about the festival

In the tradition and memory of Activist Documentarian St. Clair Bourne, EVT Educational Productions, Inc., and the City of Mt. Vernon, NY proudly present the Media Magic-Mt. Vernon International Film Festival, Thursday, March 31st – Saturday, April 2nd 2016.

A collaboration with the National Park Service (NY African Burial Ground), the Documentary Forum at City College (CUNY) and the Black Documentary Collective (BDC), the Festival will screen at the Doles Center in Mt. Vernon, the NPS NY African Burial Ground Visitors Center, and the CCNY Documentary Forum Campus Venue on Convent Avenue in Harlem. Other New York metro-area venues may be added as we gain more collaborators and supporters.

The Festival is tied to the 25th Anniversary of the re-discovery of the New York African Burial Ground; the UN’s Remembering Slavery/International Celebration of the Decade for People of African Descent Initiatives; Women’s History month, and last but not least, the significance and importance of Black Lives/Black Culture, while emphasizing the connectedness of the global, human-family.

The Festival also pays tribute to the memory and contributions of two renowned African-American Women of Westchester County: legendary Dramaturge and Acting Coach Tina Satin, and the incomparable star of Stage, Screen and Television, the great Ruby Dee. Because we are about connecting past, present and future, the Festival will honor a still vibrant and soulful force of nature, the internationally renowned Poet-Activist Sonia Sanchez. And there will be other major surprises!

Among the more than twelve Screeners expected for the Festival, the following are confirmed:

  • Joel Araujo’s “Daughters of the Wind”,
  • Carol Bash’s “Mary Lou Williams: The Lady Who Swings The Band”,
  • St. Clair Bourne’s “John Henrik Clark: A Great and Mighty Walk”,
  • Morgan Freeman’s “The 16th Man”,
  • Attie, Goldwater, and Schmidt-Gordon’s “BaddDDD Sonia Sanchez”,
  • Charles Jones’ “Autistic Like Me”,
  • Paula Madison’s “Finding Samuel Lowe”,
  • Karen Mafundikwa’s “The Price of Memory”,
  • Dr. Marta Vega’s “When The Spirits Dance Mambo”, and
  • The 20th anniversary screening of Eric V. Tait, Jr.’s “Then I’ll Be Free To Travel Home”, Part 1 and Part 2.

Contributions from Brazil, Haiti, and Ethiopia are included among these film-sources for the Festival.

Festival supporters include Black Girl Ensemble Theatre, Cine Institute, Creatively Speaking, Mount Vernon Arts and Culture, Inc., the City College Performing Arts Center, The Maysles Cinema, Third World Newsreel, CCNY Poetry Outreach Center, and the Black Studies Program at CCNY.


the films

The primary purpose and focus of a film festival is a compelling collection of films. And we are sure that you will agree that these films more than satisfy that expectation.

So, here is more information about our films and their creators.

Finding Samuel Lowe (poster)

Finding Samuel Lowe: From Harlem to China

Three successful black siblings from Harlem discover their heritage by searching for clues about their long-lost Chinese grandfather, Samuel Lowe.

Retired NBC Universal executive Paula Williams Madison and her brothers, Elrick and Howard Williams, were raised in Harlem by their Chinese Jamaican mother, Nell Vera Lowe. Nell encouraged them to realize the rags-to-riches American dream, resulting in their growth from welfare recipients to wealthy entrepreneurs. In order to fulfill a promise to their mother to connect to her estranged father's people, they embark on a journey to uncover their ancestral roots.

The three travel to the Toronto Hakka Chinese Conference where they connect to members of the Chinese Jamaican community. As the mystery of their grandfather's life unfolds, the trio travels to Jamaica, learning that their grandfather had a life there similar to their own, starting with humble beginnings in Mocho, Clarendon Parish, and ending with successful business ownership in the affluent St. Ann's Bay. But in 1933, he left Jamaica, returning to China for good.

Taking family tree research to an epic proportion, the siblings and 16 of their family members travel to two Chinese cities, ShenZhen and GuangZhou. Together, they visit their family's ancestral village, finding documented lineage that dates their family back 3,000 years to 1006 BC. The trip culminates in an emotional and unforgettable family reunion with 300 of their grandfather's Chinese descendants.

At its heart, this is a story about familial love and devotion that transcends race, space and time.

Autistic Like Me (director and poster)

Autistic Like Me: A Father’s Perspective

Autistic Like Me  (ALM) is an emotionally gripping feature length documentary examining the lives of fathers and male care givers raising and caring for children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. Dispelling the archaic “big boys don’t cry” notion, ALM uniquely chronicles the emotional struggle of a group of fathers as they open up to one another about the fear, disappointment and ultimately the acceptance of a very different parenting experience than they had envisioned.

