Back again this year to tell everyone about the films “with brown people in them” at the Maryland Film Festival.
This year the 2015 festival takes place from May 6th to May 10th.
“The Maryland Film Festival is an annual five-day event that takes place in early May, presenting top-notch film and video work from all over the world. Each year the festival screens approximately 50 feature films and 75 short films of all varieties — narrative, documentary, animation, experimental, and hybrid — to tens of thousands of audience members.” —Maryland Film Festival website
Over the years I’ve seen such feature films “with brown people” as “Medicine for Melancholy,” “Night Catches Us” (starring Kerry Washington & Anthony Mackie), “LUV” (filmed in Maryland starring Common, Charles Dutton & Danny Glover), the great documentaries “Evolution of a Criminal,” “The Hip Hop Fellow” (featuring Grammy Award winning producer 9th Wonder) and documentaries by master documentarian Stanley Nelson – the excellent “Freedom Riders” and “Freedom Summer.” I’ve also seen great short films like “The Bravest, The Boldest,” “Afronauts” and “The Christmas Tree,” to name a few.
As I did last year, I’ll start with the shorts. All descriptions come from the Maryland Film Festival website.
Maryland Film Festival Opening Night is devoted to shorts and the other shorts at the festival are gathered together into several programs.
This year, three of the five short films of the Opening Night Shorts program feature “brown people.”
Director: James M. Johnston
Marcus is dealing with some shit. He wanders through his day distracted and quiet, acting out at strangers, withdrawn from his wife, and unable to sleep. Whatever it is, he just can’t talk about it. Then he runs into an old friend who reminds him of the days when he never had a problem expressing anything.
– PINK GRAPEFRUIT
Director :Michael Mohan
A young married couple invites two of their single friends out to Palm Springs for a long weekend. It does not go as planned.
Director: Angel Kristi Williams
Alex, excited to have befriended the popular girl at school, will do anything to stay in her good graces. When her new friend wants to play house, Alex innocently plays along and develops feelings she doesn’t understand.
(This is the second film by Baltimore native Angel Kristi Williams to play at the Maryland Film Festival. Her film The Christmas Tree played at the 2012 Festival.)
Below are the rest of the short films from the other short programs.
– MULIGNANS (Part of “Shorts: Comedy”)
Director: Shaka King
mulignan(s) /moo.lin.yan(s)/ n. 1. Italian-American slang for a black man. Derived from Italian dialect word for “eggplant.” See also: moolie. Source: Urban Dictionary (and pretty much every mob movie ever).
– PAPA MACHETE (Part of “Shorts: Doc”)
Director: Jonathan David Kane
Haitian farmer Alfred Avril is one of the last remaining masters of tire machèt, the mysterious martial art created by Haitian slaves to defeat Napoleon’s armies. Teaching about the practical and spiritual value of the machete—which is both a weapon and a farmer’s key to survival—Avril provides a bridge between his country’s traditional past and its troubled present.
– FULL-WINDSOR (Part of “Shorts: Drama”)
Director: Faraday Okoro
A 10-year-old boy battles his mother in order to wear his father’s tie to school.
– CHOP MY MONEY (Part of “Shorts: Quartet”)
Director :Theo Anthony
Patient, Guillain, and David have nothing to lose and everything to gain… so get the fuck out of their way. Baltimore-based director Theo Anthony’s vibrantly stylized doc follows three street kids in the Eastern Congo, who share their dreams and philosophies to the rhythm of Montreal-based musician Dirty Beaches.
– Q.U.E.E.N. (Part of “Shorts: Narrative”) WORLD PREMIERE
Director: Brittany Fennell
Q.U.E.E.N. tells the story of a teenage girl with a troubled past who uses her gift of rapping to transform herself.
– SARA & DENNIS (Part of “Shorts: Narrative”)
Director : Shahin Izadi
A young interracial couple confronts their differences through a seemingly innocent game
of ‘would you rather?’
These feature-length films with Lead characters of color, and/or Afrocentric subject matter.
– BEATS OF THE ANTONOV
Directed By: Hajooj Kuka
War reporter and documentary filmmaker Hajooj Kuka takes viewers into the Blue Nile and Nuba Mountain regions of South Sudan, where we meet displaced South Sudanese who live under the constant threat of bombardment from the Sudanese military via Antonov cargo planes. But defying familiar victim narratives, Kuka’s camera finds resilient people that summon strength and positivity from music, laughter, and a determination to maintain their culture against any odds.
– BLACK PANTHERS: VANGUARD OF THE REVOLUTION
Directed By: Stanley Nelson
Hosted/Presented By: Stanley Nelson
Master documentarian Stanley Nelson has demonstrated an unparalleled ability to bring history to life with films such as Freedom Summer; The Murder of Emmett Till; and Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple. Here he turns his lens on the revolutionary Black Panther Party and the various cultural forces that worked to support or destroy the group, creating an essential portrait of a singular radical moment in the American experience.
– BREAKING A MONSTER
Directed By: Luke Meyer
Hosted/Presented By: Luke Meyer
Starring: Unlocking the Truth: Alec Atkins (bass), Malcolm Brickhouse (vocals and guitar), and Jarad Dawkins (drums); and manager Alan Sacks
Viral-video sensation Unlocking the Truth, a teenage metal band from Brooklyn, navigate the bizarre current state of the record industry in this fascinating, fist-pumping, and often hilarious documentary. Fresh from its premiere at SXSW, this exceptional rock doc follows the band as they sign a major-label record deal and are suddenly caught up in an adult-driven world of contracts, tours, interviews, and branding.
