Thursday, March 1, 2007

A PPi Film: Wilmington 10 - USA 10,000

Director: GERIMA, Hailé
Production Company: Positive Productions Inc.
Genre: Documentary
Runtime: 120 min
Country: USA
Language: English

This documentary is highly acclaimed for its timeless treatment of a case of the unjust imprisonment of nine young African-American men and a White woman who were among may in Wilmington, North Carolina who dared to speak out against political and racial injustice. Along with the participation of the "Ten themselves during their incarceration are the families, community members and other incarcerated political prisoners such as Assata Shakur. Together they draw a picture of prolonged struggle in the Black community of which the Wilmington 10 are only a contemporary component.

Haile Gerima

Born in Gonder, Ethiopia in 1946, Haile Gerima is the fourth child of ten children. His father was a writer and his mother a teacher. As a youth Gerima performed in his father's theater troupe, which presented original and often historical drama, always submersed in the genuine culture of Ethiopia.

Gerima came to the U.S. in 1967 to study at the Goodman School of Drama. He slowly realized that "with cinema I could control many more things than the theatre." Gerima went on to receive his MFA from UCLA in 1976 and to produce several films. Hour Glass, and Child of Resistance were his first films, Bushmama and Harvest 3,000 Years followed, all produced during his years at UCLA.

In an attempt to address the imbalanced system of distribution in this country Gerima founded Mypheduh Films (MFI) distribution company in 1982. MFI distributes Gerima's films and films by other filmmakers of African descent from around the world. Self production and self distribution are what make Gerima an "independent filmmaker." By approaching filmmaking this way Gerima believes that he can maintain the content of his films, without having to follow the "formula" dictated by "Hollywood films." So far the audience response to his work affirms the necessity for films that freely express our own stories that have been "economically censored" from the screen. After completing Harvest, Gerima produced Wilmington 10 - USA 10,000*, Ashes and Embers, After Winter: Sterling Brown*, SANKOFA, Through the Door of No Return (Co-producer and editor), Imperfect Journey**, and Adwa - An African Victory*.

He is currently working on 1) Adwa Part II - The Children of Adwa. This film will look at the return of Italy to Ethiopia during WWII and the gallant determination of Ethiopians to remain free; 2) The Maroons Film Project - this film will investigate the existence of free territories during slavery, run and controlled by people who had escaped slavery. Sankofa Video and Bookstore was opened in 1996 in order to combat the refusal of chain video stores to carry the work of Gerima and other black filmmakers. The store attempts to make such films available to a broader public while at the same time demonstrating that movies can and should be held to the same high standards as good literature. Gerima teaches film and Howard University and is a father of six.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

A PPI Sponsored Project: Finding My Precious Basquiat

Name of Project: Finding My Precious Basquiat

Director's Name: Johnalynn Holland

Producer's name: Johnalynn Holland

Short Project Summary: Mali a young schizophrenic artist is forced to choose between her love for her husband or her love for her husband or her love for her delusions of Jean Michel Basquiat.

Mali is on the cusp of a burgeoning fine arts career. At the onset of the story, Mali's days away from an important gallery featuring her highly commissioned painting. The painting, however, is now where near completion. Clef, also Mali's manager, is frustrated with Mali's indifference towards the impending crisis. His own career credibility is jeopardized so he gives her an ultimatum. Mali must choose between their life and career together or she must survive on her own.

Mali and Clef live as polar opposites. Mali is impulsive, stylistically unconventional and carefree while Clef is conservative, prepared and business orientated. Because of Clef's devotion and love for his wife, their marriage has endured her psychotic episodes. However, through the course of their marriage, Mali has become emotionally and physiologically resistant to her medication. It interferes with her creative process sending her personality into a near vegetative state.