The film candidly captures the journeys of these families with Autism. A key takeaway being that when a child is diagnosed with Autism, the whole family is affected. What has often been overlooked is the affect it has on the fathers. Many fathers have a difficult time accepting the reality of the condition often leading to the fracturing of families. The men featured in ALM are at various stages of their journey toward that acceptance and, catalyzed by the film, are expressing emotions they’ve previously suppressed.

ALM is the centerpiece to an advocacy campaign geared to help support Fathers of autistic families. The unvarnished communication between the men in the film is key to the healing of the fathers and ultimately the welfare of the children and families.


When filmmaker Charles Jones’s fifth child and only son, Malik, was diagnosed with autism, he felt ashamed, angry, and alone. He chose to work through his emotions the best way he knew how: by making a film. Autistic Like Me: A Father’s Perspective  is a feature documentary film directed by Jones, chronicling the journey of five fathers whose children have all been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. One of those five fathers is Anthony Merkerson, an NYPD cop who lives in Queens with his wife and his two children – a son and a daughter, both of whom have autism.

...Both men spoke honestly about many topics including their initial feelings, how they relate to their children, what they wish other parents knew, the impact the diagnoses had on their marriages, and their deep love for their children.

— NYMetroParents.com               

Read the interview with Charles Jones and Anthony Merkerson by Vanessa Friedman at NYMetroParents.com

The Price of Memory (poster)

The Price of Memory

It’s 2002 and Queen Elizabeth II visits Jamaica for her Golden Jubilee Celebrations. While there, she is petitioned by a small group of Rastafari for slavery reparations. For Rastafari, reparations is linked to a desire to return to Africa, the homeland of their African ancestors who were enslaved in Jamaica during British colonial rule.

The film traces this petition, as well as a reparations lawsuit against the Queen. We follow Ras Lion, a mystic Rasta farmer who petitioned the Queen; and Michael Lorne, the attorney who brought the lawsuit. In the background are the stories of earlier Rastas who pursued reparations in the 1960s, and who undertook a historic mission to Africa to organize official repatriation.

The film explores the impact of slavery on independent Jamaica, following the filmmaker on a journey, during which the question of reparations reaches Parliament in both Jamaica and the UK. Filmed over a decade, The Price of Memory  is a compelling exploration of the enduring legacies of slavery and the case for reparations.


When Jamaican-born filmmaker Karen Marks Mafundikwa took on the task of filming the documentary, The Price of Memory, she couldn’t have predicted the state of turmoil America would be in concerning race relations and racism at present. Once again, we here in the US are up in arms about yet another string of incidents of brutal use of force against a person of color at the hands of police. The subject of the value of black lives and black bodies is not a new topic in the least and, and with her film, Mafundikwa broaches the discussion in her own way with the controversial matter of reparations in Jamaica.

Told from her point of view, The Price of Memory  is a unique look at just how much the slave-owning class of British benefited from slave labor, and at what cost that was to the black and brown population of slaves and former slaves. It delves into Jamaica’s colonial past and neo-colonial present to tell a well-researched story of the scope of debt owed to modern-day Jamaicans as a result. Despite lacking some in the footage department, the movie manages to make a very compelling and moving case for reparations.

Mafundikwa’s first film as director (she previously produced, and co-wrote the feature documentary, Shungu: The Resilience of a People), The Price of Memory  is a bold look at the fight for reparations in Jamaica through the past 50 years. The film centers around Queen Elizabeth II’s 2002 visit to Jamaica as part of her Golden Jubilee celebrations and follows the Rastafari who petition her for reparations. Rastafari continue to be at the helm of the struggle to secure payment for the debt owed to the descendants of slaves in Jamaica, and have pushed other notable academics, and lawmakers to join the cause.

At a time when a country like Brazil has been waging its own war on discrimination in policing practices that makes headlines daily, this film takes the discussion yet another step further. Although it may not have been her intention, with the The Price of Memory, Mafundikwa is adding her own “two cents” to the the debate over the value of Black lives and Black bodies following centuries of slavery, oppression, and white privilege.

— Michellee Nelson on LargeUp.com               

Read the interview with Karen Marks Mafundikwa at LargeUp.com

TIBFTTH (poster)

Then I’ll Be Free To Travel Home:
Part 1 – The Legacy of the New York African Burial Ground

A major documentary, hosted by Lena Horne, and beautifully narrated by Gail Lumet Buckley. It chronicles the discovery and legacy of New York’s Colonial-era African Burial Ground, and the battle to preserve it. The geo-politics of slavery was global – it’s effects still with us all today. Those aspects, embedded during the founding of the United States, which planted seeds for the racial disharmony which exists to this day (and the historical attempts to help solve the problem), are well covered in this epic documentary.

The film has two distinct segments. The first part tells how Africans established the African Burial Ground in New York, and focuses on their historical contributions. The second part tells how an American Government agency tried to conceal the discovery of this important archaeological site.

Then I’ll Be Free To Travel Home  was Lena Horne’s last film project. It also features musical contributions by Noel Pointer, Daryl Waters, and Ebony Jo Ann.


