Monthly Archives: January 2012

The Sundance Rundown

Last week saw the sun rise and set in Park City, Utah at America’s largest celebration of all films indie.  The festival is a showcase of new work and includes many premieres and an intense competition for movies fighting there way to make it to the big screen.  In recent years, it has become the premiere venue for those films that are still looking for backing and stuck in theatrical release limbo.

To get the opportunity for consideration in the competition, artists submit films for selection.  For many directors, this is the best venue for them to shop their films to distributors in hopes of getting studio backing, which can make or break a movie’s ultimate success.  In the past it was typically known for highlighting little known or upcoming filmmakers, but has grown to represent a much wider spectrum of artistry.  The 2012 festival had many great moments to celebrate.

U.S. Directing Award:Dramatic prize went to Middle of Nowhere

This year, close to 8000 short films were submitted, with just 64 selected for showings at the festival, just to put into perspective how stiff the competition gets.  Leading up to this year’s festival there was a lot of anticipation for many black films.  The blogs of negronia were ablaze speculating Spike Lee’s pet project Red Hook Summer, the film LUV starring and produced by Common, and Middle of Nowhere by upcoming filmmaker Av DuVernay.  Ten days later, 2012 proved to be a bigger deal for blacks in film that Sundance 2011 (for those who missed it… Pariah and Kinyurwanda were big hits here last year).

The film LUV stars entertainer/actor Common

At the close of Sundance 2012, three  films on our radar had won key awards, many others got distribution meaning we will get to see more of them coming soon to a theater near you, and the internet went viral with a tirade from none other than the OG of black film himself, Spike Lee.  One of the most exciting results was Ava DuVernay being named the first black woman to win the Best Director Prize for her sophomore film, Middle of Nowhere.  For those unfamiliar with her work, she also produced the BET documentary “My Mic Sounds Nice” and the feature on the Essence Music Festival in 2010 on TV One.  DuVernay’s first film, I Will Follow, has also garnered much critical acclaim and won Best Screenplay by the 2011 African American Film Critics Association.

Ava DuVernay speaking at Sundance 2012

For those like me who did not get the opportunity to make it to Sundance this year, it may be a wait for us to be able to see Middle of Nowhere in theaters.  While it was picked up by Participant Media and AAFRM, it is unclear at this time what release is planned.   The film’s plot centers around a woman navigating her life and marriage during her husband’s 8 year prison sentence.  Participant has backed many recent major films like The Help, Contagion, and An Inconvenient Truth.  AAFRM backed last year’s Sundance favorite Kinyurwanda, so I look forward to seeing Middle of Nowhere get its theatrical release soon.

Scene from Grand Jury Prize Winner, Beasts of the Southern Wild

Also taking home the Grand Jury Prize and a cinematography honor was the film Beasts of the Southern Wild, which was the undisputed critic favorite. This mythical tale was the first film from Benh Zeitlin.  The movie is set in the Southern delta at the end of the world and explores the survival and relationship of a girl and her father, welcoming the cutest new child star, Quvenzhane Wallis as 6 year old Hushpuppy. It was acquired by Fox Searchlight and is rumored for a summer release.  Previous Sundance films that were bought by Searchlight were very successful, like (500)Days of Summer.  The documentary “Detropia” was honored for US Documentary Editing.

Chris Rock as a family man in 2 Days in New York

Some movies that were not honored or eligible for award, but still picked up for distribution were: The Words starring Bradley Cooper and Zoe Saldana, 2 Days in New York starring Chris Rock, and the documentary “Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap”.  Films that are still waiting for distribution that were heavily praised are the documentary “Under African Skies“, An Oversimplification of her Beauty (A Complex Exploration of the Dance Between Id, Ego, & Super Ego), and  1/2 Revolution.  Additionally, despite the controversial reviews and attention toward Spike Lee’s collaboration Red Hook Summer, I am still eager to see the film simply because word on the street is it features and not so hidden shot at Madea himself.

Lee during his now infamous tirade...

