I had a chance to quickly check in with Winston G. Williams, the festival’s founder and director just a couple days before the event begins. According to him, the festival’s quick growth into something far more interdisciplinary than the typical film festival happened very naturally. “I thought that we would be the same size as last year, but I was wrong!” he said. “During the planning stage, we were approached by several organizations to partner and collaborate with them. Last year we collaborated with Austin Urban Music Festival. This year we added Digital Workforce Academy, Black Media Council and Black Professional’s Alliance of Austin. Each of these partnerships/collaborations serves a purpose to serve the mission of CCBFF, elevate the awareness of the arts in general and promote the festival.” Opening night features a performance by the Spectrum Theatre Company, a troupe founded by the talented Jacqui Cross, Billy Harden, Carla Nickerson, and Janis Stinson, who you should recognize from their work with Zach Theatre, State Theatre Company, Austin Playhouse, and ProArts Collective. They’ve announced their opening production for this September to be Caribbean-fable musical Once On This Island, so maybe we’ll see a preview of some of that. Or maybe we’ll see some of what they showed us in their Illumination Celebration back in June. Also on opening night, Dance Austin Studio will present a performance – no telling what that might considering the vast array of styles their instructors teach. The evening will be MCed by KVUE Anchor Quita Culpepper.
The Film Screenings begin on Friday. I asked Williams if he thought any of the films in this year’s festival especially speak to the Austin (or Texas) of the current moment. “Yes… Several…,” he promised, “there is a documentary short by local singer/song writer Chris Van Loan, Sr. about his life changing experiences among local musicians with cameo appearance by Kevin Gant.” CLOSE TO THE LINE, directed Van Loan’s son, screens Saturday as part of the first session. Williams also pointed me to WHEN WE WERE ALL BRONCOS, a feature length documentary by David Barrow which chronicles the 1968-1973 school desegregation process in Denton, TX, alongside the Denton High School football team’s epic race to the ’72-73 state championship. The film premiered in February at Denton’s own Thin Line Film Festival, selling out several screening. How about a narrative film? Williams tells me “ there is a feature film by rising faith-based filmmaker M. Legend Brown called STEPS OF FAITH that a lot of Austinites are excited to see.” According fantastically-titled website iamsonothollywood.com Steps of Faith is a spiritual dramedy about the journey of a woman named Faith Houston (Chrystee Pharris) who, upon hearing the voice of God, is led on a journey to a Hippotherapy farm to work with special needs children and adults. Hippotherapy is therapeutic horse riding, and studies show it “can stimulate damaged nerves and assist with regenerating circulation conditions created by several debilitating muscle illnesses.”
CCBFF offers screenings all day Friday and Saturday, giving filmmakers a chance to exhibit their work in one of the most important cities for indie film in the world. Looking over the list of films and filmmakers, I must admit there are plenty of film on here that I have yet to see at a festival this year. This is always the great thing about niche festivals (like September’s AGLIFF or October’s HouseCore Horror), these films that might be overlooked by more ‘clearinghouse’ festivals (SXSW or AFF) can get right to their intended audience. I ask Williams the same question that always seems to get asked in these particular discussions, just as I might if this had been a female-focused film festival: Do you think it’s getting easier in the current state of the industry to be a Black filmmaker? His response: “Well… I’m not a filmmaker but from what I understand, filmmaking has never been easy; but I know that’s not what you’re asking (smile). I don’t know about being easier to be in the industry, but the talent and creativity of Black films and filmmakers is definitely increasing.”
The Capital City Black Film Festival takes place August 21-23rd at the Palmer Events Center. More information and Festival passes can be had at http://www.capcitybff.com.
Here are the feature films playing CCBFF:
CHANGING FACE OF HARLEM
Directed and Produced by Shawn Batey
Synopsis: Told through the personal accounts of residents, business owners, politicians, developers, and clergy, CHANGING FACE OF HARLEM explores the development and transition of the historic Black community over a ten-year span.
FAR FROM THE ALTAR
Written, Directed and Produced by Lamont Thompson
Synopsis: A young woman in love with an older divorced man defies her religion and her parents by dating this divorced man behind their backs and eventually baring his child.
FLY BY LIGHT
Directed by Ellie Walton
Synopsis: A group of teenagers board a bus for West Virginia, leaving the streets of Washington, DC to participate in an ambitious peace education program. For the first time in their lives Mark, Asha, Martha, and Corey play in mountain steams, sing under the stars, and confront the entrenched abuse, violence and neglect cycles of their past.
Written, Directed and Executive Produced by Jamal Blair
Synopsis: A young man unwittingly finds himself thrust into a war between two groups of seemingly super-humans. He soon discovers modern mans connection to these beings. Now in order to save the lives of those he loves, he must put his faith in the hands of those who rejected mankind in the first place.
IN COLLABORATION WITH BILL T. JONES: READING, MERCY AND THE ARTIFICIAL NIGGER
Written by Beverly Wolf, Directed and Produced by Vincent Kay
Synopsis: Internationally renowned choreographer Bill T. Jones assists dance students at California State University Long Beach in their production of his controversial staging of Flannery O’Connor’s ‘The Artificial Nigger’, meanwhile revealing the backstory of his life that led him to the re-staging.
JAZZ IN THE RAINFOREST
Written and Produced by Bennie Maupin and Paul Sabu Rogers, Directed by Paul Sabu Rogers
Synopsis: A documentary of the Bennie Maupin Ensemble travel to the Amazon region of Brazil to perform in a Jazz Festival, engage in cultural exchanges and explore the wonders of the rainforest.