– FIELD NIGGAS
Directed By: Khalik Allah
Hosted/Presented By: Khalik Allah
Street photographer Khalik Allah takes us into the nightlife of 125th Street and Lexington in Harlem, shattering the usual wall between documentarian and subject as he paints portraits of modern street life filled with love and humor, but also hard times and regret. An immersive documentary with a unique visual sensibility, Allah’s film comes to MFF fresh from wowing audiences at True/False and Sarasota.
(I’ve seen this film and it is really immersive with street interviews and some brilliant cinematography-Dankwa Brooks)
Directed By: Céline Sciamma
The writer/director of this film, Céline Sciamma, stated that her goal as a filmmaker is “to show faces and bodies that we never see on screen” and she has done just that with her wonderful third film Girlhood (Bande de filles). As writer Anupa Mistry stated “Finally, a film about black girls strengthening each other.” As Mistry points out, the film has “probably the best four minutes of cinema I saw in 2014.” Without giving too much away, that scene is where you truly fall in love with the characters. In the story, fed up with her abusive family situation, lack of school prospects and the “boys’ law” in the neighborhood, Marieme (Karidja Touré) starts a new life after meeting a group of three free-spirited girls. It is through her friendship with those girls that pretty much everything changes for Marieme, leading her on a turbulent path to find the love, freedom and independence she truly desires.
Girlhood (Bande de filles) premiered within the prestigious Directors’ Fortnight section at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival, and went on to screen within the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival and Sundance 2015.
(I’ve seen this film and it’s simply one of the best films I’ve seen this year-Dankwa Brooks)
– PEOPLE, PLACES, THINGS
Directed By: James C. Strouse
Starring: Jemaine Clement, Regina Hall, Jessica Williams
In this thoughtful and hilarious rom-com, Jemaine Clement of Flight of the Conchords and What We Do in the Shadows stars as a graphic novelist whose comfortable life is shaken after walking in on his wife with another man. Downgraded to a tiny apartment and weekend status with his twin daughters, a bright spot appears when a student in a college art course he teaches challenges him to be more social and adventurous.
Directed By: Kris Swanberg
Hosted/Presented By: Kris Swanberg
Starring: Cobie Smulders, Gail Bean, Anders Holm, Elizabeth McGovern
High-school science teacher Samantha (Cobie Smulders), already dealing with stress and uncertainty as her low-income school prepares to close, finds out she’s pregnant. When she discovers her favorite student Jasmine (Gail Bean) is also with child, the two form a tight and unconventional bond. From Kris Swanberg (whose earlier features Empire Builder and It was great, but I was ready to come home. both screened within MFF) comes this refreshing character study that mines honest emotions and the quiet battlefields of love and friendship for real beauty and insight.
– WELCOME TO LEITH
Directed By: Michael Beach Nichols & Christopher K. Walker
Hosted/Presented By: Michael Beach Nichols
This edge-of-your-seat documentary follows the arrival of notorious white supremacist Craig Cobb to a small town in North Dakota, where he promptly buys up land for like-minded collaborators and disrupts town council meetings, leading to fears that he plans a neo-Nazi takeover. As his behavior escalates further into the outrageous and threatens to get violent, a once-placid community must decide how to react. The populace is overwhelmingly white, although there is an interracial couple (African-American man, Caucasian woman) at the core of the story, among others. The thrust of the story is that this town has zero comfort with a racist being in their midst.
– GUEST HOST SCREENING
DO THE RIGHT THING
Directed By: Spike Lee
Hosted/Presented By: Abdu Ali
The MFF also has a guest-host program for personalities known primarily for work outside the world of film—writers, visual artists, and frequently musicians—to select and host a favorite film.
This year they have a special screening of the Spike Lee classic Do The Right Thing selected and guest-hosted by musician, DJ, and curator Abdu Ali. Spike Lee’s modern classic, detailing racial tensions and police brutality on the hottest day of summer in Bedford-Stuyvesant, has never been more crucial and relevant. With the sounds of Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power” blasting from boomboxes, this seminal film boasts cinematography from Ernest Dickerson, and an Academy Award-nominated screenplay (not to mention an iconic performance) from Lee; his phenomenal ensemble cast includes Ossie Davis, Danny Aiello, Rudy Dee, Rosie Perez, Joie Lee, Bill Nunn, John Turturro, and Samuel L. Jackson.
Again and indicative of every year I have been attending the Maryland Film Festival, there are an abundance of films “with brown people in it” among the over 100 films that are playing at the festival (Approximately 50 feature films and 70 shorts this year). Every year some of the indie films I see at the MFF become my favorites of that year and I always see films from across the spectrum.
Again I have to Thank Eric Allen Hatch, Director of Programming for the Maryland Film Festival, for distinguishing many of the films featuring people of color screening this year. You can check out the full schedule of the 2015 Maryland Film Festival that runs from May 6-10, 2015 here.
I posted about the many great films I’ve seen over the years at the Maryland Film Festival @ the ‘Nother Brother Entertainment blog here and you can talk film with me anytime on Twitter @NotherBrother