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Filmmakers blazing a trail with pride and reason

David Goodson | 4/12/2012, 2:13 p.m.
You'd have to be living under a rock to not be aware of the impending...
Filmmakers blazing a trail with pride and reason

You'd have to be living under a rock to not be aware of the impending April 20 release of the film "Think Like a Man." The film, based on the best-selling book "Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man" by multimedia mogul Steve Harvey, has been getting a heavy marketing and publicity push and should enter at No. 1 at the box office the week of its release.

While we can only speculate on the numbers that the film will do, two Harlemites will bring forth their works on Friday, April 13; works that might impact the future of African-American cinema. "Life Love Soul," the 2011 Audience Choice Award winner at the UrbanWorld Film Festival, is a triumphant; coming-of-age story about a young man coming into his own after life deals him a tragic hand. The story is brought to you by writer and first-time director Noel Calloway and stars Robbie Tate-Brickle, Tami Roman, Chad Coleman, Jamie Hector, Terri J. Vaughn and Egypt Sherrod.

The second installment of the T.D. Jakes franchise, "Woman Thou Art Loosed: On the Seventh Day," also hits the silver screen with a ensemble cast consisting of Blair Underwood, Sharon Leal and Pam Grier. Both films are involved with AMC Theatres in a project called AMC Independent, which allows quality films access to national screens. Codeblack Entertainment, a leading new media and film company helmed by Jeff Clanagan and Quincy Newell, announced earlier this year a multiyear partnership with the theater chain. "Woman Thou Art Loosed: On the Seventh Day" is the first film to be rolled out under the new deal.

Trailblazer Neema Barnette, who co-produced and directed this installment of the Jakes franchise, said, "I think this movie can expand its audience, given the themes that are presented in the film." Those themes are not pretty in the least, however. Although it's a faith-based feature, the dramatic thriller tells the story of the angst brought on by the kidnapping of a couple's daughter in a way that pushes the envelope of how faith-based movies are viewed.

"It was a balancing act, but the subject matter was so heavy that we couldn't be authentic unless we could take it to that full place, but at the same time, we couldn't offend those who are true fans to this type of film. So under the direction of Neema, it was key that we knew how to tell the story with the ebb and flow of our emotions to take the audience on a ride and tell the story," said Leal.

Neema added, "We decided that we didn't want to preach to people. That's not our job, but we did want to reach people, and having such a thoroughbred team of actors and crew, we didn't have to go too far out there."

Contributing mightily to the flow of the film were the subtle nuances the filmmaker added to the mix, particularly with the use of the city as the backdrop. "First of all, New Orleans needed the help, and Bishop Jakes and Jeff Clanagan wanted to put some money into the city. However, artistically, the city had edginess and its own life--the history, the food, the heat.

"I was able to shoot scenes that were organic metaphors of what God created on the seven days that showed how unique the city was and to move along the story. Also, I found distinct social lines, so I was able to show the clear differences between who that were well off and the poor."

Overall, the project is a profound statement. While it is low budget, it is financed, conceived, directed and distributed by African-Americans. Neema concluded, "I don't depend on the current structure of Hollywood for work. It's about the choices I made in my career, and I'm happy with where I am and what I've accomplished. I understand that the film is mind-altering and filled with lasting images, so it's one of the most powerful political tools we have, even though we use it to entertain. When I select a project, I make sure it reflects my love of storytelling and serving the community."

Preach!

I'm out. Holla next week. 'Til then, enjoy the nightlife.