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2011 Act Now: New Voices In Black Cinema Film Festival Wrap-Up

And so it all comes to an end… the inaugural Act Now: New Voices In Black Cinema Film Festival. An auspicious start for the Act Now Foundation family, enabled by the hard work of its eclectic staff.

The challenge – putting together a worthwhile 5-day film festival, with virtually no budget, and little time – was met with aplomb. Aaron Ingram and his team came through triumphantly. The programming, like the ActNow staff, was diverse, bold, demanding, and showed good aesthetic judgment – leaving the chaff out of the festival.

5 days in the cold and frigid temperatures of a New York winter, snow and crowded ice-covered streets and sidewalks, didn’t seem to prevent friends, family, neighbors, collaborators and more from the Act Now Film Festival experience. Sold-out or near sold-out screenings weren’t uncommon. We all reveled in the excitement of the moment; the movies of the moment.

The reason why this team and its new festival continues to grow and thrive and enjoy the overwhelming support of the community it lives in, and for which it exists, is because it doesn’t just discover and showcase films; it discovers and showcases filmmakers. Hence the tagline, “New Voices In Black Cinema,” most we hope will go on to long and vast careers.

As the party rages elsewhere, Act Now mostly stays away, preferring to, you know, show movies. This is a film festival after all. It was a meat and potatoes kind of effort. No gimmicks, no tricks, nothing flashy. Just good old fashioned filmmaking, from the opening night selection, Tanya Hamilton’s Night Catches Us, to Ava DuVernay’s I Will Follow, to latter day screenings of British racial drama SUS, starring Clint Dyer, and the closing night film, the festival’s throwback classic selection, Wendell B. Harris Jr’s critically-acclaimed, and woefully under-seen feature debut, Chameleon Street.

Giving equal weight to documentaries and fictional narratives, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention compelling documentaries on Sly Stone (Coming Back For More) and Dream Hampton’s hip-hop project, Black August; Also, fledgling Brooklyn filmmakers were feted during an 80-minute shorts program that explored a variety of themes.

As someone who’s spent the last 7 years active within the independent film community, it’s become clear to me that each and every film made is its own distinct creation unto itself; and you can be assured that every time a film was presented to an audience at this particular festival, it was met with an untainted enthusiasm, with eagerness and hope that the experience they were about to have would be an unforgettable one.

And they were!

Efficient in coordinating and moving its mass of attendees in and out of Bam Rose Cinema theaters, there was a workman-like spirit that animated the festival from the start – an establishing shot, claiming its place as an up-and-comer to be reckoned with.

Throughout the closing night activities, the ActNow posse made the rounds, congratulating and thanking each other for all of their hard work. The energy was so genuine that it was hard not to be affected. I couldn’t help but feel grateful and inspired.

Aaron Ingram delivered a speech, reminding the team and audience of the organization’s roots and its vision, how much work still needs to be done to see that vision come to fruition, but assured that it was a battle worth fighting. He was and still is right! By sticking to what has worked for a number of years, while also pushing forward with new complementary ideas, especially in a climate when many voices have called attention to the danger and risk of the task at hand, by expressing ourselves as honestly as possible, and by acting now (pun obviously intended) on all those things, rather than talking about acting, we will succeed.

It was a genuine pleasure – one that won’t soon be forgotten. And I look forward with anticipation to what happens next!

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