The East End Black Film Festival Is Back!

Parrish Black Film Festival 2012
Courtesy Parrish Art Museum

“We are thrilled that the East End Black Film Festival (EEBFF) will be part of the inauguration of our new building in Water Mill,” says Parrish Museum Director Terrie Sultan. The Parrish has hosted the festival before, but this year, EEBFF’s seventh, marks “the first time in our state-of-the-art Lichtenstein Theater. Brenda Simmons and her team always put together a diverse and provocative program that draws a large and enthusiastic audience from throughout the community,” Sultan adds. Simmons is the chair of the African American Museum and Center for Excellence (AAMEE) in Southampton, which sponsors the festival.

Carol Spencer, the owner of Diaspora Books, which specializes in black literature, says that EEBFF is an “extremely important” event because of the large black population on the East End. Many local people “are descended from the Great Migration.” (The Great Migration was the movement of 6 million African Americans out of the South that went on intermittently from 1910–1970.)

Simmons notes that it will be beneficial for young African Americans to experience and know more about the Harlem Renaissance, the Civil Rights Movement, Malcolm X, the struggles, the injustice, and the endurance and tenacity of black people. The festival is a good way “to catch up on major films produced, and written for and about our people, and especially about our rich history.” And, she adds, “let’s not overlook the benefit to all audiences to share on an intellectual and emotional level, films that are educational, informative, and controversial, but reveal the heart and soul and real concerns.”

Simmons is particularly excited by the New York premiere of Hoodwinked by Janks Morton, the founder and CEO of iYAGO, an indie multimedia production company. Morton was voted best black film director in 2007. Hoodwinked is a kind of sequel to Morton’s award-winning What Black Men Think, but it focuses on how the media, reporting statistics, often distort facts and play into stereotypes. Is the public being “hoodwinked” by the way numbers can misrepresent truths? Let the blinders come off, as they do in Morton’s film.

Called “docu-logs,” Morton’s films are typically followed by hour-long Q&A sessions. He has a wide following, Simmons notes, having traveled and lectured around the world, and is expected to draw a crowd. Morton has explained his rationale for becoming a filmmaker as a desire “to promote positive stories about Blacks.” As he has written, “For over four-hundred years, the majority society has used many tools to reinforce a message that the peoples of African descent are less-than, not-equal-to or not-good enough. In this modern era of information, the media, government and special interests use statistics to further promote the message of black inferiority. What troubles me most, is that we as a people have internalized the misinformation, embraced the myths, and perpetuated the stereotypes, sadly reinforcing a collective misperception of our own identities.”

The November 17 film festival will last eight-and-a-half hours, and it will also include a classic feature, Purlie Victorious (pictured at top of page), The Last/First Kiss (2011) and Raising Izzie, by writer/producer David Conley, which about two orphaned white children adopted by a black couple who can’t have kids. The festival will be preceded by a kickoff event a week earlier—Spoken Word & Live Jazz—with music, poetry and refreshments. (Simmons is also a poet.) Southampton-based Charles Certain and Certain Moves, whose sax drew them in at jam sessions at Bay Street, will perform along with special guests Ken Morsch—a guitarist and singer—and Yung G. Jones, who will sing old school ballads.

The festival and kickoff are intended as fundraisers for AAMEE, Simmons says. It’s her hope that the museum, the sole “African American building in Southampton”—it used to be Randy’s Barber Shop—will be able to expand its art gallery and serve wider educational purposes by becoming a computer center and a venue for entertainment, especially jazz.

Spoken Word & Live Jazz, Southampton Cultural Center, 25 Pond Lane, Southampton, 11/9, 7–9 p.m., $20.

The Black Film Festival, The Parrish Art Museum, 279 Montauk Highway, Water Mill, 11/17, 12:30–9 p.m., [email protected], 631-283-2118, $7 admission, $20 day pass

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