Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Sandra Evers-Manly Helps ‘Sista’ Directors Show Their Stuff in Hollywood

sandra evers manly (2018)
At this year’s ‘Sistas Are Doing It for Themselves’ event, host Sandra Evers-Manly vows to “support our sisters” and encourage a new era in Hollywood that fosters a more inclusive landscape.

*The rain will not stop the shine of a strong woman and that statement was proven true at this year’s “Sistas Are Doing it For Themselves,” film screening at Raliegh Studios in Hollywood, California. This year’s theme was “A Celebration of Sistas in Film and Television.”

Hosted by Sandra Evers-Manly, the president of the Black Hollywood Resource Center (BHERC), this 25th annual event brings Hollywood elites together with up and coming filmmakers.

“What started out as an evening of short films produced, written or directed by black women,” stated founder and host Evers-Manly, “has turned into a full day of black women ‘Sista Power Panels’ followed by an evening of seven remarkable short films by emerging black female filmmakers of all ages and diverse stories.”

‘Hey Little Black Girl’ followed four darling little girls as they discovered more about our nation’s civil rights struggle.

I originally made the film [Hey little Black Girl] in a very isolated place at Stanford, with a lot of white students, white professors,” described Lyntoria Newton, Stanford University Graduate and director of ‘Hey Little Black Girl’ about her filmmaking process. “The ‘Sisters Doing It For Themselves’ Film Festival has allowed me to connect with other black filmmakers and allowed me to get in touch with my own community, the people who I want my film to touch the most.”

‘Girls Like Me’ was a powerful narrative about a woman’s role and focus in life.  It covered concepts that revolved around abuse, female empowerment and feminism with stark colorful images and impactful cinematography.  Moving the crowd, it inspired a lively discussion that ended in an uproar of terms that described the passion that was felt by those viewing the short.

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Filmmaker Panel: From left to right directors Shawnee’ and Shawnelle Gibbs, director Lyntoria Newton, writer-director Keena Ferguson, writer-director Savannah Treena, writer-director Nicole L. Thompson, writer-director Jabree Webber and at the podium, host Sandra Evers-Manly.

The crowd yelled terms like sisterhood, self worth, resilience, confidence, beauty, intelligence, and spirituality in a emotional tidal wave that poured forth with the truth of what the short displayed. Written and directed by the poet Aisha Raison, this film transcended the screen and spoke to all in attendance.

‘Tokenism,’ a film by writer-director Jabree Webber, was set in a college dorm and focused on a female African-American trying to fit in in a white college.  Continuing with the unofficial theme of the African American women’s post civil rights struggles, ‘Tokenism’s’ comical, yet realistic approach to describing the atmosphere of attending a predominantly white university stood tall next to the other, deeper films in this series.  It is apparent that, all the women directors featured here will go on to create more wonderful productions in the future and Webber is of no acception.

‘Linden Passing’ was a tearjerker that lead the audience on a voyage through the imagination of an expectant mother and her visions of her son’s life before his eventual abortion.  Generating the most emotion ranging from smiles and tears of joy, to disgust, writer-director Keena Ferguson’s intent was to show the human side of the issue of abortion.

Ferguson was intent on seeing her vision through stating, “this is my first time directing a film, so for me it was making sure that my Director of Photography and my producers were very clear on my vision so that although I am in the film as well, and I was also directing it, making sure that they were all clear so that we can work cohesively.”

Clever casting, along with high quality transitions caused this film to stand out with its superior production quality, despite its controversial subject matter.

sistas - Sandra and Filmmakers
Sandra and the Filmmakers: From left to right Shawnee’ and Shawnelle Gibbs, Lyntoria Newton, Nicole L. Thompson, Sandra Evers-Manly, Savannah Treena, Keena Ferguson, and Jabree Webber.

‘Harlem Blues’ was a sad tale of post death redemption as a son battles inner demons in his struggle to accept his role in his father’s death, while simultaneously moving forward with his music.  The title, reminiscent of the title track off the soundtrack of the blockbuster movie ‘Mo’ Betta’ Blues’ starring Denzel Washington and Wesley Snipes, kept with the theme of a musician that struggles with issues that seek to move him away from his love of music. Like ‘Mo’ Betta’ Blues’ music was integrated into the theme and the sound of the film.  Writer-Director Nicole L. Thompson sought out musicians to write and perform original tracks that created a revolving melody that became the theme song of the film.

‘Help Wanted’ by Kiniki Jones-Jones from Wayne State University said, “Acting set her free and allowed her to find her voice.”  Her film described a real, tough, motherly love that forced a son to become a man with a lot of comedy and coming of age points.  This film moved away from the traditional role of a citizen’s obligation to go and beg for a job and featured the son seeking his own path by engaging in entrepreneurship before discovering an opportunity to utilize his gifts.

This film was definitely the comical favorite of the night, and featured physical comedy reminiscent of Charlie Chaplin, who’s larger than life image was displayed outside of the Reighley Studios screening room.  Chapman’s silent films relied on juxtaposition of the characters, cookey sound effects layered on top of physical acting and descriptive facial expressions.  This combination of classic film techniques allowed most of the details of this story to be told without dialogue, but were described with the actions of the actors and their above average performances.

‘Sule and the Case of the Tiny Spark’ is an animated film about a young detective in a fictional African village.  Ment for young kids, the animation style of this short is very creative and engaging.  Unlike typical animated films, even those that feature African characters, directors Shawnee’ and Shawnelle Gibbs use of browns in describing the skin tones of the African characters created a diversity not usually seen.  From mily chocolate browns, to deep reddish brown the skin tones of the characters ranged for light-skinned to blue-black.  Their hair was no different, as each character featured their own unique style of natural hair.  The only thing European in the entire film was Sule’s safari hat that gave him a serious private investigator look.  This short is a must see for all families with young children.

‘Colored Girl’s Restroom’ was about a bathroom in a white establishment in the 60s and the white owner.  During the film, the owner acts rude to the African-American women that use the bathroom telling them to clean up and each one left something that added to the flavor of the room.  The big reveal came at the end when the biased owner discovered the clean and totally fixed up restroom and removed the “colored only” sign, replacing it with the term, “Ladies Restroom.”  Georgia native, writer-director Savannah Treena hopes to continue to produce films about the old stories of the post civil rights 60s on digital platforms like Netflix.

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Former Congresswoman Diane Edith Watson, who attended this year’s screenings, spoke positively about the short films featured.

Former Congresswoman Diane Edith Watson, who attended this year’s screenings, felt moved by the capacity screening and the gratuitous showing of support for the women filmmakers stating, “During this stage of time, and because it’s Women’s History Month, it is so important that our [African American women’s] works be shown.  They tell in-depth stories about us as a people and being in this country as a female, as a black woman and as a movie maker.  These are areas that others thought that we could not get into and so I’m so pleased to be here with the brilliance of these black women as they are portraying life as it actually is.”

“This event means alot to me.  My very first film in Los Angeles, that I ever did [‘Inspired by…’ (2005) written and directed by Layla Mashavu Sewell], screened here at this festival,” added actress and director Keena Ferguson.  “So to be here all these years later with a film that I actually wrote, directed and starred in, feels very full circle to me.  And has a special place in my heart.”

“This year’s anniversary marks a quarter of a century of BHERC’s efforts to continually pay homage and recognize the struggles, sacrifices, victories, lessons, and journeys yet to come for black women in the film and television industry.” concluded founder Sandra Evers-Manly.


For more information about the Black Hollywood Education Resource Center or the ‘Sistas Doing It For Themselves’ events go to www.bherc.org.



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