Local film festival showcases diverse movies and talent

International Black Film Festival founder:CEO Hazel Joyner-Smith being interviewed on opening night about the film festival.

Dozens of people from all over the United States and across the globe descended upon Nashville to attend a very popular festival for moviegoers to watch a showcase of independent films and documentaries starting on October 4.

The International Black Film Festival, held at Watkins College and Belmont University in Nashville, showcased a variety of diverse films that people and moviegoers enjoyed, ranging from national to international films. The film festival started off with an opening night short film Forgive Me Father held at Belmont University. It was followed by the feature film Widows, starring Viola Davis, telling the story of four Chicago women who were dealing with the deaths of their husbands, and then find themselves left with stolen money from a candidate running for local political office. IBFFN also featured documentary films dealing with social issues facing our country. One of those films was Maxwell Street Market, directed by Isiah Shaw. Maxwell Street Market deals with an area of Chicago called the Maxwell Street Market (a.k.a., Jew-Town). Shaw describes the Maxwell Street Market as being the best place to shop for people of color, because they are able to buy more merchandise than anywhere in Chicago. That changed when the University of Illinois-Chicago decided to expand their campus by buying the area where the vendors were located, resulting in gentrification.

Another documentary film showcased was 16 Bars, the true story of Todd ‘Speech’Thomas, a member of hip-hop group Arrested Development going to a prison in Virginia. There, Thomas collaborates on an album with four prison inmates as part of an effort to rehabilitate their lives by recording original music. Thomas says the music performed by these four inmates was a way for them to express themselves on what they are going through during their time in prison and out of prison.

“It was really easy because they wanted to tell stories and actually grateful that somebody was coming in and giving them an opportunity tell their stories,” said Thomas. “It was easy for them. But it was hard for the system to let us in.”

Thomas said it was hard to make the documentary because it was controversial for them to go into a prison and record music. He said the inmates wanted to record music that was inspiring and could help people who were dealing with similar situations. He also said it was hard to separate himself from the project he was doing because he was personally connecting with the prisoners after the film was made.

Another documentary was The Counter: 1960. Directed by Tracy Byrd, the film examines the sit-ins in North Carolina in the 1960s and their impact on the Civil Rights Movement.

Another film making its debut was Yesterday, directed by Will Robbins. The film tells the story of a man who was dumped by his fiancée at the altar on his wedding day and reunited with her several years later at a book signing. Robbins said that the responses to the film were so mixed he made several adjustments. He said the film’s message was that people should not be stuck in the past, but to move forward in life.

IBFFN also held its voter registration drive to encourage festivalgoers to register to vote. The voter registration, conducted by the Equity Alliance, was formed after the 2016 presidential election to help educate people about the importance of voting and how to get involved with the voting process. Timothy Hughes, project coordinator for Equity Alliance, said there were people who were angry by electoral politics in the United States, due to voter suppression laws being passed in many states. Hughes said the goal of the Equity Alliance is to make sure people are included in the electoral process and overcoming voter ID issues.