THE BUZZ: If you are a film fan, the Run & Shoot Filmworks Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival was the place to be from August 5th through 9th, 2014. Founded by husband and wife team Floyd A.B. Rance III and Stephanie T. Rance, the festival is in its twelfth year and presents features, documentaries, shorts and webisodes from African-American filmmakers.
The first thing I checked out was a live dance performance – Camille A. Brown & Dancers featuring “Mr. TOL E. Rance” at The Martha’s Vineyard Performing Arts Center. A provocative mixed media piece with live music by Scott Patterson, it examined “the mask” of survival and how much Black performers had to – and still have to – tolerate various forms of minstrelsy. It’s what W.E.B. DuBois called the “double consciousness.” In collaboration with The Yard, the event had a post-performance discussion moderated by Joyce Guy. I recommend catching it as a way to stimulate conversation on race – past and present.
The documentary Little Ballers, brought to us by two dynamic women I know, Crystal McCrary (Director and AAU mom) and Adrienne Lopez (Producer), tells the story of four diverse eleven-year old boys and their legendary coach as they set out to win an AAU National Championship. My nephew Daniel was a part of that league and I didn’t realize the intensity of their activities. The discussion afterwards was presented by the Wharton Sports Business Initiative. Moderated by New York Times Columnist William C. Rhoden, it featured Crystal, Jerome Allen, Head Coach of Men’s Basketball at the University of Pennsylvania, and AAU Coach Billy Council.
A preview of the documentary A Ballerina’s Tale, produced by Nelson George, tells the story of African American prima ballerina Misty Copeland. I met Nelson back in my VH1/MTV days. The film examines Misty’s prodigious rise and potentially career ending injury. It highlights the athleticism of professional dance and touches upon issues of race and body image in the elite ballet world. The film also includes exclusive footage of Misty performing several solo pieces. WBUR community engagement director Louise Kennedy led the post-screening discussion which included co-producer Malik.
In the last screening, I sat a few seats away from Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and was delighted to introduce him to my nephew Daniel Kennedy. I’m a Harvard Business School and Harvard Kennedy School alum. We also attended the “Summer White” Reception at the Arts Center and stopped by the “Summer White” Party at Lola’s Restaurant. It was good to see so many familiar faces – even some as far back as my Universal Pictures days in the early 1990s. Now it’s all relevant again as I become a principal with the new Harlem Film Company.
Other notable films screened included Cru directed by Alton Glass, Black and Cuba directed by Robin J. Hayes, Little White Lie directed by Lacey Schwartz and Finding the Funk directed by Nelson George. As they say, content is king. Even though very few people cut actual “film” nowadays, good storytelling will never go out of style.
MUSIC: We also helped out with the Martha’s Vineyard Summer Madness Music Festival and Conference. It is produced by MV Soul Concepts, LLC which includes my dear friend Norman B. Hall. Daniel assisted producer Jill Newman and got a picture with Lauryn Hill which was certainly his highlight. Check out pics/coverage.
FINE ARTS: We popped our heads in the Harlem Fine Arts Show on Martha’s Vineyard. The Show featured art from around the world – 20 plus galleries and artists from the African Diaspora. They also featured a Golf Classic, an art lecture series, a youth empowerment day and Jazz and Blues Summerfest. Read more about it.
FUN & SUN: August on Martha’s Vineyard is like a smorgasbord of culture, sun and fun. From fundraisers to festivals, there is an overflow of interesting things to do. Headed to to the island? Check out pics/video/my favorites.
Also, check out pictures and coverage from the Nantucket Yoga Festival where I accompanied my (now) 96-year-old yoga master teacher, Tao Porchon-Lynch.