After 16-year-old Cyntoia Brown is sentenced to life in prison, questions about her past, physiology and the law itself call her guilt into question. The documentary is currently playing on Netflix.
According to Netflix:
In 2004, 16-year-old Cyntoia Denise Brown was arrested in Nashville, Tennessee, for murdering a 43-year-old man who picked her up for sex. She was tried as an adult and sentenced to life in prison — Cyntoia’s fate seemed sealed. The film shows the complexity of a child who was the product of three generations of violence against women in her biological family. And how in 2019, after nearly 10 years of legal challenges, Governor Bill Haslam granted her request for clemency. He did so following a slow shift in the state for legislative change in juvenile sentencing laws and having seen evidence of her maturity, education, and good behavior as a prisoner. Directed and produced by Daniel H. Birman, and edited and produced by Megan E. Chao.
To read more about Cyntoia Brown, there are all sorts of stories online.
MEET TIM GORDON, FOUNDER OF THE LAKEFRONT FILM FESTIVAL
Tim Gordon, Film Critic, President of the Washington, DC Area Film Critics Association and Founder of the Black Reel Awards, has created a new venture: The Lakefront Film Festival. Gordon is taking 20+ years in the entertainment business and providing a forum to filmmakers of all backgrounds. The 2018 season will be the inaugural session for the Lakefront Film Festival which will be held in Columbia, MD in July.
Why did you create the Lakefront Film Festival?
I wanted a film festival with my imprint on it. It will be a user friendly festival where filmmakers come to this festival and feel validated. I want all filmmakers to know that we’re playing on a level playing field. I thought through a lot of the small touches in order to create a foundation and a culture. As a film critic, I’m uniquely built to do what we do with this festival: teaching and curating.
Why Columbia, Maryland to host the festival?
The city was built on diversity and just celebrated its 50 year anniversary. I was able to get the local city government behind us and brought a lot of talented people to the mix. They have a huge facility here and we’ll use 13 venues in four days.
How will the Lakefront Film Festival be different from other festivals?
There will be a strong presence of African American films and other ethnicities as well. We’re creating a good culture for the festival and I bring background and history. I want everything to be top shelf. I’m trying to cultivate different audiences and we may play a movie more than once.
DIVERSE MOVIES NEED OUR SUPPORT
What triggered your love of movies?
My first mentor, my father, was a huge film fan. Being as young as 5 years old, I remember having plenty of conversations with my father around movies. I was never interested in movies as an actor or a director but I always saw movies as someone behind the scenes. When my father worked at the Newark Star Ledger, I would go into this room of old newspapers and I loved history and looking back.
I was in the military and I would go to the movies on dollar day. I was the guy who could always review the movies. I gained that reputation. People would say to me, “I know you saw the movie.”
Film Critic / Film Festival Founder, Lakefront Film Festival
Why have you been so vigilant in your support of black movies?
I can’t really explain why I was so passionate about movies. But, I remember being 27 years old and reflecting about To Sleep With Anger with Danny Glover and also The Five Heartbeats movie. During that time, 1991, 1992, when the films came out neither of them made a lot of money at the box office. But I thought, ‘there has to be a way that someone can be a liaison between Hollywood and the community.’ That’s how my newsletter, The Renaissance Review, was born. And, I loved award shows as a kid. It always bothered me that strong black films were overlooked. I thought to myself, ‘we need to validate.’ So, I created the Reel Black Film Awards.
The entertainment industry has a tendency to burn people out. Its shark infested waters, backstabbing and crushing rejections all have a way of sending people packing with unfulfilled dreams. So, it is refreshing to build with someone who has enjoyed a 20+ year long career. For Sowande Tichawonna and others like him, I wanted to launch this column in appreciation of their longevity and to learn from the best. Here’s our first installment of Industry Wisdom.
Sowande Tichawonna, CEO of Raceman Tell-A-Pictures
Resides in Washington, DC
Professional Title: Editor, Producer, Videographer
Film Credits: Director of Photography & Co-Executive Producer of Straight Up Go-Go. Screenwriter, Director & Executive Producer of The New “N” Word. Screenwriter of Talkin’ Shop.
