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African American History Revisited

African American Film Makers Explore Their Predecessors' Experience With Fresh Lens

independent film in queens harlem nycFilm Event In Sunnyside

February 17, 2014 / Sunnyside Neighborhood / Film in Queens / Queens Buzz. On Saturday evening, February 22nd, the East Coast premiere of Freedom Summer is being hosted at the Sunnyside Reformed Church. Emmy Award winning filmmaker, Stanley Nelson, will be on hand to discuss the making of the new film which premiered at the Sundance 2014 Film Festival in January.

I spoke with Stanley via telephone about the documentary, which covers the summer of 1964 when Mississippi was burning. White Mississipians expected African Americans to bow their heads in deference and to step aside on sidewalks as white folks passed. Mississippi had a whole host of laws and customs set in place which denied African Americans their full rights as American citizens, and as fellow human beings. And anyone - white or black - who tried to question the norms; felt the wrath of the white supremisists who embraced the culture.

About seven hundred students from around the nation [Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee] went down to Mississippi to help African Americans exercise their rights. Three of them - Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman and James Early Chaney - went missing. After intense media / television coverage and national outrage, the FBI began a manhunt. The victims' bodies turned up 44 days later. All three had been shot at close range. The photo above is a still from the film Freedom Summer.

The documentary incorporates historical photos and media coverage and a little heard recorded telephone conversation between LBJ and J. Edgar Hoover. This report also includes background on film maker Stanley Nelson who runs a film making company / incubator in Harlem as he will be present to discuss film making at the event. Click here to read the rest of our report about Freedom Summer - premiere of an independent film in Queens or click here to rsvp a ticket to the free East Coast film premiere in Queens.


African American History Revisited

African American Film Makers Explore Their Predecessors' Experience With Fresh Lens

East Coast Indie Film Premiere In Sunnyside

mississippi burning indie filmFebruary 17, 2014 / Sunnyside Neighborhood / Film in Queens / Queens Buzz. The first question I had was how did the East Coast Premiere of Freedom Summer come to Sunnyside Reformed Church. Neil Margetson, the pastor of Sunnyside Reformed Church, grew up with the film Director, Stanley Nelson, on the upper west side of NYC; and they have remained friends ever since. So one day they were talking about the film and Neil suggested a second showing at the church. Sunnyside Reformed Church periodically sponsors cultural performances by a rather high caliber of performers, including musicians, actors and actresses.

The film focuses on ten weeks of the summer of 1964 when white and African American civil rights activists converged on Mississippi - bastion culture of a repressive white order. The goal was to register African Americans to vote, as at the time only 7% of African Americans were registered. This was a very low registration rate even compared to other southern states where 50% or more of the electorate had registered.

Firelight Media .Org - Indie Film Production In Harlem NYC

Stanley Nelson directed the film which will air on PBS this June on the 50th anniversary of the events. Stanley is one of the founders of Firelight Media [.org] which is an independent film company based in Harlem. Stanley has won four Emmy Awards including in 2004 for The Murder of Emmit Til [took place in 1955], two Emmys in 2011 for Freedom Riders in 2011, and one for the film Jesse Owens in 2013. PBS's program, The American Experience, broadcasts his work and is a contributor to it.

freedom summer independent film harlem queensThe quality of Firelight Media and Stanley's work has helped the non-profit, independent film company raise funds to produce unique films and to help / nurture up and coming producers and directors with their creative works. The MacArthur Foundation, Ford Foundation and Corporation for Public Broadcasting are the independent film company's biggest supporters.

Stanley told me that Firelight Media is currently working with about 15 - 20 people on their first, second or third major projects. Stanley and Firelight Media provide consulting services that include writing, editing, and story distribution. They don't charge the up & coming filmmakers for this help but may receive some stipend on the back end if the project succeeds [need to confirm that I got this right].

Freedom Summer Premiere In Queens NYC

Freedom Summer is a documentary that incorporates historical photos and recordings, one of which is between LBJ and Herbert Hoover [as mentioned above]. Lyndon Johnson was president when the 1964 Civil Rights Act was passed [Kennedy legislation before he was shot]. Its passage was due in part to the events that happened in Mississippi in the summer of 1964. What happened that summer outraged the majority of Americans, lending support to the cause. This was followed by the 1965 Voting Rights Act which did away with voting requirement laws intended to deprive African Americans of their right to vote. White southerners were afraid they would have to leave if African Americans were elected to office.

African Americans Telling Their Story

Over the course of the past couple of years I've noticed that African Americans in the NYC area are emerging as mainstream storytellers of their own history. Stanley and Firelight Media are examples of this trend with a number of documentaries exploring the African American past. We've also seen this trend in modern theater productions at York College in Jamaica. Last year we saw Black Wall Street which is the story about a white race riot against prosperous African Americans in Oklahoma. And there was a one-man theatrical production about Langston Hughes - which was also shown at the Milton G. Bassin Performing Arts Center At York College.

Stanley Nelson - Indie Film Producer In Sunnyside

Stanley Nelson will be on hand at the premiere of the film which is Saturday, February 22nd at 7 pm at the Sunnyside Reformed Church. If you're interested in help with an independent film this is a good opportunity to meet someone who has navigated the path. And you can also find information about him and Firelight Media at www.firelightmedia.org and .tv.


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