LITTLE ROCK It’s more than a film festival. The Arkansas Black Independent Film Festival, today through Sunday, is an examination of a culture and a chance for meaningful cultural exchange, executive director Wayne Burt explains.
“The festival started out of my desire to counter some of the negative films portraying African Americans,” he says.
He was particularly frustrated when a film called Sankofa, funded and directed by black filmmakers about the slave experience, didn’t have strong distribution.
“I thought it would be a good idea to start a film festival here and not only show that film but other films that black filmmakers make that don’t get picked up by the film studios and therefore don’t get major distribution,” he says.
What began as a one-day festival in 2005 at Philander Smith College grew to two days and now, to four. Co-director Angela Burt says they’re hoping this year’s event will “put the festival on the map, so to speak. We’ve been kind of quiet.”
The festival will be spread through four historic black landmarks in Little Rock: the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center, Philander Smith and Arkansas Baptist colleges and Dreamland Ballroom.
“That’s really big and exciting for us this year,” Burt says.
Also exciting, she says, is the community participation: “The filmmakers in this city have really shown up.”
This year’s lineup includes feature film Lessons Before Love by White Hall native Dui Jarrod. A documentary, Unearthing the Dream, examines Malvern High School’s experience with integration.
“It’s a story about Malvern High,” Wayne Burt says, “but it’s really a story about most black high schools in the South.”
Celebrity guests are award-winning filmmaker Julie Dash and M.K. Asante, a professor at Morgan State University. Their films be shown and they will participate in a book signing and a series of free workshops to encourage other budding filmmakers. The final gala will include an award and tribute in memory of local storyteller and performer Curtis Tate, who died in 2006.
“The motto this year is ‘Image Is Everything,’” Angela Burt says. “Film is very powerful to the mind. A lot of the films being distributed about African-American people are negative. You may say it’s only a movie, but it affects people.
“We’re trying to do something to make a difference in everyone’s thought process through imagery.”
Opening night reception: 6 p.m. today, Mosaic Templars Cultural Center, 501 W. Ninth St., with red carpet, screening of Lessons Before Love and performance by Rodney Block and the Real Music Lovers. Admission is $40.
Screenings, book signing, workshops: 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Friday-Saturday, Philander Smith College, 900 W. Daisy L. Gatson Bates Drive, and Arkansas Baptist College, 1621 Martin Luther King Drive. One-day pass $10, two-day $15.
Awards ceremony: 6 p.m. Sunday, Dreamland Ballroom, 800 W. Ninth St., $25
Festival pass: $75
Weekend, Pages 33 on 09/06/2012
Print Headline: White Hall native’s work in black film festival