Latest Project: Branding Video for the Team Isiah Foundation, an organization founded to help children win against cancer.
How did you become an Editor?
I became an editor through my work for other companies. I’ve had the good fortune of working Montgomery Public Schools for 12 years. I took it upon myself to learn the craft in depth. I took a class in Avid editing. I’m an Adobe Premier Pro, Avid and Final Cut Editor. I’m a big proponent of knowing the fundamentals so that you can apply them across various mediums.
How did attending Howard University benefit your career?
I have a Bachelors of Arts in Broadcast production from Howard. Everything I studied gave me the foundation to make a living as a professional. One thing about being at Howard, I was very social. I knew a lot of people from different walks of life and different countries. The ones who were serious in their discipline are the ones who are doing well now. Putting myself in different social circles has made a huge impact on my network.
“There’s no difference between a documentary and a narrative because it’s all storytelling.”
What experience changed your life?
Taking the History of Blacks in Film course at Howard University changed me. We screened Charles Burnett’s Killer of Sheep. In that film I saw images of people who I grew up with. I didn’t realize it was possible until I saw that film. That’s what made me want to be a filmmaker. Initially, I was amazed. Then, I was angry that it wasn’t widely available. That was what put me on this course. I decided I wanted to not just to be a filmmaker, but to be a filmmaker that didn’t perpetuate stereotypes of African Americans in film. To this day, they are still prominent.
What is your advice for someone starting in this business?
Treat everyone with respect and treat everyone equally. When you meet people and treat them with kindness and fairness, they remember that. Nothing like leaving people with a good impression.
At his DC based production company, Sowande Tichawonna continues to edit and produce branded content for corporations, non-profits and government agencies. In addition, he’s mobilizing a fund to provide support for black focused film projects. Catch him on Facebook.
Bobby Huntley is the Director, Co-Writer and Co-Producer of the new coming of age feature film, La Vie Magnifique de Charlie which is affectionately known in social media as #TheCharlieMovie. Shot over seven weekends in Atlanta, GA with no budget, Huntley’s backstory is one of passion, persistence and motivation.
ABOUT LA VIE MAGNIFIQUE DE CHARLIE
After her sister Brandy’s untimely death, everyone is taken aback by Charlie’s unorthodox (and seemingly chipper) approach to her grieving process. Follow Charlie and her friends Kayla and Keturah as they go along for a wild, hilariously exhilarating and bittersweet ride – which will surely be the craziest day of Charlie’s life. Charlie was filmed over seven jam-packed weekends in Atlanta, GA, with very little to no budget. The talented cast and crew joined together to create this visually vibrant story for the screen.
How did you get started as a filmmaker?
I started at age 10. I randomly asked my Dad for a video camera. When I was in school, I’d bring whatever I shot with my cousins the previous weekend. On Fridays, we’d screen those in class and I’d do reenactments on different historical things. For class projects, I’d turn in a short video instead of a report. It was a way for me to express my creativity. My teachers saw I was a real creative person so they allowed me to express that.
What inspired you to direct, co-write and co-produce the Charlie Movie?
I wanted to challenge myself. I wanted to do a story of women that doesn’t center around men. I’ve always been intrigued by black women. This was a way for me to explore that. It gave me some insight. I wanted to challenge the things that we were seeing in the media.
What life experiencehas changed you or shaped your work?
I saw the Nina Simone documentary and she had a clip in there where she said, “As an artist you must reflect the times in your work.” Before watching the documentary, I would do these things that didn’t mean anything. But, from that moment on, I decided my work must mean something, so that it can impact people.
As a black man, why did you do the Charlie film?
It’s really my love letter for black women. There’s a real campaign for black women to feel better about themselves. Black women in the media are taking control of the conversation. I love the hashtags black women have created. I love #blackgirlmagic. Black women are taking control of the conversation and reclaiming it if you will. I just wanted to give them something they could appreciate.
Do Something That Matters.
Director, Bobby Huntley Films
This fall look for La Vie Magnifique de Charlie on tour in a city near you. Check the trailer below. To follow the movie, check out @thecharliemovie in all social media.
To connect with Bobby, please check him out at the following links: