by Jay Blodgett
Annual Atlanta HipHop Film Festival (AHHFF) was held August
24 - 26th, in the conference center of the Holiday Inn Select, near
Turner Field. This was a last minute change in venue and proved
to be quite a logistical challenge in managing such an ambitious
group of programs. The AHHFF had a full schedule of forums and workshops
in addition to three days of screenings, Q&As, and a closing night
I had planned to see as many screenings as possible while also
attending the Atlanta
Underground Film Festival, which was running concurrently. However,
the opening day AHHFF screenings were delayed by two hours because
the hotel was unable to provide a screening room on time. There
was in-house hotel media tech support, but they seemed challenged
in setting up a simple sound and screen system. (I knew it was going
to be a LONG weekend for them, when even I supplied a cable for
the projector set-up.)
In the meantime, the media was encouraged to interview attending
directors and panel speakers. (Unfortunately, I am not experienced
in interviewing, especially on the topic of hiphop culture.) The
hotel was unable to provide a room for that too, so interviews were
held in a spare space of the restaurant. Tambria Peeples, the press
representative from the PR firm handling the festival, was the only
voice of any authority present. She ably pulled together registration
and equipment for press interviews.
As the confusion continued and the festival's activities were
caught in a state of limbo, I couldn't help but feel that I was
in an episode of The Apprentice. I don't know where
the festival management was, and there was no sign of hotel management
providing help. Perhaps they were locked in a room somewhere, trying
to figure all this out?
During the projector set-up, the DVD player that was provided was
not reading discs, so a volunteer from registration offered up his
laptop. That was when I offered my cables to hook it to the projector
and sound system. (I was traveling with my laptop and bag, which
has the cables for just such an occasion.) It was also disappointing
to note that during all this confusion, and what might be considered
a disastrous start to a long weekend ahead, the hotel did not even
offer water or coffee to the volunteers or the attendees who were
milling about, waiting for the room to open and get set up.
With such a rocky start on the first day, which was scheduled
to end only a couple of hours after it finally got started, I feared
that this event might be a financial flop. I did not notice a great
deal of business taking place, as in ticket-buying. It appeared
that the majority of attendees were filmmakers and media.
The panel discussions were well attended and quite lively; I peeked
my head in one during my wait for the films. It might be a good
idea to break this event into two parts next year: one conference
of workshops and panels, and one of screenings. If timed far enough
apart, the screenings could be a way of illustrating the efforts
and products of the earlier conference.
As far as space is concerned, though I am a new arrival to Atlanta
and am far from an expert on possible venues, I do know from my
previous life in San Francisco that the AMC chain prides itself
on community involvement. AMC hosted the S.F. International Film
Festival by giving up an entire multiplex of eight screens for two
weeks, for 10 consecutive years. I would think that the AMC Magic
Johnson complex would be able to 'donate' two screening rooms for
three days - one room for panels and/or Q&As and the second for
The festival's connection with B-Side for ticketing and scheduling
is the first and best step that the organization has.
The organizers might also consider an alliance with the National
Black Arts Festival, which occurred only a few weeks before this.
Such an alliance would open up opportunities in venue, as well as
increase audience exposure. But this is all just me, playing "armchair
Read on for more about the screenings.