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Leaders of LA. Rebellion talk about
black independence at film festival
BY TEV1N ST1NSON
FOR THE CHUnNK-l F ,
Leaders of the L.A. Rebellion, Charles Burnett and
Haile Gerima, spoke on Tuesday, April 21, to a diverse
crowd inside the Diggs Art Gallery on the campus of
Winston-Salem State University (WSSU) as part of the
RiverRun International Film Festival.
The film directors spoke on the topic "Everything but
the Burden: Black Film and the Politics of
Representation" as part of the spotlight program on Black
American Cinema in collaboration with WSSU.
The LA. Rebellion wasti film movement from the late
1960s until the late 1980s. The black film directors told
what is was like to be in Los Angeles during the historic
riots in the 1960s that helped shape black culture in
America for years to come.
"Hollywood just keeps shifting;
you think you got it, then you
- Charles Burnett
"We were tired of the way we were being depicted in
these films," Gerima said. "The movement for us was our
way of saying they must accept us for us."
Born on the campus of UCLA, the rebellion was
geared toward producing films as an alternative to classi
cal Hollywood cinema. Some recognizable films that
came out of this movement are "Emma Mae," "Killer of
Sheep," and "Compensation," which was released as late
The panelists also discussed making films to educate
the black community and why a lot of films directed by
African-Americans don't get the support from Hollywood
Every year a number of films directed by African
Americans go unseen because they are limited to film fes
tivals or small viewings because of lack of a big-name dis
tributor or actor seen in the box office hits.
Burnett and Gerima both agree they would love the
support of a big-name distribution company or actor but
they don't have a problem doing it themselves because it
gives them more creative freedom with their films.
"When I talk about Hollywood, its like talking about a
woman I've never been with," Gerima laughed.
Although they both have been in the film industry for
over 30 years, neither has ever had a major distribution
deal, but are confident in their own abilities and still
believe the African-American community wants to see the
type of movies they are creating.
"Hollywood just keeps shifting; you think you got it,
then you don't," said Burnett
Artist-educator Endia Beal, director of the Diggs Art
Gallery at WSSU, said at the end of the panel discussion
that she believes it is the duty of African-Americans to
ensure that positive images of the community continue
using different platforms, both in film, education and
"We all see the world through our own little spectrum;
the world is bigger than just our little world," Beal said.
Before closing, Gerima had some advice to young
African-Americans looking to change the politics of rep
"There are too much blues and not enough action,"
Gerima said. "If we want to see change, we have to
change it; nobody is going to just give it to us."
Photo by Erin Mizelle for The Chronicle
Film directors Haile Gerima, left, and Charles Burnett talk with people who attended the panel discussion
on the topic "Everything but the Burden: Black Film and the Politics of Representation" as part of
RiverRun's spotlight program on Black American Cinema in collaboration with WSSU.
director Nelson receives
Master of Cinema award
BY TEVIN STINSON
FOR THE CHRONICLE
On Friday April ,24,
groundbreaking film direc
tor Stanley Nelson Jr.,
added another award to his
collection when he took
home the RiverRun
Festival's Master of
Cinema award for his new
film "the Black Panthers.
Vanguard of a Nation."
The handmade trophy
was given to Nelson during
an open conversation mod
erated by Wake Forest
University Professor Peter
ITie Mm documents tne
rise and eventual fall of the
Black Panther Party and
shows how they were not
the rebels media and gov
ernment made them out to
be. The movie portrays
them as fighting for justice.
"This country was not
going to change; they
changed the country,"
Huey P. Newton and
Bobby Seale started the
Black Panther Party in
1966 in California. The
Panthers fought to establish
With films such as
"Freedom Bags" (1990),
"The Murder of Emmett
Till" (2003), "Freedom
Riders" (2010) and
(2014), Nelson has dedicat
ed his career to telling the
story of African-Americans
who may have otherwise
"I wanted to get into
filmmaking to tell the story
of the people I knew, the
people who I could relate
to, who were going through
the things I was going
through," Nelson said.
Nelson then explained
making documentaries of
this magnitude can bring
on a number of burdens;
not only do you have to tell
the story to a new genera
tion, but you also have to
make sure all of the facts
"I feel a burden all the
time, trying to tell the story
as accurately and entertain
ing as possible," Nelson
said. "Sometimes those
two can clash."
The "Black Panthers"
film was viewed during the
RiverRun Festival for only
days, but drew a packed
house both times. During
the first viewing, a number
of members from the
Winston-Salem chapter of
the Black Panther Party
lined the back of the
Southeastern Center for
Contemporary Art auditori
Among the Panthers ih
attendance was Larry
Little, one of the earliest
members who became the
leader of the Winston
Salem chapter. Under
Little's leadership, the
party reached the height of
its success. Little was
excited to see the film and
even thanked Nelson for
I just want to thank
Stanley Nelson, not for just
telling our story, but for
telling it so accurately,"
Little said. "1 couldn't be
more proud of the film."