When Mali regularly takes her psychotropic medication, she is complacent with Clef, yet uninspired. As a provider Clef, is paternalistic and controlling. When off her medication, Mali has delusions of her idol, dead pop contemporary art Jean Michel Basquiat. Because of Basquiat, her art work flourishes, inspired by their conversations and time with together. Also, she self-medicates with drugs and alcohol. Jean Michel fights for her attention interferes with her taking her medication. He encourages Mali to leave Clef and run away with him.

However, handicapped by her psychological state, is unable live on her own and Clef handicapped by his devotion is unable to let her go. The three characters live in a constant tug of war.

A PPI Sponsored Project: Boogie Creek

Name of Project: Boogie Creek

Producer's Name: Qaddafi Sabree

Director's Name: Qaddafi Sabree

Length of Project: 30 min.

Short Project Summary: Boogie Creek is a small town in West Virginia named after a creek that streams through the woods so quiet that it's eerie. The town is made up of mostly lower to middle class whites and a few blacks. Carl, a man in his late 30s was born and raised in Boogie Creek. His family consists of his wife Candy, and his son Chip. Chip is a pre-teen who's into comic books and video games. His father however, wants to teach him the sport of hunting, which is very popular in the community in which they live. Carl is an army veteran, and has no-nonsense attitude, which can be seen when he's interacting with Chip. Carl's wife Candy believes that Chip is too young to be using guns and objects to Carl's teachings. One day Chip is assailant. When he doesn't find him, he roughs up the clerk at the store who happens to be innocent. On his way home, Carl sees a police car outside of his house. Thinking the clerk called the police, he decides to go to a friend's house. While at his friend's house, he meets his brother who happens to be visiting. They all go back to Carl's house and Chip recognizes Carl's friend's brother as his assailant. Carl and the man get into a fight, however stop when they hear a gunshot. The shot is coming from Chip, who is holding his father's rifle. Scared, and confused, Chip stands there until Candy comes out and startles him causing him to shoot her by accident, leaving the father ridden with guilt.

Sponsorship of Film and Video Productions

PPI provides financial support to film and video makers in a variety of ways.

1. PPI gathers grants and other sources of financial support for specific film and video projects. SANKOFA is an early example and more recently in 2006 we continued sponsoring a run-off film from SANKOFA titled, THE MAROONS PROJECT.

2. PPI acts as a fiscal sponsor providing the financial oversight required by granting agencies that will allow filmmakers the credibility required by that agency. Examples in 2006 were, U STREET BLUES, THE PRICE OF ICE, and JUNKANOO.

3. PPI sponsors fund-raising activities for specific film projects. These have included exhibitions, mail requests, solicitation via our website, mail solicitation. Our work has resulted in the completion of over thirty productions by men and women, students and veteran filmmakers.

A Summary of PPI services in 2006

PPI provided the following services in 2006:

Training for filmmakers: Workshops, classes, apprenticeships and internships are offered to individuals with varying levels of film backgrounds. These have included screenwriting, film directing as well as filmmaking workshops for adults and children. We often collaborate with institutions. Trainees in 2006 took part in scriptwriting and directing acting labs. They not only learned the practical art of filmmaking but the aesthetics of film, the social impact of this medium and how to tap into and realize one's own particular stories and ways of seeing the world without the obligation of imitating Hollywood or other commercial models.

Training for Audiences, Conferences/Work-Shops: PPI brings artists and audience together around critical issues of social responsibility, stereotypes, control of media outlets, film aesthetics, the social impact of film, world of cinema, etc. Examples of such workshops that took place in 2006 is, "The History of the Maroons," a series that fed directly in research being done for a film on the maroons in the Americas.

Throughout 2006 PPI sponsored a free weekly screening of movies with an accompanying discussion at Sankofa Video and Bookstore. We also provide theatre space for the premier openings of movies by filmmakers that we have sponsored, and others. These have included SANKOFA (made in the U.S.), BURNING AN ILLUSION (made in the UK), SARRAOUNIA (made in Burkina Faso/Paris).