Saturday, February 24, 2007

Great Expectations!

"My Nappy ROOTS," the film I've been working on as Associate Producer was selected for screening at the Pan African Film Festival. This festival is 15-years-old and held every year in Los Angeles at Magic Johnson's Theater. Typically, it is a FUBU event meaning it's made "for us and by us". By us I'm referring to Black people, African Americans, and Africans. However, don't get it twisted, pro black is NOT synonymous with anti-white or any other anti-racial title. PAFF is open to anyone that wants to see independent films by and about people of African descent.

The film festival began with a grand opening event at the Director's Guild in Hollywood saluting Andrew Young and his documentary about Rwanda. There was red carpet, lots of press, and a few celebrities. While on the carpet taking pictures of the directors, I noticed Wesley Snipes walking towards us. At this point in my career, I've seen most of Hollywood's Black elite actors so it doesn't excite me anymore. Still, when I saw Wesley approach I got star struck for a hot second. Back in college and even some years after, I was so in lust with Wesley. Ever since his memorable scenes in Mo' Better Blues, I had been a major fan. While most women were drooling over Denzel in his tank top, Wesley had my mind on lock. Ladies, check the videotape! If he does all of that while acting just what does he do in a real situation? Yeah, Wesley definitely gave me something to think about. But just a quickly as fan lust came, it went. So for fantasy's sake, I took a picture of my dream Wesley of "Waiting to Exhale" and "Disappearing Acts."

On the carpet, the directors answered questions about the film. Nobody really wanted to talk to the Associate Producer. But that's okay, my time to step into the limelight is coming. I'm being prepared for it through various events and situations. I feel that it in my spirit. But currently, my job lately is to watch and listen. Having worked on an award-winning documentary is good enough for me right now. So I just soaked up all the positive in just being there. Trust, the negativity came a little later. But let's dwell on the good things first. Actresses Ella Joyce, Kerry Washington, and Loretta Devine made appearances on the red carpet as well. Ella is our film and another one at the festival.

Fast forward to the first screening day, Sunday. Lot's of people, lots of energy. Of course with so much positivity in the air, negativity had to rear its ugly head. Due to just sheer lack of communication from those that run the festival to those that actually implement the day-to-day activities, we had issues. Those that ran publicity didn't bother to inform us that a media screening was held days in advance. We were pushing for press to come on that Sunday. And since our screening had a sold- out audience, press that did arrive had no seats, despite those seats being reserved in advance, so we thought. Then just as the film ended we expected a Q&A session and an opportunity to invite the audience to our reception close by. Instead, an announcement was made that the Q& A would be held somewhere else. Imagine our surprise when right after the lights went up, festival organizers cleared the theater. Generally, after a screening like this one a Q&A with the filmmakers begins right there in the theater. Not this time! Those that had questions were sent to another building located across the large parking lot. It was not a short distance away, nor was it free. Luckily, through our own word-of-mouth campaign we were able to redirect people to our post-screening event.

Which brings to mind another issue. Since this festival has been happening annually for over a decade, you would think organizers would improve its system of voting for the awards banquet. Where does all the sponsors' money go? Attendants to screenings should not have to write the names of their favorite films on little scraps of paper while trying to leave a crowded theater. And if you're going to ask them to write, could you at least supply a pen? What about a real ballot with the film's name and category already provided. If you can't afford a company to do it for you, damn at least implement a new strategy. Again I ask, where does the sponsor money go?

Great expectations should be had of an organization that's been in existence for 15 years. In fact, you expect more professionalism, more coordination, better everything from top to bottom of an organization that's been showcasing films that long. So because we're black filmmakers, we're suppose to look the other way? NO! Because we ARE Black filmmakers and it IS a Black owned and operated event, our expectations should not be lowered.

Sad to say, but seemingly since integration, too often the Black-owned business has become synonymous with inferior, unprofessional, and always late. But why? When will we stop laughing at ourselves and realize while we are laughing, we must also do what's necessary not to become the joke.

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