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Ava DuVernay To Open New Theater, Provide Grants to Filmmakers Of Color

LA FOCUS — Director Ava DuVernay (“Selma” “A Wrinkle In Time”) is looking to move beyond just telling stories, but creating a platform for others to shine as well. DuVernay’s production company ARRAY (formerly known as the African American Film Festival Releasing Movement) is opening state-of-the-art 50-seat theater that will screen half a dozen ARRAY titles that it plans to reach in 2019 as well as work by local artists, IndieWire reports. The independent theater will be built on ARRAY headquarters located in Echo Park.

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By LA Focus

Director Ava DuVernay (“Selma” “A Wrinkle In Time”) is looking to move beyond just telling stories, but creating a platform for others to shine as well. DuVernay’s production company ARRAY (formerly known as the African American Film Festival Releasing Movement) is opening state-of-the-art 50-seat theater that will screen half a dozen ARRAY titles that it plans to reach in 2019 as well as work by local artists, IndieWire reports. The independent theater will be built on ARRAY headquarters located in Echo Park.

“It’s about not only ownership, but also access,” ARRAY Vice President Tilane Jones noted. “We are really trying to honor the theatrical tradition, so our audience has access to work they may not see elsewhere, effectively changing the mindset of what they believe should or should not be on the big screen.”

Along with providing a place for local artists to showcase their work, the ARRAY’s non-profit arm ARRAY Alliance is planning to create grants for African American Latino and Asian American film festivals, societies and clubs. Last year, it partnered with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and producer Dan Lin to launch the Evolve Entertainment Fund, which provides promotion, grants, and gap financing for communities historically excluded from the entertainment industry.

This article originally appeared in the LA Focus

Chicago

(In)Justice for All Film Festival International Scheduled August 12-21

Free Virtual Event to Feature Films, Poets, and Panel Discussions

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7th (In)Justice for All Film Festival (IFAFF) Flyer

Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ, its Senior Pastor Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III, and The Next Movement (TNF) announce the 7th (In)Justice for All Film Festival (IFAFF), scheduled August 12-21. 

Because of the pandemic, this much-anticipated fest remains FREE of charge and will be virtual. This year, the IFAFF has partnered with Eventive, a well-established and respected virtual film distribution platform. 

The IFAFF brings audiences films that explore America’s criminal justice system – police, courts, and corrections – and the industries that profit from this cauldron of human misery. Stories told include those of millions of people who are relegated to second-class citizenship under an unforgiving system. Stories also highlight how other countries are successfully addressing this issue, as well as showcasing best practices right here in America.  

The virtual 7th IFAFF International will screen feature-length documentaries, feature films, and topical shorts, all with themes centered on the epidemic of mass incarceration, the criminal (in)justice system, racism and white supremacy, gun violence, police brutality, unfair housing, immigration, social unrest, and other human rights violations.  

The film festival brings additional context to the films and their messages through a variety of panel conversations as well as the inclusion of spoken word segments. It also includes a film competition for new movies and “Justice Awards” for exceptional films that best demonstrate the challenges and tragedies of our broken justice systems.

While the focus is on new films that are submitted into the competition, a variety of older films highlighting the historical perspectives of today’s challenges also are screened.  

The Next Movement (TNM) was born as a response to a 2010 visit and lecture by Professor Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, held at Trinity United Church of Christ. TNM, organized as a committee of the Trinity United Church of Christ Prison Ministry, is comprised of people of all races, ages, and religions who view mass incarceration as the key human rights issue of our time, and who are committed to building the mass movement necessary to alleviate it. 

Through education, awareness and organizing individuals and organizations, TNM is dedicated to mobilizing the “people power” necessary to make the systemic changes required. 

The 7th IFAFF International will run over a 10-day period from August 12-21. Free tickets are available by visiting www.injusticeforallff.com or https://watch.eventive.org/injusticeforallff. 

In addition to screening films, this year’s festival will include grand opening events: Spoken Word interludes featuring exciting Chicago poets, special guest speakers, panelists/panel discussions providing context to the many films to be featured over the 10 days (dealing with organizing, restorative justice, domestic violence, immigration, bail reform, racism, eviction, and, of course, mass incarceration); and closing ceremony/awards events. 

The magic of the festival derives from a committed, extensive group of partners who contribute their enthusiasm, relationships, and more to spread the news of the IFAFF International throughout Chicago and the nation. Independent film houses, universities, justice organizations, faith communities, and select media outlets comprise the bulk of IFAFF partners. 

Major 2021 IFAFF sponsors include Trinity United Church of Christ – Unashamed Media Group, Coalition to End Money Bond, and Euclid Avenue United Methodist Church. 

IFAFF website address – www.injusticeforallff.com

Eventive IFAFF website address – https://watch.eventive.org/injusticeforallff

Twitter & IG – @IFAFF

FB – @IFAFFInternational

Hashtag – #IFAFF2021

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Art

Griot Theater Company Presents ‘The Queen of Cubs’ in Mill Valley

This play grapples with social justice issues and current events. Featured singers and performers will include the appearance of Rafiki the baboon as yoga instructor and tour guide.

