BAMcinématek kicks off its full 2012 calendar year with New Voices in Black Cinema, the second annual festival presented by the Fort Greene-based ActNow Foundation. Reflecting the wide spectrum of views and themes within the African diasporan communities in Brooklyn and beyond, the series features six New York premieres and special guests at nearly every screening.
Home to ActNow programs since August 2009, including last summer’s New York premiere of Kenneth Price’s documentary The Wonder Year (2011) — “A fascinating portrait of a man consumed with the love of creating music.” (Michael Hewlett, Winston-Salem Journal) about Grammy Award-winning hip-hop producer The 9th Wonder.
Aaron Ingram, executive director of the ActNow Foundation, says of the partnership with BAMcinématek: “Giving filmmakers the opportunity to present their stories in BAM’s beautiful cinemas and in our home borough of Brooklyn allows us to engage movie lovers of all walks of life in the diversity, beauty, and complexity of films of the African diaspora.”
Opening the festival on Friday, Feb. 17 at 6:50 p.m. is the New York premiere of Russell Costanzo’s powerful feature debut, The Tested, starring Aunjanue Ellis (The Help, Ray) as a mother coping with the death of her son by a white police officer (Armando Riesco), who also struggles with the emotional aftereffects of his tragic error. Winner of the Grand Prize at the American Black Film Festival in Los Angeles and a selection of the Woodstock Film Festival, it marks the acting debut of Michael Morris Jr., as the young Dre, who sets out to avenge his brother’s death.
Closing the series on Monday, Feb 20 at 6:50 p.m. with the director in person is festival favorite and Locarno prize-winning The Furious Force of Rhymes (2010), a documentary on the global reach of hip-hop from the South Bronx to Senegal, the West Bank, and Paris and its banlieues, featuring Grandmaster Caz of seminal hip-hop pioneers the Cold Crush Brothers, Busy Bee, Dead Prez, French rappers Les Nubians, German performers Joe Rilla and Kool Svas, Israeli and Palestinian rappers Omri Gershon and Ramallah underground, Senegalese rappers Waterflow and Alif, among many others.
French daily Le Monde called it “a fascinating examination of the sound of rage, highly recognizable from one country to the next, and at the same time impregnated with local languages and cultures.”
On Saturday, Feb. 18 at 9:30 p.m. is the New York premiere of Infiltrating Hollywood (2011), which chronicles the story behind the making and repression of the 1973 Black militant film The Spook Who Sat by the Door, about a Black CIA operative who leaves the agency to form and lead a group of Black revolutionaries in Chicago. Adapted from Sam Greenlee’s controversial novel and helmed by prolific actor and director Ivan Dixon (Nothing But a Man).
Continuing ActNow’s “New Black Classics” sidebar (last year, the festival screened the cult favorite Chameleon Street) is Theodore Witcher’s critically lauded romantic comedy Love Jones (1997), starring Nia Long, Larenz Tate, Bill Bellamy, and Isaiah Washington as a group of young Chicagoans exploring relationships. Winner of Sundance’s Audience Award, this modern classic still resonates years later.
In 2006, sneaker manufacturer Nike’s marketing budget was larger than the entire gross domestic product of Ghana. Vérité documentary Sneaker Stories, screening on Saturday, Feb. 18 at 2:00 p.m., connects this economic disparity while exploring the hoop dreams of three individual basketball players: Karl in Vienna, Adrian in Brooklyn, and Aziz in Ghana.
German director Katharina Weingarten lets the three 20-somethings speak for themselves, resulting in an incisive exploration of their everyday struggles as well as their place in the greater machinations of the global sports-industrial complex.
Also in a New York premiere, screening Friday, Feb. 17 at 4:30 p.m., is DEFORCE, the feature debut of Daniel Falconer. This beautiful, meditative film explores the city of Detroit—and its economic, social and anthropological struggles—as a once-thriving metropolis, now a fraction of what it once was.
“An essential study of an iconic industrial aftermath. The ceaseless trials of Motown are brought to light as never before” (Ken Burns). And on Friday, Feb. 17 at 2:00 p.m., The American Dream—Jamil Walker Smith’s debut feature—follows aspiring filmmaker Luis (Smith) as he documents his last 36 hours in his hometown of Los Angeles before shipping off to Afghanistan. Shot in cinéma vérité style, this poignant drama takes “audiences from comedic highs to tragic lows in telling its story of two teenage best friends whose dreams are rent when they join the Marines” (Tim Rhys, MovieMaker Magazine).
Since its inception, the ActNow Foundation has presented stories about race, love, family, cultural differences, self-empowerment, the corporate world, and the toils and aspirations of the working, middle, and upper classes, with a declared mission statement to “show that although human life experiences can be very different, we all share the same human struggle for survival, and no matter what our race or creed, we are all one.”
Subway:2, 3, 4, 5, Q, B to Atlantic Avenue (2, 3, 4, 5 to Nevins St for Harvey Theater) D, N, R to Pacific Street; G to Fulton Street; C to Lafayette Avenue.
Train:Long Island Railroad to Atlantic Terminal
Bus:B25, B26, B41, B45, B52, B63, B67 all stop within three blocks of BAM.
Car:Commercial parking lots are located adjacent to BAM
For ticket and BAMbus information, call BAM Ticket Services at 718.636.4100, or visit BAM.org.