The festival will bring films that focus on African-American history, life, and issues pertinent to the community. The goal of the festival is to bring these films and documentaries to communities that might not otherwise have access. The festival will partner with community-based arts and service organizations, as well as other stakeholders, to optimize interest and attendance.
Rebecca Robinson, a local filmmaker (The Color Of Medicine) says, “I am looking forward to the festival in order to broaden my knowledge of films that explore black life and issues.”
Dr. Eric V A Winston is the festival’s Executive Director and President & CEO of Ammak Productions LLC. He has produced three documentaries and served as a Co-Producer on the 2014 film, Animals. Retired Vice President of Wilberforce University and Columbia College Chicago, Winston has also acted in two films: Black Butterfly, and a Spanish language film, Aqui Vamos Otra Vez (Over and Over Again).
Opening night will showcase a soon-to-be-named documentary preceded by a reception. Saturday will be a full day of 20 documentary screenings.
- Taking Israel: Director Vincent Singleton, Producer Eric Winston
Taking Israel is a 55-minute narrative documentary which chronicles the experiences of 150 African American college students from Wilberforce University in Wilberforce, Ohio, who had a life-changing experience as they travelled to Israel between over a 15-year period. The documentary features the passion that is ignited through international education exchange, the growth that takes place in understanding the value of dialogue between people from different cultures, the expansion of both personal and professional development, the stimulation of creative ideas, as well as the enrichment of all relationships that comes from these experiences.
The film focuses on the first-hand accounts of the primarily first-generation African American college students, most of whom had never before been outside the country—travelling to one of the world’s most troubled areas. Viewers were taken on a journey to Kibbutz Ramot Menashe near Haifa, where they witnessed the students’ four week experiences working side by side with members of the Kibbutz, then travelled alongside them as they chronicled their experiences teaching English to young Israelis at a summer camp the Jesse Cohen Community Center near Tel Aviv, followed by an academic term at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
This poignant film highlights the courage of all who were involved in the project—and who gained new world perspectives, changed minds and spirits.
- PMI: The Correct Thing: Director Vincent Singleton, Producer Eric Winston
With virtually no resources except her own energy and determination, Dr. Charlotte Hawkins Brown established the Palmer Memorial Institute (PMI), nestled in the segregated south during the turbulent years from 1902-1972. As other black private schools across the state vanished, Brown built Palmer into one of the premier academies for African American children in the nation—exposing youth to the finer aspects of life. This documentary focuses on Palmer’s founder, Dr. Brown, and the students who traveled to this school from all over the U.S. and around the world. It also highlights the incredible influence the Palmer education and experiences had on its students—graduating individuals with an impressive academic success with 90% attending college, 50% pursuing post-graduate work, and 64% continuing in postgraduate studies.
- The Last White Knight: Director and Producer Paul Saltzman
Paul Saltzman’s courageous THE LAST WHITE KNIGHT was inspired by an incident during the early 1960s when he journeyed to the Deep South as a civil rights worker to help with voter registration in Mississippi, one of the hard-core bastions of the Old South. One of the first days he was there he was assaulted by a group of young men led by Byron “Delay” De La Beckwith, the son of the man convicted of killing civil rights activist Medgar Evers. Decades later, Saltzman returns to the south to meet with Beckwith and see what, if anything, has changed in the New South. He interviews a wide variety of people from Harry Belafonte, the celebrated singer and civil rights activist, who recounts his own experiences during the voter registration drive; actor Morgan Freeman (who was born, and now lives, in Mississippi); a top FBI official, who discuss the close links between the police and the Klan during the period; to a group of kids from different races who are best friends; and (chillingly) a trio of dedicated, unregenerate Klansmen.
Saltzman’s talks with Beckwith form the backbone of the film. Beckwith is a fascinating and forthright subject, oozing old school Southern charm and bonhomie, extolling the virtues of the black nanny who basically raised him while remaining faithful to the racist attitudes handed down to him by his parents. At the same time, Beckwith is well aware that he’s one of the last of his kind. His children don’t adhere to the old ways and he’s the last in his family to be involved with the Klan. The conversations with Beckwith humanize someone we would normally dismiss and vilify immediately, exploring the possibilities of reconciliation between Beckwith and the filmmaker. At the same time, THE LAST WHITE KNIGHT also wisely acknowledges that much has not changed, which is especially evident in the interview with the Klansmen. Behind it all is a world of pain that stretches back centuries. Belafonte, in one of the most telling conversations in the film, says, “People tell me that things have changed. And yet, I don’t trust Mississippi.”
- Prom Night in Mississippi: Director and Producer Paul Saltzman
In 1997, Academy Award winning actor, Morgan Freeman, who lives in the Charleston, Mississippi community, offered to fund the first-ever integrated Senior Prom in the history of Charleston's one high school. His offer was ignored. In 2008, Morgan offered again... and the East Tallahatchie County School Board accepted. In this town of 2,300 people, its high school of 415 black and white students has, to this day, always had separate proms: one black, one white prom. Prom Night in Mississippi film follows the Charleston High senior class of 2008 preparing and attending their historic, first integrated prom, in the context of strong emotions, traditions, and conflict inherent in race relations in the community, and in the deep south. Some of the white parents maintained their whites-only prom.