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Top: Oakwood Trail overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge. (Photo by Natalie O’Connor). Bottom left: Illustration of Nala (Griot Theater Company). Bottom right: LeShawn Darnell Holcomb speaking at the June 27 Griothon (Photo by Godfrey Lee).

The Griot Theater Company will be presenting their play “The Queen of Cubs,” a theater adaption of Disney’s “Lion King,” on Saturday, July 18, at 11:00 a.m., 1:00 p.m., and 3:00 p.m.    The play is an ‘exertainment,’ a combination of exercise and entertainment and will be presented on the Oakwood Valley – Alta Trail in Tennessee Valley in Mill Valley.

The “Queen of Cubs” play, co-written by Griot Theater Company Artistic Director LeShawn Darnell Holcomb, follows Nala’s story from cubhood to lioness-hood. Will she and the other lionesses survive her uncle’s tyranny or will they die from his antagonistic ways?

This play grapples with social justice issues and current events. Featured singers and performers will include the appearance of Rafiki the baboon as yoga instructor and tour guide.

Go to www.griottheatercompany.org for more information about Griot Theater Company and to get tickets for the play.

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Art

In Colorizing the Characters in ‘Hamilton,’ Playwright Lin-Manuel Miranda Whitewashes History

But he should also make sure we all know Hamilton was no hip-hop hero, just another founding slave holder. Miranda’s color change doesn’t change history, nor make it less distasteful.

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Photo of Lin-Manuel Miranda as Alexander Hamilton courtesy of cinemablend

Is there any doubt that Ishmael Reed is Oakland’s writer of conscience and consequence?

He was my teacher in graduate school at Washington University in St. Louis, MO. From him I learned a number of truisms about writing. Like, for me, when in doubt, put in the Filipinos. Don’t take them out!  Another one was career advice. The more money you make, the less you get to say. Conversely, the less you make, the more you get to say. And that brings me to the topic of this column.

Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creator of “In the Heights,” opened the movie version of the musical last week. It’s a gushing hydrant of diversity. It should make a lot of money. But when I talked to him a few weeks back I wanted to talk about his other monster hit, “Hamilton,” where Miranda applied what I call a little affirmative action. He put the Black and the Brown actors in the white parts.

The Founding Fathers got “Hamiltoned.” Revolutionary?

“Well, it’s interesting,” he said. “The idea when I picked up the book was it’s an R&B hip-hop musical so, of course, Black and Brown actors would play those roles. As I’m reading the book the first time, I’m picturing which of my favorite hip-hop artists should play Hercules Mulligan or George Washington. They were always people of color, and the music reflects that…I was sort of more surprised that everyone was surprised when we finally came out.”

“I think it kicks open the door,” he added. “Why are we so literal when it comes to this stuff? And you know, I see Shakespeare with people of every ethnicity playing the roles. Why can’t that be the case with our founders? We know what they look like – they’re on our f***ing money. So, like, let’s move forward here. But I think once you see a show that has had the diversity that we have on stage, it’s very hard to go back to sort of these all-white productions because you’ve got to ask why, what stories aren’t we getting when you see that?”

You still have to ask what you’re getting. Miranda got comfortable enough to cuss and didn’t like the term “affirmative action.” But was he rehabbing Hamilton, making him and the others better than they were by applying the hip-hop beat?

It was the perfect opening to ask a question about Reed, the MacArthur ‘genius’ award-winning novelist, satirist, and playwright who last year wrote  “The Haunting of Lin-Manuel Miranda,” a play that takes Miranda to task for the failure to highlight the real history of Hamilton.

Hamilton and his in-laws, the Schuyler family, were slave owners.

Miranda may have given the actors some tone, but the historical soul remains the same. Just obscured. Reed sees Miranda as duped by the Hamilton biography by Ron Chernow, which Miranda used as the main source for his skin-deep musical that glosses over our racist founders.

“I think seducing thousands of children and even the inaugural poet Amanda Gorman into believing that Hamilton and the Schuyler girls were ‘ardent abolitionists,’ must rank as a cultural crime,” Reed said to me.

As I asked Miranda my question about Reed, the PR rep cuts in: “We are actually out of time.”

Then Miranda says, “I got a long schedule, sorry. Thank you.”

It would have been interesting to hear his answer, with “Hamilton” beginning a new tour in August.

But this is megabuck showbiz, and the PR juggernaut must go on.

So, Miranda wiggled his way out. He could have answered. I gave him a shot.

Then again, Miranda’s got this new property to sell that’s a lot more cleansing and joyful. “In the Heights” is the feel-good movie of the post-pandemic, you know. All the fire hydrants are gushing.

But he should also make sure we all know Hamilton was no hip-hop hero, just another founding slave holder. Miranda’s color change doesn’t change history, nor make it less distasteful.

In fact, the 2021 tour for “Hamilton” is coming to San Francisco, Sacramento and San Jose for multiple-week runs in August through October.

Will he come clean by then? Or come up with a new song? In the meantime, you should read Reed’s “The Haunting of Lin-Manuel Miranda.”  There’s no music to wash away the truth.

Emil Guillermo is a veteran Bay Area journalist and commentator. He vlogs at www.amok.com Twitter @emilamok

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