Independent movies take center stage at local festival

Last updated on October 27th, 2015 at 01:14 pm

Sheryl Hill (l), film director and founder Hazel Joyner-Smith (r) pose for pictures at the International Black Film Festival in Nashville.

Sheryl Hill (l), film director and founder Hazel Joyner-Smith (r) pose for pictures at the International Black Film Festival in Nashville.

Hundreds of people gather in Nashville to watch independent movies and get an opportunity to meet the people behind the filmmaking and learn how to make and promote films at the annual International Black Film Festival on October 1-4, 2015.

The film festival, held at the Cal Turner Family Events Center at Meharry Medical College, showcased a wide variety of films ranging from feature films to marquee and special screenings to documentary films. There was also a stage play making its premiere at the IBFFN. Opening night started with the film “Chapter & Verse” that tells the story about a man, a former gang member, who gets released from prison and attempts to adjust to living in a changed neighborhood in New York City and is forced to take a job at a food pantry, where he meets a woman and attempts to be a mentor to her grandson.

Sheryl Hill, director of “Chapter & Verse,” said that the main character in the film is a committed man who is determined to change his life and very stoic and steady. She said he is also a man who has learned a lot of things since being in prison. Hill said that this is the type of situation that is playing in real life and having a negative effect on men of color. She also said the reason for making the film because of concerns for social issues and has real characters in real-life situations.

“There are over 2 million black men in prison and there are a lot of people trying to come back to the community and don’t have a lot of support. They don’t have a lot of support to get the kind of job they want, the kind of housing (they want), the family is sometimes not there,” said Hill. So, in this film, we see the intricacies and intimacy of what goes on that sends people back to prison, but everyone deserves a second chance.”

The second film that premiered at the IBFFN was the film “Forgiveness” starring Richard T. Jones. The movie, based on the novel “Unbound” by Kia Stokes, deals with a church pastor who is well-known in his community works to save his church and in an attempt to save the church, he crosses boundaries that should not be crossed. Hakim Khalfani, director of the film, said that the main character is the type of person whom people would root for and want to succeed. Khalfani said that it was not hard convincing Jones to play the main character because it was the kind of film he wanted to be in and it made it easier for him to cast the rest of the characters. He also said it was the type of film Jones wanted to be in because he wanted to play the role of the good character and that he was an ordained minister, which made it easier for him to identify with the character. Khalfani said that preparing for the film was not an easy chore because of the scheduling of the cast members and writing the script. He also said that he spent two weeks writing the script, and, like any other film, preparing the script by including a beginning, a middle, and an ending.

“When you’re doing a small budget film, timing is everything because everyone has a schedule,” said Khalfani.

Another film that made its premiere at the film festival was “Jacob Stone,” which deals with a rising high school basketball player who receives some information that could jeopardize his future. The film’s director, Roya Aryanpad, said the movie examined social issues such as racial profiling and stereotyping that had an effect on the main character while learning about family bonds and second chances. She said that it was important deciding which film project to work on.

“When I was looking for a script that examined some social issues, I came upon ‘Jacob Stone.’ I liked it because the writer (David Blacker) has woven all of these issues into the story so you don’t get a sense that you’re being preached at or you’re trying to make a point, but, at the same time, you get so drawn into the story you get a sense of the things happening in our society,” said Aryanpad.

Aryanpad said the message people should take away from the movie is for people to love and respect each other and to be compassionate towards other people.