LAW OF SIN
Written, Directed and Produced by Daniell Nelson
Synopsis: Two friends borrow money from a loan shark, to try and shoot a film, one of the guys decides to try has luck in the drug trade to double his money, but things quickly spins out of control, with the loan shark demanding his money back with a hefty interest pay out.
MOBILE IN BLACK AND WHITE
Written and Directed by Robert Gray
Synopsis: MOBILE IN BLACK AND WHITE takes a hard look at the ways racism continues to pervade the structures and institutions of a supposedly post-racial world, expertly blending the insights and experiences of local residences and leading experts such as Peggy McIntosh, John Powell, Tim Wise, and Bryan Stevenson, as well as the poetry of Natasha Trethewey, Sonia Sanchez, and others.
PARTS OF DISEASE
Written by Simon P. Moore and Solomon Tubbs-Foster, Directed by Solomon Tubbs-Foster
Synopsis: Four friends confront stereotypes & profiling on a project to visit sites of US terrorism.
STEPS OF FAITH
Written by Michael Brown and T.K. Henderson
Directed by M. Legend Brown
Synopsis: STEPS OF FAITH, is a light-heart dramedy about Faith Houston an accountant, who is directed by God to move to a small town to work on a Hippotherapy farm helping children.
STREETRIDERZ (THE MOTORCYCLE DOCUMENTARY)
Written, Directed and Produced by Christian Robinson
Synopsis: This film explores the never before seen world of illegal and dangerous motorcycle street stunting on the streets of Los Angeles.
TAKE THE SPOTLIGHT
Written and Directed by Nnaemeka Madueke
Synopsis: TAKE THE SPOTLIGHT is the story of a Dallas film director hired by two producers to direct a movie about human trafficking called ‘Finding Promise’. Artie sees in this venture, a chance of a lifetime because for the first time in his life, he has all the funds he needs to make a film. He must now make or die trying, a masterpiece that must ‘Take the Spotlight’ wherever screened.
Written and Directed by James Richards
Synopsis: Bobbi can’t stand Teddy. Teddy isn’t thrilled with Bobbi. Now that isn’t that big a deal on the playground. But Teddy is 36 and Bobbi is 10. And they live in the same house. And Teddy is going to marry Bobbi’s mother Cheryl in less that a month.
THE INTERNAL MIST OF LOVE
Written and Produced by Dr. John E. Bell, Directed by Vincent Price and Dr. John E. Bell
Synopsis: THE INTERNAL MIST OF LOVE is a Urban Romance Drama that takes you behind the closed doors of love to see how urban life and relationships can be a real journey of life that all couples deal with in today’s challenging times and the issues blended families face.
THE TROUBLE WITH TQ
Written and Produced by Calvin Thomas, Jr.
Synopsis: During his 40+ years as a priest, Rev. Quinlan refined his application of the Principle of Adaptation through symbolism, pop culture and historical references, equipping parishes to lead change in local and international communities. Even as efforts to blunt Vatican II reforms grew, he compelled parishes to take responsibility and challenge clerical patriarchy.
THE WORLD THEY KNEW
Written and Produced by Carlisha Williams and Jason Lemon, Directed by Jason Lemon
Synopsis: THE WORLD THEY KNEW follows three 8th grade girls from various walks of life as they participated in Women Empowering Nations’ Girls Leading Our World Travel seminar. From Casablanca, Morocco and Banjul, Gambia, they explore North and West African cultures, tour historic sites, and participate in a leadership conference centered on education and social justice while developing friendships with the local Gambian girls.
THEY ARE WE
Written and Directed by Emma Christopher
Synopsis: Can a family separated by the transatlantic slave trade sing and dance its way back together? In Perico, Cuba is an Afro-Cuban group that has kept alive songs and dances brought aboard a slave ship by their ancestor, known only as Josefa. Through years of searching, filmmaker Emma Christopher tries to find their origins. They had never forgotten their lost family, and now their descendants were coming home. So began preparations for the biggest festival in the village’s history, a welcoming home for their cousins.
Written and Directed by Darious Britt
Synopsis: An ambitious, young filmmaker must battle his mother’s mental illness and his worst fears to save her from herself and reclaim his life.
WHEN, WHERE, HOW?
Written and Directed by Messiah Amaram
Synopsis: On the day of their high school graduation, six unlikely friends seek a graduation party at a fabled abandoned playground, after their first attempts at a party are foiled by the police. On their journey the friends encounter some colorful and dangerous characters.
WHEN WE WERE ALL BRONCOS
Written and Directed by David Barrow
Synopsis: This is the story of a unique Texas town, Denton, Texas, and its struggle to step from beneath the shadow of segregation and Jim Crow. The documentary highlights the efforts of some extraordinary citizens who brought about change and helped Denton through this important transition. It also tells the story of a remarkable high school football team that ran with the legacy they were given by their community, becoming the emblem of cooperation and friendship that marks Denton to this day.
YOU HAVE HIS EYES
Written and Directed by Christopher Wilson
Synopsis: In each family a story is playing itself out. All its characters affected, for better or worse… At three months old Christopher was adopted. 25 years later he reunited with his biological mother. He then began documenting his search for his father. An intense life changing experience is captured as Chris uncovers the dormant truths behind his biological family.