiences Arts for Learning, the nation’s largest arts-in-education network. The Yellow Ball title was chosen by Pharrell himself, as the color has many meanings — and ties in with the purpose of the event.
“Pharrell views the color and event as helping to shine a light on the need for arts education and its ability to pave the way for a brighter future,” Elizabeth Rutledge, chief marketing officer of American Express, says. Pharrell adds, “That’s what this is about — bringing light to this cause.”
The Yellow Ball will feature musical performances, including a special set from Missy Elliott. Along with music, the event will also include multi-room art experiences from American Express Platinum Collective member Daniel Arsham, and a multi-course dinner experience by American Express Global Dining Collection Chef Dominique Crenn.
Ahead of the announcement, Billboard chatted with Pharrell about his latest initiative, his thoughts on today’s young generation of artists, and why the arts (and the color yellow) are so important for all ages.
When you were named creative director of AmEx Platinum, what were your goals and where does the yellow ball kind of fit into all of that?
My goals were to work with a company that I felt like had the means to make a difference, but just maybe needed a nudging, or maybe needed some direction. But then when I started working with them and got an education on all the things that they’ve done — from the Tribeca Film Festival to the sales program they have for small businesses on Saturdays — I realized that they had been doing this the entire time. When we talked about doing the Yellow Ball and I told them I wanted it to be about arts and education, they didn’t blink. What I wanted to do with them was just going to be just yet another great thing that they do in the world.
Why did you decide on the name the Yellow Ball, and what does the color yellow mean to you?
Not to get all esoteric, but yellow is like the color of the solar plexus. Yellow is the color for creativity, yellow is the color for curiosity. Art is largely diminishing throughout the curriculum throughout this country, and we need to protect the creative mind.
Everything around you right now versus everything you’re using, it’s just not organic, it was someone’s epiphany. That’s creativity, that needs to be protected. If we don’t have that, I don’t know what kind of future we have. We have to protect the artist community at all costs, across all artistic disciplines.
Why do you think it’s so important for people to be exposed to the arts and learn from it at a young age?
On a more paramount level, everyone is a creative. Everyone that makes a move or does anything in life is a co-creator, but the ones who actually create things that we use and things that we need, that needs to be protected. There is a future that will have corporations that will have more say. You see all the things happening with lobbyists now, you just can never doubt that. In the artistic community, it’s the educational portion of it is eroding, what kind of future is that for us? So we need to talk to all the corporations that we can — that care — now.
Did the controversy surrounding the funding cuts for the NEA change the course of action for you in your involvement with AmEx platinum in any way?
A lot of decisions that are being made are having a domino effect on programs like the [NEA]. And while we might not like that, the powers that be are the powers that be, but we are still the people and we can do things to help the people with the resources that we have access to. That’s literally all we’re doing, there’s no political stance, it’s more of a people’s stance.
Has becoming a father had an impact on the way you think about how art can affect lives?
I want all children to have access to that kind of creative growth, access and support. All kids, not just my own. There’s a lot of variables in a situation as to why something falls apart, but there’s only one scenario where it holds together, and that’s when all the variables are there. The environment, the family, the school, the system — there’s so many things. We just want to do what we can to balance the odds so that as many kids as we can afford, or help and assist in whatever ways, get this access and support.
What do you think the younger generation of today’s musical artists are bringing to the table?
I love what they do and how they express themselves. It’s like these amazing pockets of lyrics or melodies that feel good to them. The music just takes on a direction of its own, it’s not so formatted. I love that this generation is just grabbing the instruments and using them in whatever way feels good to them. That’s just like a sign of how the times have changed.
It’s kind of like the fourth time that I’ve seen music and the spirit of it change — like drastically change. It’s been amazing to see it. You see certain things that feel familiar, then you see things that you’ve never seen or thought of in your entire life. As a musician I can feel connected to it.
As GBN’s resident biracial, millennial nerd, I place a lot of importance on diversity at Comic Con and in the entertainment industry.
Pop culture has the power to influence how people see the world around them, and, thankfully, there are people in the entertainment industry who understand this and work to make content that showcases the positive aspects of diversity and uniqueness.
A prime example of this content is Steven Universe, an out-of-this-world show that isn’t afraid to show just how diverse this planet really is.
On the surface, Steven Universe is a cartoon about a boy trying to save the world. But on a deeper level it’s a show about love and friendship, and a show that teaches kids lessons about healthy relationships, anxiety, and how important it is to be true to yourself. Estelle, who plays Garnet (the fierce leader of the Crystal gems and fusion of LGBTQ+ couple Ruby and Sapphire), killed it at the Superheroes of Body PositivityPanel this Comic Con.
Estelle, along with the rest of the Crewniverse (people who work on Steven Universe) recently participated in Dove’s Self Esteem Project. Rebecca Sugar, the creator of Steven Universe and Estelle joined Dove on the Panel to talk about body positivity and open up about their own experiences with body image. “My body works, it’s gorgeous. It gets me from point A to point B. If someone, doesn’t like my body, that’s too bad,” Estelle explained.
Another show featured at Comic-Con was Black Lightning, a badass superhero show that celebrates Black Americans. Series co-creator Mara Brock Akil took the stage to express that “celebrating our culture is important to remind us that we are also a part of the fabric of American culture. Tracking our history and our path is important.”
Then there are the women of the Women Who Kick Ass Panel. Amandla Stenberg, who I’ve been a fan of since their portrayal of Rue in The Hunger Games, said “The topic of ‘strong female roles’ is tricky. There’s an awareness I have. I create representation because of the accessibility I have. When it comes to roles there is a give and take time. We continue to sacrifice in order to see the representation we want.” I will definitely be purchasing a ticket for their new movie The Darkest Minds.
And of course, there’s Regina King, who will be starring in HBO’s new Watchmen series. “There weren’t many like me kicking ass. I was a Lynda Carter fan. Even though Wonder Woman was wearing a skimpy outfit, she had ownership and confidence that exuded female strength,” Regina King explained about her own experiences with superheroes.
For me, cartoons and superheroes have shaped core aspects of my personality and morality, so it means a lot to me to see so many badass women of color involved in so many amazing projects share their experiences.
Next week, new female group The Shindellas from the Nashville-based collective Weirdo Workshop, will be performing on Sunday, July 8 in New Orleans at the 2018 ESSENCE Festival and featured with Louis York at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Band members Stacy Johnson, Tamara Williams, and Kasi Jones describe themselves as “Three women who have come together in sisterhood to sing songs about self-love, self-worth and self-respect,” and they have just released their debut single “Reconsider.”
Written and produced by multi-Grammy nominated songwriting-production team Louis York a.k.a. Chuck Harmony and Claude Kelly (Janet Jackson, Rihanna, Bruno Mars, Fantasia), “Reconsider” is catchy mid-tempo, old-school-meets-new-school song with contemporary lyrics such as “Don’t let anyone tell you who you should love / baby this is your life / it’s okay to like / the whole rainbow / I don’t care who you love / as long as / he or she fills you up / and never drags your heart / through the mud / so if you don’t feel like a winner / reconsider” packed in retro doo-wop, Motown-style beats.
Watch them perform the single on Today In Nashville below to get a taste of their considerable chemistry and style: