The last few years have seen an explosion of filmmaking and film festivals in the Triangle, and this Friday, July 11, will see the inauguration of an event that will fill an important niche: films by and about persons of color. Thanks to the efforts of three Durham filmmakers, the Colored Pictures film festival will come into being at the Carolina Theatre on Morgan Street.
The brainchild of Sherri Daye, Shani Harris-Peterson and Russell Robinson, the festival will showcase five diverse films from around the country. There's a film essay inspired by Frantz Fanon's Black Skin, White Mask, there's a study of African Americans' feeling about their hair and there are also several shorts about relationships. The screenings will be preceded by a 7:30 p.m. reception with the four filmmakers who will be present, after which the films will be shown at 8:30.
The festival began with the meeting of Daye and Harris-Peterson at the inaugural Ms. Films fest in 2002. Ms. Films was designed in part to allow women filmmakers to network and organize, and one panelist was Harris-Peterson, a filmmaker who has recently completed her psychology graduate degree program at Duke. Daye was new in town, having spent a year working as a P.A. on Hollywood productions in Wilmington, and in a telephone interview, she recalled approaching Harris-Peterson with the observation that "there aren't many African-American women here." The two struck up a relationship that led to coffee in Starbucks and the idea to start a festival.
"The big black film event was always the Acapulco Film Festival, which has since become the American Film Festival in Miami," Harris-Peterson said in a telephone interview. "But it had gotten exclusive, in a Sundance kind of way. There were a small number of films, and a really small number of shorts. We wanted to open the market a bit." The festival's title comes courtesy of Harris-Peterson's father, Michael D. Harris, an artist and UNC faculty member who recently published a book called Colored Pictures: Race and Visual Representation (UNC Press).
Daye and Harris-Peterson want the festival to become an annual event, although Harris-Peterson will be relocating to Baltimore in September for a post-doctoral program. Daye, however, plans to stick around--she's the managing editor of QSR, a fast-food trade magazine and she recently completed her first film under the auspices of Duke's Freewater Productions. Next year, she wants to get started earlier and cast a wider net. "We want to reach out to other groups, other people of color," she says.
Both Daye and Harris-Peterson noted that the festival would not have happened without an outpouring of support from local businesses, and the use of venue was donated, free of charge, by the Carolina Theatre.
Friday night's screening will be broken into two segments, separated by an intermission. Although the exact order of the program hadn't been determined at press time, one of the most intriguing films--to judge from the press release--could be Harun Karim Thomas' Free Above Sea: Jazz Speaks I.M. Thomas, a doctoral student at the University of Florida where erstwhile Triangle filmmaker Roger Beebe is a faculty member, has constructed a montage-essay in which he uses archival images, texts from Fanon and an original jazz score to consider the realities of being black in America. (The "I.M." of the title seems to refer to Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man.) Award-winning director Hanelle Culpepper will be on hand to discuss her short The Wedding Dress, a narrative in which a woman, aided by a camera, discovers the dirty truth of bachelorhood. Elsewhere on the program is a piece by a local filmmaker, Nadine Cummings. Her seven-minute film, To Whom It May Concern, is a look at a young woman's relationship with her invalid mother.
What about films by local artists Daye, Harris-Peterson and Robinson? Harris-Peterson demurred. "Showing our own films felt like self-promotion," she said. "Besides, we have nonprofit status and we can't take people's [application] money to promote our own films! Anyway, the festival is bigger than us."
On the magazine racks, it's been an award-winning couple of weeks for two other Triangle film institutions. The June 27 issue of Entertainment Weekly was the "IT" issue, in which EW makes their annual prognostications of rising stars of stage, screen and word processor. So it was that the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival found itself keeping company with such up-and-comers as Hugh "Wolverine" Jackman (IT Leading Man), Alexander the Great (IT Dead Guy), Frenchee Davis (IT Bootee) and Alyson "Willow" Hannigan (IT Recovering Band Geek). Among such glitterati, Nancy Buirski's annual fest was crowned the IT Documentary Festival. But hey, we already knew that--it's about time the New Yorkers caught on.
Filmmaker magazine doesn't have quite the readership of Entertainment Weekly, but it's the quarterly bible of indie filmmaking (along with its co-bible Moviemaker magazine). The July issue contains their annual list of 25 "New Faces of Indie Filmmaking." And who should appear at No. 20 but Durham's Brett Ingram! Ingram is cited for his past work as well as for Monster Road, his nearly done doc about animator Bruce Bickford that he's co-producing with Jim Haverkamp.
Unfortunately, we'll soon not be able to claim Ingram as our own. Later this month, he'll be moving to Winston-Salem to head up a new film/video production program at Wake Forest University.
Good luck, Brett. You've made our filmmaking community stronger and better, and you'll be missed.
For more information about the Colored Pictures festival, go online to