In the end, Sundance 2012 leaves us with a heavy promise of some great upcoming features with stories, directors, and actors that show a diverse depiction of the aspects of black culture.  If distribution goes well, this should be a great year for black cinema at the the movies.  I for one will be ready with popcorn in hand.


A Day to Celebrate like a KING

People nationwide joined in collective celebration of one of our world’s great heroes yesterday, commemorating the birth of Martin Luther King, Jr.  As I am sure there is no need for a history lesson right now and if you need to be informed about who this great man was… you need more help than this post will ever provide.  As we at All Black Everything spent our days of service reaching out in our communities, it was hard not to ponder the influence Dr. King’s actions and words have had on the fields of art and design.

For our supporters in and around the New York City area who want to tap into the spirit of the day, be sure to check out the acclaimed Broadway play, The Mountaintop. The story is a fictional retelling of the the night before Martin’s tragic assassination, with the entire play set in the Room 306 at the Lorraine Hotel. Written by playwright Katori Hall,  the UK production won the prestigious Olivier Award for Best New Play.  This was monumental as Hall was the first black woman to win in history.  Add to all this that the Broadway production stars Samuel L. Jackson and Angela Basset, who could resist?  There are discounts for ticket purchases this week, so don’t miss out… the show closes on January 22!

MLK has also been the inspiration for many other influential design moments. Its only been a year, but Spike Lee’s moving commercial for Chevrolet from last years King Day Celebration still moves me.   With their whole Table of Brotherhood campaign ad, Chevrolet was one of the major advertising accounts that helped solidify Spike DDB, the firm that resulted when Spike Lee opened a joint venture with DDB Needham Worldwide.  They are one of the more noted black advertising firms to land some major accounts like FinishLine.

Turning our head to the built environment, there were many other memorials and buildings that came long before the newest addition to the Washington Mall.  One of the lesser known design gems to feature the words and evoke the spirit of Dr. King’s work was the Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery, ALby architect, Maya Lin.  The fountain includes a timeline that ends with Martin’s untimely death.

Another King inspired fountain can be found in San Francisco at Yerba Buena Gardens.  The site was designed by architect, Joseph de Pace and sculpted by artist Houston Conwill.  The fountain is the largest fountain on the Western Coast of America.

Moving further up the Western Coast is the Martin Luther King Memorial Park in Seattle.  Inspired by the “I’ve Been To the Mountaintop” speech, the site is set into the landscape of the park surrounding a reflection pool and statue honoring the event.

Another site that uses the inspiration of Martin’s words to commemorate a site is the former Martin Luther King, Jr. Educational Campus in New York City.  After the original high school was closed in 2005, sculptor William Tarr created a steel sculpture matching the new campus’  facade on the site in homage to the school.

Moving to Atlanta, most people have done the historic  tours to Ebenezer Baptist Church and the King Vistor’s Center to see his tomb, but there may be a new stop on the MLK tour soon.  Designed by the Freelon Group and HOK, the National Center for Civil and Human Rights will create a space for the study, celebration, and education of the struggle for equality for all.  The building’s shape is based on the idea of interlocking arms.

You may remember early last year when we covered the announcement of the final design of the now completed MLK Memorial in Washington DC. Recently, a lot of controversy was sparked regarding one of the quotes chosen for the Stone of Hope, the cornerstone of the memorial’s design.   Many visitors have spoken out regarding the paraphrasing of a quote from Dr. King’s and have asked the designers and people managing the memorial to change the inscription on the stone.  The controversial quote is “I Was a Drum Major for Justice, Peace, and Righteousness” which has been adapted from Martin’s original words, “If you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter.”

Looking at the way Dr. King’s life, vision, and legacy have inspired other artists and designers in their creation of unique works is inspiring. We at All Black Everything challenge you to look to his words and message and find a way to champion it into your own creativity. And because there is no better way for it to be said….

“And we all know everything that he stood for time will bring for in peace our hearts will sing thanks to Martin Luther King…”