The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust and the August Wilson Center continue to showcase African-American contributions to cinema with another edition of the Black Bottom Film Festival. From February 23-25, the event features a selection of full-length films, shorts, and documentaries that focus on “the recurring themes of spirituality, race, family conflict, honor, duty and working-class struggle, themes ever-present in August Wilson’s The Pittsburgh Cycle plays.” The event will also include intimate Q&As, a dance party, and workshops for writers and actors.
See event schedule and details below:
Pittsburgh Short Films
The Pittsburgh Short Films program will present two selections, the documentary Wendell Freeland: A Silent Soldier (dir. Billy Jackson) and the drama Tale of Four ( dir. Gabourey Sidibe).
Wendell Freeland: A Silent Soldier tells the story of the late Wendell Grimkie Freeland, a Pittsburgh African American leader, attorney, activist, and Tuskegee Airman who worked quietly, but effectively, on significant civil rights battles. As a young Army Air Corp officer during World War II, he risked court marshall and death for defying racist orders to respect segregated officers’ facilities on an Indiana U.S. Army base. He also engaged in successful Pittsburgh battles for civil rights in public accommodations, police conduct towards Black citizens, fair housing, economic opportunity, and other matters. The film includes interviews with various subjects, including Freeland himself, as well as archival photos and footage.
With Tale of Four, Academy Award and Golden Globe-nominated actress, Gabourey Sidibe makes her directorial debut in a multi-layered story that spans one day in the life of four different women who are connected through their quest for love, agency, and redemption. Inspired by Nina Simone’s song, “Four Women,” this film examines four separate stories reflective of multi-faceted African American women connected by the inner city building that they live in, ultimately converge on one fateful day through unheralded acts of bravery.
TruthSayers Speaker Series Presents: April Reign
This event will feature guest April Reign, creator of the viral hashtag #OscarsSoWhite.
Love Jones (dir. Theodore Witcher)
Say hello to Darious Lovehall and Nina Mosley, two confused lovebirds who discover that you can never underestimate the power of a love jones. Stars Larenz Tate, Nia Long, and Khalil Kain. The event includes a pre-screening Q&A with Kain.
90’S Themed After Party with DJ Selecta
Odds Against Tomorrow (dir. Robert Wise)
Harry Belafonte produced and stars in this 1959 crime drama about a man who hires two very different debt-burdened men for a bank robbery until suspicion and prejudice threaten to end their partnership.
Cinderella Man (dir. Ron Howard)
The work of production designer and 2018 Black Bottom Film Festival Cinematic Excellence Awardee, Wynn Thomas, will be on display when the festival screens the 2005 period drama, Cinderella Man. The Oscar-nominated film stars Russell Crowe as James Braddock, a supposedly washed-up professional prizefighter who came back to become the Heavyweight Champion of the World and a national hero in the 1930’s. A Q&A and awards ceremony for Thomas will take place at 3 p.m. before the screening.
Double Play (dir. Ernest Dickerson)
Based on the book by Frank Martinus Arion, Double Play is a vibrant, multi-textural drama set against the beauty and bittersweet complexity of Curacao, where poverty and wealth are two sides of the same coin. In a high stakes game of dominoes, players confront their lust, desperation, rage, and remorse with deadly consequences. Directed by Ernest Dickerson, this film stars Lennie James and Louis Gossett, Jr. The movie’s producer, Lisa Cortes, will attend the Black Bottom Film Festival.
Pittsburgh Short Films
The Pittsburgh Short Films program will present two selections, Night Shift (dir. Marshall Tyler) and Inamorata ( dir. A-lan Holt). In Night Shift, a night in the life of a bathroom attendant at a Los Angeles nightclub goes haywire. In Inamorata, a clairvoyant woman finds something unexpected during an intimate encounter with her fiancé’s lover.
Magnificent Life of Charlie (dir. Bobby Huntley)
After her sister Brandy’s untimely death, everyone is taken aback by Charlie’s unorthodox (and seemingly chipper) approach to her grieving process. Follow Charlie and her friends Kayla and Keturah as they go along for a wild, hilariously exhilarating and bittersweet ride – which will surely be the craziest day of Charlie’s life. A Q&A with director Bobby Huntley and star Ashley Evans will take place before the screening.
Last Life (dir. Michael Phillip Edwards)
Produced written and directed by Michael Phillip Edwards, Last Life is a tale about two African-American lovers who learn they’ve been together over the course of many lifetimes and that they must come to terms with the purpose of their repeated union. They are told by their doppelganger spirits that they only have days to live and achieve their goal (healing the divide between a former slave woman and slave man) after which they will die and never return. Edwards stars in the film as well, along with Tamika Lamison and Kobe Reverditto. A Q&A with Edwards and Lamison will take place before the screening.
Betty Davis: They Say I’m Different (dir. Phil Cox)
Betty Davis is known for her outsized life, fashion and music in 1970s America. She arrived on the scene to break boundaries for women with her daring personality, iconic fashion style, and outrageous funk. But her raunchy lyrics and explosive stage energy clashed with the race and gender stereotypes of her time, leading the NAACP and black middle class to object to her music and boycott her performances. She befriended Jimi Hendrix and Sly Stone, wrote songs for the Chambers Brothers and the Commodores, and married Miles Davis, turning him from jazz to funk. Then she vanished. The documentary explores how she became a major influence on a diverse array of artists. A Q&A with director Phil Cox will take place before the screening.
