From left-right are: William Edwards, Mid-South Black Film Festival founder; Jasmine Garner, co-founder; featured filmmaker George Tillman Jr. and Jackie Murray, event coordinator. (Courtesy photo

The first-ever “Mid-South Black Film Festival” in Memphis is underway and its founder is focused on “closing the gap between dreams and reality.”

“We want to make this film festival a landmark event in Memphis — an annual celebration of black excellence in film-making,” said William Edwards, who also founded the Global Black Film Consortium, which the film festival grew out of.

“We want to see black filmmakers all across the world being recognized for their work and admired by movie lovers everywhere,” he said.

The festival kicked off on Monday. Screening of original films, panel discussions and networking opportunities with industry professionals began Tuesday, Feb. 25 and will conclude on Sunday, March 1.

The first four days of the festival feature screenings of four historic documentaries by local filmmaker, George Tillman Jr.. Tuesday was Tillman’s “The Lucky Eleven,” followed by “True Blue” (Wednesday) and “The Birth of Soul Music” (Thursday). Tillman’s “What If There Be Thorns” will screen on Friday. Tillman’s work can be seen at the Malco Majestic Cinema, 7051 Malco Crossing from 7-9 p.m.

Other local films set to screen on Friday at The [email protected]:

  • “Big Tyme” (5 p.m.)
  • “Dream,” (7 p.m.),
  • “Boy With the Pop Bottle” (7:30 p.m.)

A global film block on Saturday – also at The [email protected] – will feature the work of filmmakers from Ghana, Haiti and Kenya. Global screenings begin at noon (see box for details).

The festival culminates at 4 p.m. Sunday with a red-carpet awards program at Melrose High School in Orange Mound. Opening awards commentary will be delivered  by Dr. C. Sade Turnipseed, host of “Delta Renaissance” and official U.S. representative to the Pan-African Film Festival.

Special guest and theatre director Erma Elzy said the event is significant for budding filmmakers.

“As a filmmaker myself, it is important to have an outlet where we can showcase stories and talent from the African diaspora in all genres that express our diverse points of view,” she said. “Thanks to the festival founders, staff, and sponsors who have brought this great festival to our city.”

Entertainment attorney Angela Green is also set to share her insights on the business side of filmmaking. Green is executive director of On Location, a nonprofit that has staged the International Film and Music Festival for 17 years.

Event Coordinator Jackie Murray called the festival important because filmmakers are getting the opportunity to have their work screened all over the world.

“If my being a small part of the bigger picture, of the global picture, helps to bring others into the forefront, then I’m very proud to be a part of it,” she said.

Co-founder Jasmine Garner said the festival gives her a part in making history.

“To me, it is the generational legacy of the black community,” she said. “We have the talent, the ideas and the creativity to produce our own opportunities. My family has a legacy of talent…and this is a way of creating a path for people like my family to share their gifts and tell their stories.”

For more info and tickets, visit: www.midsouthblackfilm.com.

Listing of Saturday’s Global Films:

12 p.m. – “Good, Bad & The Apprentice”

12:30 p.m. – “Calloused Hands”

12:45 p.m. – “Why Me?”

1:50 p.m. – “Heirs”

2:15 p.m. – “Favour”

3:10 p.m. – “Chuma”

3:30 p.m. – “My Beautiful Beloved Mother”