"The 17th RiverRun International Film Festival today announced the theme and selection of films for the Festival’s annual Spotlight program. This is the first program announcement for this year’s RiverRun, which runs April 16-26, 2015. The full lineup of the entire Festival will be announced in three weeks, on March 17, 2015.
This year, RiverRun will present a six-film Spotlight on Black American Cinema from 1971-1991, exclusively featuring films directed by black filmmakers, in an effort to draw attention to their contributions and importance to American cinema as a whole. The program spans three decades and includes films that are familiar and considered classics, as well as rarely screened gems. The 2015 Spotlight selections kick off in the early ‘70s, immediately following the sweeping social changes of the Civil Rights era, and culminate in 1991, which saw both the first Academy Award nomination for an African American filmmaker and the first major Hollywood film directed by an African American woman.
“Although America has enacted a lot of changes since the 1960s, recent events have shown that our country and culture still suffers from serious racial problems and has a long way to go,” said Andrew Rodgers, RiverRun’s Executive Director. “With this year’s Spotlight program, we wanted to showcase the work of some of this country’s most talented filmmakers of the post-Civil Rights era while also giving our audiences the chance to see these important films in a historical context.”
RiverRun created the Spotlight section in 2010 and purposefully left it undefined to allow for a variety of future curatorial choices. Since then, the Spotlight has focused on a specific country, genre, filmmaker’s body of work or some combination thereof. Recent Spotlights include collections of films focused on: Archiving & Preservation (2014), Ingmar Bergman (2013), Pre-Digital Science Fiction (2012), Contemporary French Masters (2011) and the History of Mexican Cinema (2010).
SPOTLIGHT ON BLACK AMERICAN CINEMA 1971-1991
Shaft – USA / 1971 / Director: Gordon Parks
Private-eye John Shaft is hired by a Harlem crime lord to find and rescue his kidnapped daughter. Shaft finds himself caught in a struggle among feuding mobsters. Widely considered a prime example of the Blaxploitation genre, Shaft was selected in 2000 for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress for being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”
Killer of Sheep – USA / 1979 / Director: Charles Burnett
Stan works in drudgery at a slaughterhouse. His personal life is drab. He’s unresponsive to the needs of his adoring wife, and struggles against influences which would dishonor and endanger him and his family. Killer of Sheep is one of the first 50 films to be selected for the National Film Registry and listed as one of the “100 Essential Films” by the National Society of Film Critics. The UCLA Film & Television Archives carefully restored the film on 35mm. (Print source: Milestone Films) Note: Killer of Sheep will be preceded by The Horse, a 1979 short film also directed by Charles Burnett. (Print source: UCLA Archives)
She’s Gotta Have It – USA / 1986 / Director: Spike Lee
The story of Nola Darling’s simultaneous sexual relationships with three different men as told from different perspectives. While all three men want Nola to commit solely to them; she resists being “owned” by a single partner. As Spike Lee’s first feature-length film as writer and director, this film was the catalyst for the beginning of his influential career. It is also considered a landmark film in independent American cinema and was a welcome change in the representation of African Americans in cinema. (Print source: Park Circus)
Hollywood Shuffle – USA / 1987 / Director: Robert Townsend
An actor limited to stereotypical roles because of his ethnicity dreams of making it big as a highly respected performer. As he makes his rounds, the film takes a satiric look at African American actors in Hollywood. Through comedy this film was able to shine a much needed light on the lack of substantial roles for black actors and the misrepresentation of people of color in film and television and was a resounding independent success, grossing more than $5 million in the first 10 months of release. (Print source: UNCSA Moving Image Archives)
Daughters of the Dust – USA / 1991 / Director: Julie Dash
Set in 1902, this film takes a languid look at the Gullah culture of the sea islands off the coast of South Carolina and Georgia. African folkways were maintained well into the 20th Century in this isolated region, and it was one of the last bastions of these mores in America. As the first feature film by an African- American woman distributed by Hollywood theatrically in the United States, this film opened to great critical acclaim, played at the Sundance and Toronto film festivals, and in 2004 was added to the National Film Registry. (Print source: UCLA Archive)
Boyz n the Hood – USA / 1991 / Director: John Singleton
The film debut for both Ice Cube and Morris Chestnut, this life-in-the-hood drama highlights a group of interrelated subjects as they struggle to either accept or deny the fate of their South Central Los Angeles upbringing. Also starring Cuba Gooding, Jr., Laurence Fishburne, Nia Long and Angela Bassett. Nominated for an Academy Award® for both Best Director and Best Original Screenplay.
TICKETS AND INFO: RiverRun’s popular Ticket Samplers, which include 10 film vouchers for the price of nine, are now on sale at the Stevens Center Box Office. RiverRun members may also purchase advance tickets on March
18, 2015, prior to public sales. For more information about the many benefits of becoming a RiverRun member, visit www.riverrunfilm.com/donate. General tickets go on sale March 19, 2015, at the Stevens Center Box Office, via www.riverrunfilm.com or over the phone at (336)‐721-1945.
SPONSORS: The sponsors of the 2015 RiverRun International Film Festival help sustain the organization's mission to foster a greater appreciation of cinema and a deeper understanding of the many people, cultures and perspectives of our world through regular interaction with great films and filmmakers. Festival sponsors
include: Title Sponsors – The Arts Council of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County, Reynolds American, and The University of North Carolina School of the Arts; Presenting Sponsors – City of Winston-Salem, the Millennium Fund and Winston-Salem Journal; Marquee Sponsors – Elephant in the Room, Hanesbrands Inc., John W. and Anna H. Hanes Foundation, Salem Smiles Orthodontics, Wake Forest University and Wells Fargo; Premiere Sponsors –High Point Bank, JDL Castle Corporation, Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP, Visit Winston-Salem, and the News & Record.
The 17th RiverRun International Film Festival will be held April 16-26, 2015 in downtown Winston-Salem. RiverRun is a non-profit cultural organization dedicated to the role of cinema as a conduit of powerful ideas and diverse viewpoints. Founded in 1998, RiverRun is a competitive event that annually showcases new films from both established and emerging filmmakers around the world. Each spring, RiverRun screens new narrative, documentary, short, student and animated films, offering both audience and jury prizes in competition categories. For more information visit www.riverrunfilm.com or call 336-724-1502."
- A Press Release