by Spencer Moon
Celebrating Cultures in Motion
May 12-13, 2006
Auburn Avenue Research Library
The Sweet Auburn Spring Fest 2006 partnered with the African American
Cinema Gallery (AACG) to present their first annual international
film festival. The Sweet Auburn Springfest has been a staple in
the Southeast for more than 20 year,s attracting more than 350,000
patrons each year at their groundbreaking spring festival.
The founder of AACG & the Hispanic Cinema Museum (HCM), Len
Gibson partnered with Sweet Auburn's director Charles Johnson as
the film festival's director. "The film festival is going to
add a special touch to the greatness that the Sweet Auburn Festival
has already obtained. With the focus to bring various cultures together
at the street festival the film festival is going to help that vision
come to life," said Gibson.
The gallery and museum highlights the lives and work of African
American and Latin film stars and is a visionary concept for the
new century. With the rise of Hispanic political power, it is a
concept whose time has come. Throughout the third and fourth floor
of the library during the festival there were displays with photographs
and information on the films and actors from both communities.
Over the two days, there was a clear international flavor to the
films that were shown. Aside from Atlanta and other U.S. filmmakers,
there were films representing Asia and Africa. In its first year,
the audience for the film festival was small despite the throngs
attending the street events of the Sweet Auburn Spring Fest.
The nine films screened over the two days featured some Atlanta
filmmakers. The best film from Atlanta filmmakers was Anjanette
Levert's The Wedding Proposal. The film was a docu-essay
on Ms. Leverts personal search for a meaningful and significant
relationship with a man. The film dealt with the socializations
issues for men versus women. In her discussion group called "Sassy
Sistas," the women offer their perspectives on issues such
as personal integrity, their desire for children (not necessarily
including a man), and the conflict between reality and actuality
in relationships. Ms. Levert also includes opinions from both her
mother and sister. This was a very personal, frank, honest and thought
The other standout film from a southern filmmaker was Jazz
Funeral for Democracy: A Wake for Peace by Louisiana filmmaker
Luke Fontana. His film is a documentary that chronicles an anti-war,
anti-Bush administration and policies march held January 20, 2005
(Presidential Inauguration Day) in New Orleans. The film shows protesters
carrying signs and making speeches. One protester quotes Martin
Luther King, saying "We want positive justice, not negative
justice." The filmmaker juxtaposes images of the speakers with
images of the brutality of the Iraq war and its affect on children,
showing their bloodied and maimed bodies. A young girl speaks in
protest, "Many of the victims (of the war) are like me. Yet
many of the victims are not counted in the death tools."
In speaking with Fontana, he said his intent "was to make
us be more conscious of what we are doing with the war and the deaths
of all the people and children in this war and its aftermath."
Two outstanding international films were Broken Beads
and Binta and the Great Idea, both narrative films.
Broken Beads was written and directed by Canadian
filmmaker Hari Das. The film is in Hindi with English subtitles.
This film conveys East Indian cultural beliefs and social norms.
Boys are the most favored child to bear, of most couples. For a
poor family, the birth of a girl child can signal the beginning
of financial ruin and extreme hardship. As a result, the practice
of female infanticide is practiced in India, even today. In this
film a mother has her girl child murdered by the mother-in-law.
The baby girl is fed dry, unhulled rice that punctures the child's
windpipe. This film tries to challenge these beliefs.
And The Great Idea from Senegal, is written and directed
by Javier Fesser. The film is in French with English subtitles.
It is a wonderful film narrated by the little girl in the film,
Binta. Her father goes from one bureaucratic office to the next
presenting his idea for adoption of orphans by the Senegalese people.
Along the way we see social customs that some families practice
that prevent women from getting education and the efforts to break
down those barriers. The excellent music soundtrack for the film
combines traditional with contemporary Senegalese music.
In addition to nine films, there were two panels. One was on the
subject of "Generational Barrier Breakers," tackling the
subject of overcoming obstacles to break into the entertainment
industry. The second panel was called "Creating Your Own Hollywood"
that featured seven accomplished people with backgrounds as filmmakers,
actors, writers, producers and talent coordinator they had a wealth
of experience to share with the audience.
The Sweet Auburn International Film Festival 2006 Winners:
Best Film (Documentary): Binta & The Great Idea
Best Short Film: Endangered Species
Audience Choice Award: Jazz Funeral for Democracy
A very fine and auspicious start for a new film festival.