Black Bottom Film Festival Closing Reception
All events take place at the August Wilson Center unless otherwise noted. Tickets cost $25 for a day pass $55 for a festival pass, and are available for purchase online, over the phone at (412) 456-6666 or in person at the Theater Square Box Office.
The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust and the August Wilson Center will showcase African-American contributions to the silver screen with the first-ever Black Bottom Film Festival (BBFF). The event takes place from February 24-26 and includes a selection of features, shorts and documentaries that “parallel the reoccurring themes of spirituality, family conflict, race and working class struggle that serve as the foundation for August Wilson’s award-winning and internationally renowned Pittsburgh Cycle plays.”
The festival will also recognize the creative contributions of filmmaker Michael Schultz. As one of the first African-American directors hired by the major studios, Schultz opened the doors for directors of color with such features as Car Wash, Krush Groove and The Last Dragon. His career has spanned more than four decades and includes films, children’s programming, and television episodes for series such as Blackish, New Girl, My Crazy-Ex-Girlfriend and Arrow.
See event schedule and details below:
Post-Racial Cinema: Black Film in The Obama Age
Reelblack Podcast co-hosts Mike D. and Charles Woods identify trends and milestones in Black films released from 2008-2016.
Friday Night Shorts
Selections include Dream (dir. Nijla Mu’min), A Day in the Life of a Hashtag and African in America (dir. Njaimeh Njie), Ghetto Steps (dir. Emmai Alaquiva), and Father’s Day (dir. Demetrius Wren).
Chapter & Verse (dir. Jamal Joseph)
After serving eight years in prison, reformed gang leader S. Lance Ingram re-enters society and struggles to adapt to a changed Harlem. Living under the tough supervision of a parole officer in a halfway house, he is unable to find a job that will let him use the technological skills he gained in prison. Lance is forced to take a job delivering for a food pantry where he befriends Ms. Maddy, a strong and spirited grandmother, and assumes responsibility for her 15-year-old grandson Ty, a promising student who is pulled into a dangerous street gang. When gang members decide to punish Ty for disobeying the “law of the streets,” Lance risks sacrificing his “second chance” at freedom so that Ty can have a “first chance” at a better life. Starring Daniel Beaty, Omari Hardwick, Loretta Devine and Selenis Leyva.
Saturday at the Cine
Screenings include the short Father’s Day from University of Pittsburgh professor Demetrius Wren and the documentary Agents of Change by Frank Dawson. Includes Q&As with Wren and Dawson.
Michael Schultz Q&A
Schultz sits down for a conversation with the newly appointed CEO of Pittsburgh Filmmakers/Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, Germaine Williams.
Like Cotton Twines (dir. Leila Djansi)
Jay Ellis (The Game, Insecure) plays an American volunteer who takes a teaching job in a Ghanaian village. There he meets a bright girl who must atone for a deadly accident committed by her father and, according to custom, must abandon her education to be offered into religious slavery.
Michael Schultz will receive an award commissioned Pittsburgh-based artist Thad Mosley during the BBFF for Cinematic Excellence Ceremony. The evening includes a retrospective of Schultz’s work and a screening of Cooley High, his 1975 film about a group of teenage friends living in 1964 Chicago.
Late Night Feature
See a late night screening of Which Way Is Up?, Michael Schultz’s 1977 comedy starring Richard Pryor in multiple roles.
Spirits of Rebellion: Black Cinema from U.C.L.A. (dir. Zeinabu Irene Davis)
Documentary filmmaker Zeinabu Irene Davis goes behind and in front of the camera as she profiles several filmmakers identified with the L.A. Rebellion, including Charles Burnett, Ben Caldwell, Julie Dash, Haile Gerima, Barbara McCullough, and Billy Woodberry.
Destination Planet Negro (dir. Kevin Willmott)
In 1939, a group of African-American intellectuals come up with an ingenious and unlikely response to Jim Crow America – leave the planet and populate Mars. Using technology created by George Washington Carver, a three-person crew and one rambunctious robot lift-off in Earth’s first working spaceship on a mission that will take them to a world not unlike present-day America. Their spacey adventure illuminates some hard truths about American culture and threatens to undermine the timeline of history along the way.
Two Trains Runnin’ (dir. Sam Pollard)
The feature-length documentary by filmmaker Sam Pollard pays tribute to a pioneering generation of musicians and cuts to the heart of our present moment, offering a crucial vantage from which to view the evolving dynamics of race in America. The film is narrated by Common and features the music of Gary Clark Jr.
All events take place at the August Wilson Center. A Q&A will follow each screening. Tickets cost $15 for a single-day pass and $35 for a festival pass and are available for purchased online, over the phone at (412) 456-6666 or in person at the Theater Square Box Office. Tickets will also be sold, based on availability, two hours before the event time at the August Wilson Center’s box office located at the venue.