Little still lives in
Winston-Salem and works
as an associate professor of
political science at
After the viewing,
Little presented Nelson
with an official patch from
the Winston-Salem Chapter
of the Black Panthers.
"This is the first time
any member of any chapter
has presented me with any
thing," said Nelson. "It
gives me great pleasure to
know that I got it right."
Nelson is raising
money for the film, which
is scheduled to air on PBS
in February 2016, through
The site can be viewed
by typing in Panthers.
The fund has raised
nearly $50,000 and will go
toward getting the film to
Photos by Erin Mizelle for the Winston-Salem Chronicle
Stanley Nelson is named the 2015 RiverRun
International Film Festival Master of Cinema on
Friday, April 24,2015.
mow ny cnn 1*11 ic 11c lm uk nuDun-oaicm cnronicic
2015 RiverRun Master of Cinema recipient, producer and director Stanley
Nelson, talks about his latest groundbreaking documentary work, "The Black
Panthers" Vanguard of the Revolution, during an intimate conversation and
Q&A on Friday, April 24,2015, at the Milton Rhodes Center for the Arts.
ered into the ground at Woodlawn, we were upside down.
Not only was Freddie dead, but so, too, were hopes for the
miracle of peace before justice. The prophetic words of so
many speakers did come true, though for reasons unwant
"The eyes of this country are all upon us because they
want to see whether we've got the stuff to make this
right," Murphy said. "The whole world is watching,"
Indeed Baltimore is in the spotlight, but because ot
mindless marauders who struck in the hours after Freddie
Gray's funeral, diverting attention from what should be
the focus. As Jackson said in calling a new generation to
the way of nonviolence: "Violence distracts, divides and
there is no remedy in violence." Rather than jobs and jus
tice, he said, the focus becomes brick and window.
But those in the purging mood were obviously not in
the pews of the New Shiloh Baptist Church, where the rich
wonds of Bryant depicted a too-heroic Freddie Gray,
unfortunately signaling that the real Freddie may be
replaced by a more perfect Maumau warrior image.
We don't need to go that far in the service of a social
justice movement. As Murphy said in his sermonette
before the eulogy: "Most of us are not here because we
knew Freddie Gray. But we all are here because we know
lots of Freddie Grays."
>, * A
We don't need a perfect Freddie Carlos Gray Jr. to sus
tain demands for answers in his case and so many others.
We must not be distracted by attempts to drag up every
unwise decision he made in his too-short life. Nor by the
misdirected anger of the marauders.
While an immediate issue is reclaiming this city from
the rioters and the cavalry sent in by Gov. [Larry] Hogan,
early signs of cooperation among clergy of many faiths,
politicians and even gang members is promising. And
after that? What is the road ahead? Murphy has a list of
reforms that include body cameras for police officers, the
establishment of a permanent special prosecutor for police
matters and recruitment of more Black and Brown police
officers who live in the city.
Michael Eric Dyson, the Georgetown University pro
fessor and author, is among those who point to political
"This is not a passive act," he told Sean Yoes of
WEAA-88.9 FM after the funeral. "Politics is an extreme
ly and aggressively engaged performance of our citizen
ship identity. So folks have got to see: This ain't some
thing we do every four years or every off year. This is
something we've got to be involved in daily. If we do that,
we can alter the trajectory of justice for us in the cities."
Being a man of the cloth, he would no doubt add
prayer, as Murphy did.
Some nights before, at a gathering at the Sharon
Baptist Church, not too far from where Freddie Gray spent
his last moments of freedom, many prayers were lifted
heavenward on the wings of a secular action plan in the
making. One not yet finalized but likely to include what
Murphy and Dyson are saying. They had come "not to
protest but to have prayer," as the Rev. Errol Gilliard said.
But make no mistake: the anger and frustration in the
church was no less palpable if more subtly conveyed than
that being articulated by the marchers in the streets. In
their prayers, however, they snuck in subtle digs at others
not present who they thought were hogging the limelight.
Herding sixth-grade boys is probably easier than rein
ing the egos of a city full of ministers of the gospel. But
since the infrastructure for leadership among Black
Baltimoreans lies in the gazillion houses of worship this
city has, someone must at least try. And that sleeping giant
? the faith community ? must sync its efforts with sec
ular players in politics, academe and the financial world,
as well as with the legacy civil rights organizations and the
relative newcomers whose fliers are popping up at prayer
vigils and rallies.
After Monday's mayhem, there's a whole lot of talking
"We will get through this mess," the dean of preachers
in Baltimore, the Rev. A.C.D. Vaughn has assured.
But that was days before the rich words spoken over
the casket of Freddie Gray at New Shiloh and before
Baltimore turned upside down when kids began to
"purge" us of our hopes for peace before justice.
EJt. Shipp is associate professor and journalist in res
idence of Morgan State University's School of Global
Journalism and Communication. ?**?c
* X \