The Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival


The Run&Shoot Filmworks Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival

Photography credit: Daniel Adams

The 13th Annual Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival

The thirteenth annual Run&Shoot Filmworks Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival, August tenth through fifteenth, 2015, screened and promoted some of the most outstanding and emerging feature, documentary, and short films produced by and starring African Americans from across the World!  All of this summer’s screenings and events took place again at the Martha’s Vineyard Performing Arts Center, located adjacent to Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School at 100 Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road, with the addition this Season of an inviting grand party and reception tent on the grounds outside the theater.  It seems that founders Stephanie Rance, Floyd Rance, and Karyn Parsons were even able to import the weather this year, as the atmosphere inside and out the sold-out hall glowed warm and sunny for all film fans in attendance to Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts, during the often sticky dog days of middle August.  Ticket holders are greeted by friendly attendants, and helpful and informed ushers.  A great many moving pictures shown at this festival are traditionally exclusive sneak peaks and World-premiers, and this year was of course no exception.  The list of producers, actors, directors, and filmmakers includes veritable unknowns, and also features an absolutely fabulous array of A-list Hollywood celebrities, many of whom attend these screenings, engaging with the audience in a panel discussion format after the respective films – an attribute that, outside of Tinsel Town or perhaps New York or London, is something that can be said to be one of those things that ‘only happens on Martha’s Vineyard.’  Amazing, truly amazing.

Photography credit: Daniel Adams

Audience members are treated to an incredible selection of films spanning many genres.

The highlight of #SummersFinestFilmFestival is, in collaboration with Home Box Office, the HBO Short Film Competition and Award Ceremony, held on the last day of the festival, Saturday. ‪ Among this year’s commendable entries was a film made by Mz. Rain Pryor, who’s father is comedy icon Richard Pryor, a submission entitled, “That Daughter’s Crazy,” directed by Elzbieta Szoka, and produced by Sam Adelman and Daryl Sledge, illustrating Pryor‘s own star beyond the shadow of her legendary father, as an original, bold, and energetic voice, who defines influences of her upbringing with a deep love and respect for her dad featuring footage, photos, press clippings of Mz. Pryor’s life and career, as well as various interviews.  A social commentary, the film explores themes of diversity, relationships between parents and children and a profound perspective of one entertainer’s journey.  Winner of this year’s competition was a film entitled “My Second Life: The video diaries of Molotov Alta,” a film about a man who disappeared from his home in California, and subsequently sent video messages from social media platform, Second Life.  Douglas Gayeton, the film’s creator, explores various sub-cultures that can be found within Second Life.  Here is discovered a compelling glimpse into new media and communication in an ever-isolating culture of pretense and no privacy, and how life and virtual life can sometimes switch, revealing the truth of the individual in this rapidly changing society we all now live.

Photography credit: Daniel Adams

Acclaimed Director Spike Lee greets fans prior to an exclusive sneak peak of his latest film!

Access level packages are scaled differently, but everyone has access to the stars at the Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival!  In Oak Bluffs, acclaimed Director Spike Lee greeted filmgoers prior to an exclusive sneak peak of his latest film, “CHI-RAQ,” a stark narration of the gun violence that grips our nation, focussing specifically on the parallels in American death and violence of the war in the desert and the South side of Chicago, Illinois.  Mr. Lee points out that there are more American casualties at home in multiple cities across the Nation than on the battle fields half way across the globe.  Spike Lee continues to present popular art with strong social commentary – he is a true visionary.  This film, starring Nick Cannon, Teyonah Parris, Samuel L. Jackson, Denzel Washington, Angela Bassett, and Dave Chappelle, is based loosely on the Greek play, “Lysistrata,” about one woman’s effort to end the Peloponnesian War by persuading all women to withhold copulation from their husbands and lovers until peace is negotiated, and is adapted for modern audiences as utilizing the metaphor of urban thug life, mirroring the futility of all violence, especially violence against one’s neighbor.  While the imagery of this film is bright and engaging, the message for peace is brighter.  Kudos to the director.

Photography credit: Daniel Adams

Comedian Damon Williams commends filmmaker Spike Lee for another amazing piece of art.

Audience members are treated to an incredible selection of films spanning many genres.  And the filmmakers are treated, too, to thoughtful questions, poignant praise, and critical questions with interactive dialogue between moviemaker and movie fan.  On the Vineyard, everyone is treated as equals.  Stars and simple folk, alike, can be seen rubbing elbows in comfort at the Martha’s Vineyard Performing Arts Center.  Names from the entertainment, sports, and political Worlds vacation here, so it’s no surprise that you may find yourself next in line behind comedian Damon Williams as he commends a director for another amazing piece of art, or see yourself seated next to a National Basketball Association star like Ray Allen, who is often noted to be golfing with the President of the United States, Barack Obama.  Unlike on the mainland, famous people are politely acknowledged and mostly given their space in this laid-back environment.  But a few frenzied fans advanced forward, and the stars are gracious and relaxed here on-Island.

Photography credit: Daniel Adams

NBA star, Ray Allen, his wife, actress and singer Shannon Walker Williams, and son.

Festival organizers Stephanie and Floyd Rance are agents of change.  All too often, festivals of this caliber are left to the cities.  Mr. and Mrs. Rance, who along with Karyn Parsons, known most famously for her character, Hillary Banks, from the Will Smith situation comedy television series, “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air,” have created an annual event that is truly World-class!  Included also this year is a performance by Ronald K. Brown‘s “Evidence,” a dance company, at The Yard in Chilmark, Massachusetts.  This live action component adds a refreshing third dimension of depth to the sometimes flat feel of film.  Witnessing this movement display left a viewer feel as though all who were there now shared a reference directory of physical vocabulary for the remainder of the festival.  It is a natural fit and complement.

That physical vocabulary was used at the annual Lola‘s ‘All White Party,’ for sure.  Community is key for the Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival, you see.  Nearly every single person in attendance wore white, most enjoyed a house cocktail, and we all danced the night away singing along to familiar tunes.  Some of the people in attendance only see each other on Martha’s Vineyard in the summertime.  These relationships extend to create new networks back in the cities, and alumni organizations become stronger, too.  This Island is a unique place in that way.  It gives one perspective and pause to reassess one’s assessments of life.  On Island time, peering onto another time and space up on the silver screen, the viewer is receptive to ideas with a freer flow than perhaps any other time in that person’s year.  When we are on the Vineyard, we are all together.  This is where the President vacations, you know.  This is where Vernon Jordan has his birthday party.  This is where Nick Cannon chills on the beach.  We are all lucky when we are afforded time on Martha’s Vineyard Island, and we are all stars shining.  Luckier still are Mr. and Mrs. Rance, who for thirteen years have created something that is so beloved and gains more and more renowned as each new film Season approaches.

Applause!  See you next summer-

From left: Spike Lee, Teyonah Parris, Stephanie Rance, Floyd Rance, Nick Cannon, and Father Michael L. Pfleger.

From left: Spike Lee, Teyonah Parris, Stephanie Rance, Floyd Rance, Nick Cannon, and Father Michael L. Pfleger.

Written and photographed by Daniel J. Adams for MVPBS


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