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Innovation, creativity on display at Indie Memphis’ Black Creators Forum

Indie Memphis Film Festival presented the 2nd Annual Black Creators Forum (BCF), October 31 – November 1, at the Hattiloo Theatre. The forum ran parallel with the opening of the festival, in its 22nd year, presented by Duncan-Williams, Inc.

BCF is a two-day symposium of workshops and invited speakers led by notable black critics and industry professionals. It represents an intentional move by Indie Memphis to push inclusion and diversity in the film industry. Being anchored in a city like Memphis with a majority black population, this just makes sense. Nonetheless, black and brown voices deserve a platform – and support – as well. Our stories need to be told, heard and amplified. Blackness was represented in all forms and from all corners of the globe.

The Festival opened with an advanced screening of the highly anticipated film by Kasi Lemmons, “Harriet.” From there you have choices upon choices of black voices. So much so that you could not take it all in. This is an unusual – and GREAT – problem to have! The sistas in particular held it down for the culture including festival faves Numa Perrier (“Jezebel”) and Chyna Robinson (“No Ordinary Love”). Atlantics, Selah and the Spades, Midnight in Paris, De Lo Mio, Humanite (Kirk Whalum!) and “Clemency” (with our girl Alfre Woodard!)  also come very highly recommended. But believe me, this only scratches the surface. Go to the film guide (here: https://festival2019.indiememphis.com/films) and follow along.

James Blagden and Roni Moore won the Best Documentary Feature – a $1,000 cash prize – for their film “Midnight In Paris.” Photo: Averell Mondie)

The festival transforms the unique creative landscape of Memphis into a connecting point for filmmakers, musicians, artists, and audiences. But it also highlights “hometowners” and homegrown talent. The “Lil Buck: Real Swan” documentary was 100% pure Memphis and a high point at the festival! But the hometowner shorts are a huge part of the week of events as well.  We have to show love to our own! We have said this time and again, but our city is bubbling over with talent. We have many many brilliant writers and storytellers, visual artists, dancers and of course filmmakers.

“I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the Black Creators Forum this year. Three of my movies were picked to be showcased in the film festival as well, which is exciting,” said Zaire Love, a local filmmaker. “Having a dedicated place and space in a film festival that allows black creators to network while discussing topics concerning black filmmaking is needed.”

The Black Creators Forum created a safe space for black artists and creatives to come together and talk about how to explore ways black filmmaking can intensify their creative instincts and find sustainability in a challenging industry. It also helps ease the barrier of entry for black artists, who would like to work in film and production.

“I continue to be lucky to launch film programs for Memphis audiences which contain some of the most adventurous, intelligent, and creative people I’ve met,” said Miriam Bale, Indie Memphis Artistic Director and Senior Programmer, as well as the host for the Black Creators Forum.

The two-day event of closed- door discussions, brought together people from around the country. There were passionate debates about Black Masculinity in film, Black Women Filmmakers and Directors, Black films by non-black filmmakers and a very lively, pull-no-punches discussion about Tyler Perry, his legacy and filmmaking. As importantly, the Forum offered workshops on building your marketing tool kit, skillfully using social media, getting financing and other technical expertise.

The film festival created an accessible community-friendly atmosphere, that so many of us didn’t even know existed in this city.

“I am appreciative of Indie Memphis, for putting me in a room where I was able to meet like-minded black women directors, writers, and creators of all kinds from all over the United States who are doing great works,” said Natalie Cook, a filmmaker from New York City.

The Forum wrapped on Friday with the Black Filmmakers Pitch Rally followed by a multi-media blockbuster block party from We Are Unapologetic, debuting new music from their latest release, “Stuntarious IV.”

It’s important to note that Indie Memphis puts their money where their mouth is. It’s not just empty rhetoric with promises unfulfilled. Everyone knows it’s tough to produce a film, especially as a person of color, a person of humble means or a person outside of the Hollywood grid. In addition to the two residencies awarded this year and various grants, the winner of the Black Filmmakers Pitch Rally received $10,000. Huge congratulations to this year’s winner Nubia Yasin for See. Jane. Run. In her post and in her speech she said that all they needed was the money. They clearly had the vision. Now they have both. Let’s get it Nubia! Check back in for more on Nubia as well as the residency winners, Jamey Hatley and Raven Jackson, both of whom were hand-selected by Oscar winning director Barry Jenkins.

Indie Memphis Film Festival was named “one of the coolest film festivals around” by “MovieMaker” magazine and six times as a “Festival Worth the Entry Fee.” It is also a two-time Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences grant recipient and was named a “Top 20 Event” by the Southeast Tourism Society in 2012.

Indie Memphis just announced that there will now be a dedicated screen at Malco Studio on the Square! To keep up with your indie faves and what’s new and next,  visit www.indiememphis.com.

(#Access901 columnist Joy Doss Contributed to this story.)

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