By Darlene Donloe
LOS ANGELES — Each year, the Black Hollywood Education and Resource Center (BHERC) hosts a number of specialty film festivals including the Sistas Are Doin’ It For Themselves Short Film Showcase, BHERC Festival at Sea, Youth Diversity Film Festival, and the African American Film Marketplace and S.E. Manly Short Film Showcase.
This month all eyes are on the 25th annual Reel Black Men Short Film Showcase: “A Legacy of Brotherhood and Excellence” taking place Sept. 22-24, at the Regal L.A. Live in downtown Los Angeles. The event is hosted by actor Maurice “Moe” Irvin (“Grey’s Anatomy,” “Snowfall,” “911,” “The Covenant”).
The three-day showcase, featuring 47 films, celebrates and highlights emerging Black male filmmakers, and will feature a dialogue following each film block. It also will give audiences an upfront and intimate chance to view and discuss the artistry, passion, and sacrifice involved in the independent filmmaking process.
John Forbes, executive director of the Black Hollywood Education and Resource Center, and Sandra Evers-Manly, founder and president of the organization, said they are excited about this year’s Reel Black Men festival.
“This year we are proud of the amazing filmmakers and films,” Forbes said. “If given the opportunity, these outstanding filmmakers will impact Hollywood for generations to come.”
“This is really about how we make sure our images and stories are told,” Evers-Manly added. “How do we continue to elevate and raise up the next storytellers? We have to make sure have those filmmakers.”
Forbes, who has been executive director for 25 years, said he can’t believe it has been almost three decades.
“Time goes fast,” he said. “It’s a pleasure to work with up-and-coming filmmakers. It’s unbelievable to watch them grow.”
“I can’t believe it’s been 25 years,” Evers-Manly said. “When we started we were at a small theater. We had less than 20 films. Now we have films that are global.
“For our youth series, we have middle school and high school students participating. For Reel Black Men we even have those in their 70s doing films. We even have people doing their film on their iPads.”
Over a series of months, a committee views the festival’s submissions. The criteria include that the film be directed by a Black director. However, Evers-Manly said it doesn’t have to be a Black film. This year, 260 films were submitted for the Reel Black Men event and 47 were chosen.
“It’s all about the quality of the product,” Evers-Manly said. “Is it a full story? Is it colorized well? They have to have a long list of credits or be a professional to participate in Reel Black Men. I will say, this year we have a lot of great films.”
Evers-Manly said this year’s crop of films includes dramas, comedies, relationship storylines, horror, sci-fi, and documentaries.
The Reel Black Men festival started after the Sistas Are Doin’ For Themselves festival began 30 years ago.
“During that time, Black men said, ‘What about our perspective,’” Evers-Manly said. “That’s how that got started.”
Forbes, who studied cinema at Washington State University, said it’s important to hear and see a Black man’s perspective.
“Back in the 60s, when films were being made, I would see only one direction,” said Forbes, who has been in the film industry since 1966. “Nine out of 10 times, it was a white director but they would miss the beat. They would miss a point. Ivan Dixon was one of the first Black directors in television. We see all these Black people who had nowhere to showcase their work. Sandra created a space and opened the doors.”
“When you saw Ryan Coogler’s film, ‘Locks,’ when he was a student, you knew this young man was destined for greatness,” said Evers-Manly, a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. “The quality, the subject matter. You saw something and knew you had to help him. It’s an incredible story about a brother and sister and their relationship. It’s so powerful. It was a story with a purpose.”
High-profile Black male filmmakers who have participated in the Reel Black Men Short Film Showcase include Coogler (“Black Panther,” “Creed”), Nate Parker (“The Birth of A Nation,” “#AmeriCAN”), Malcolm D. Lee (“The Best Man,” “Space Jam: A New Legacy”), and Tim Story (“Barbershop,” “Fantastic Four”).
The Black Hollywood Education and Resource Center is a nonprofit, public benefit organization designed to advocate, educate, research, develop and preserve the history and the future of Black images in the film and television industry.
The opening night celebration and reception will be held at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 22. Admission prices vary. The opening celebration is $55 for general admission, $40 for students and senior citizens.
Admission to the short film showcases Sept. 23 and 24 is $55 for a day pass or $20 for an individual screening general admission, with $40 and $15 admissions for students and senior citizens.
A three-day pass is $150 for general admission; $120 for students and seniors.
The Reel Black Men Short Film Showcase will be held at Regal L.A. Live, 1000 W. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles. Information: email@example.com or 323 957-4656.
Darlene Donloe is a freelance reporter for Wave Newspapers who covers South Los Angeles. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.