In celebration of Black History Month, the Atlanta Film Society screened three short films showcasing the experience of Black Americans followed by a question and answer session with the filmmakers of these diverse short films.
Director Nelson Oliver of one short film, “The Red Cape”, shows audiences a largely untold yet proven violent overthrow of a local government in United States history, the 1898 Wilmington Massacre and Coup. Through the eyes of a young black child, Willie, the audience watches a narrative of a white supremacy group overthrow the city’s biracial leadership with force and brutality. Horrifically, Willie is an orphan by the film’s end since his father was murdered along with many others during the turmoil.
An audience member asks Oliver, “Why did the state of North Carolina decide to investigate 100 years after this massacre occurred?” Oliver explains that a lot of locals there today still do not want this story to be told. A couple of the biggest reasons he gives: many residents in Wilmington are legacy families and the federal government neglected to act when it occurred. In his opinion, both groups are avoiding some degree of shame by keeping the historical event in the shadows.
Out of the shadows and on the streets of Atlanta, “The Street Artist Bringing Civil Rights Icons to Life” short film captures artist Fabian Williams bringing inspiration to urban areas. Williams paints large murals of civil rights icons and contemporary activists together in unique settings, like amongst the stars of the universe. He tries to address the tensions that often surround the topic of race in America through mixing politics with humor in his murals.
Why else would Williams quit his day job of design for a life of painting on the streets? To change lives. He hopes the depiction of civil rights icons with contemporary activists in unique settings will inspire young people in Atlanta areas to relentlessly act on and pursue their dreams.
The third short film of the event, “The Forever Tree”, showcases a young black woman, Tawny Bennett, as the lead role in a magical, realism sci-fi film. Set in year 1919, Bennett must make a decision to act on her late father’s mission to find the “Forever Tree” with Madam C.J. Walker or remain an indentured servant to a racist antiquarian.
The short will become a full-length feature film soon, making it one of few adventure films with an African American woman starring as the lead role. Co-writer of “The Forever Tree”, Chrishaunda Lee Perez, explains the story idea started nearly a decade ago; and today, films like A Wrinkle in Time and Black Panther help open the door for African American lead roles to a wider fan-base within the adventure genre.
Discovery of new perspectives on Black History in America and how legacies impact these fresh perspectives is one of many common threads amongst the short films: “The Red Cape”, “The Street Artist Bringing Civil Rights Icons To Life”, “The Forever Tree”. Each filmmaker aims for audiences to see Black History in America through a new lens.
“Inquisitive, inspired, intelligent people like you will spread our mission and make our opportunity expand,” Perez expresses to the audience.
Proceeds from the event went to benefit the Center for Civil and Human Rights.
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Atlanta Theatre Hosting the event.
Civil Rights Mural by The Real Edwin
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