In Portland, there are film festivals to fit nearly every social, cultural and artistic focus – African, International, documentary, experimental, grindhouse, lesbian and gay, jewish, bikes, pornos, 48-hour films — but not a single film festival dedicated to films about and made by African Americans.
From Nov. 13 to 15, the inaugural African American Film Festival will show Black films from the '20s to the '80s at several of McMenamins locations. The event is being organized by filmmaker, historian and native Oregonian Ron Craig, who says it's about time Portland held a film festival for Black films.
"These films give a basis of the contribution that has been made to film," Craig said.
Craig is securing a line-up that shows the transition of African American films throughout the 20th century – Carmen Jones, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, Super Fly, JoJo Dancer, among others.
With the first year, Craig wants to provide festival-goers with a baseline for Black films before moving onto newer and more independent work. He says Black filmmakers have been making contributions to the genre since the motion picture camera was invented. Unfortunately, many films are unavailable due to copyright ownership. More still, have simply disappeared – the victim of time and improper storage facilities.
"There were Black filmmakers around who were just as groundbreaking and just as qualified as directors like D.W. Griffith," he said.
With some Black film history established, Craig plans to seek out newer, independent work for future festivals in Portland. He says he like visiting various film festivals and talking directly with the filmmakers when finding work. Craig also organizes the Astoria International Film Festival on Oct. 16 – 18 and produced the Emmy-nominated "Searching for York."
On Saturday, Nov. 14 at 4:30 p.m. at the Kennedy School, Craig is scheduling a panel discussion about Black film with speakers that include former Willamette Week film critic and filmmaker David Walker and PSU Black Studies Professor Darrell Millner. The panel discussion will focus on all aspects of Black film involvement, from Black contributions to the art form, to how artists were, and continue to be, forced to conform to stereotypes.
Above all, Craig also wants the fest to be a learning and inspirational opportunity for budding artists
"I want this to become a major film festival on the West Coast," he said.
For a full listing of the films scheduled to appear at the African American Film Festival, visit www.precision-print.com