The African Burial Ground was officially closed between 1795 and 1796. The video documentary, Then I’ll Be Free To Travel Home  was completed and premiered in 1996-97, two hundred years later.

Coincidence? Possibly. Does it attest to the circularity of existence, the cyclical nature of things, including history? Who knows? This Work is informative, powerful, and certainly deserves a national and international audience.

Then I’ll Be Free To Travel Home  covers the modern battle to preserve and honor the lives and resting place of those Colonial-era Africans in New York, and the historical contributions they and their descendants made to the survival and development of the City and Country, from 1626 to the New York City Draft Riots of 1863. This African Burial Ground has been called one of the greatest archaeological and anthropological discoveries of the 20th Century right in the media and money capital of the world.


tributes

The Festival also pays tribute to the contributions these notable artists – three who are no longer with us, and one who is still very much alive – connecting past, present and future:

Tina Satin

Tina Satin

Founder of the Mt. Vernon Open Cage Theater, a legendary dramaturge and acting coach – a mentor to Denzel Washington, Crist Swan, and many others.

Ruby Dee

Internationally renowned Actor-Activist and long-time Harlem/New Rochelle resident.


Ruby Dee
St. Clair Bourne

St. Clair Bourne

Legendary filmmaker, Activist/Mentor and founder of the BDC (Black Documentary Collective).

Sonia Sanchez

A still vibrant and soulful force of nature, an internationally renowned poet and activist.


Sonia Sanchez


venues/schedules

venues

Rev. Shelton E. Doles Community Center

  • Dates:
    Friday, April 1st – Saturday, April 2nd
  • Address:
    250 South Sixth Avenue
    Mount Vernon, NY 10550

CCNY Documentary Forum

  • Dates:
    Thursday, March 31st
  • Address:
    Marian Anderson Theatre
    Aaron Davis Hall
    Convent Avenue at 135th Street
    New York, NY 10031
    (Harlem)

NPS African Burial Ground Visitors Center

  • Dates:
    Thursday, March 31st
  • Address:
    290 Broadway
    New York, NY 10007
    (Lower Manhattan)


schedules


screenings

Rev. Shelton E. Doles Community Center

  • Screenings:
    Friday, April 1, 2016
    Special Early Screening:
    4:30pm: “Then I’ll Be Free To Travel Home” – Part 2 (58 minutes) followed by 10 minute Q&A session
    5:45pm: Mayor Richard Thomas and Commissioner Morton welcoming remarks

    Historical Truths
    6:00pm: “Ark of Return” – United Nations (6 minutes)
    6:07pm: “The Price of Memory” (83 minutes) followed by 15 minute Q&A session
    7:45pm: Presentation by City Council President Griffith
    8:00pm: “Daughters of the Wind”
    (85 minutes) followed by 15 minute Q&A session
    Program ends 9:45pm

    Saturday, April 2, 2016
    Around the World in Sports
    11:00am: “The 16th Man” – ESPN “30 for 30” (52 minutes) followed by 18 minute Q&A session with ESPN producers

    Cinema Haiti
    12:15pm: “Bona An Mechan an Ak Apranti a” (19 minutes 34 seconds)
    12:35pm: “LaVeuve” (9 minutes 24 seconds)
    12:45pm: “Ma Belle Mere Bien-Aimee” (17 minutes 8 seconds) followed by 20 minute Q&A session with producers

    Our Religious Freedom
    1:35pm: “When the Spirits Dance Mambo” (75 minutes) (“Cuando Los Espirito Bailan Mambo”) followed by 15 minute Q&A session

    Loudly We Speak
    3:10pm: “Mary Lou Williams: The Lady Who Swings the Band” (60 minutes) followed by 15 minute Q&A session
    4:35pm: “John Henrik Clarke: A Great and Mighty Walk” (90 minutes)
    followed by 15 minute discussion: J. Bourne on Saint’s Legacy
    6:30pm: Presentation and Reception
    Reception ends 7:00pm

    Expanding Our Truths
    7:05pm: “Autistic Like Me” (84 minutes) followed by 15 minute Q&A session
    8:50pm: “Finding Samuel Lowe” (88 minutes) followed by 20 minute Q&A session
    Program ends 10:40pm

CCNY Documentary Forum

  • Screenings:
    Thursday, March 31, 2016
    6:00pm: Reception in Lobby (30 minutes)
    6:30pm: Poetry
    7:00pm: “BaddDD Sonia Sanchez” (91 minutes)
    8:30pm: Talkback – Ms. Sanchez and one of the film’s directors, Sabrina Gordon, will engage the audience in a post-screening Q&A.

NPS African Burial Ground Visitors Center

  • Screenings:
    Thursday, March 31, 2016
    Morning: Children’s activities
    9:30am: “Ark of Return” – United Nations (6 minutes) followed by
    9:37am: “Then I’ll Be Free To Travel Home” Promo

    Historical Truths
    6:00pm: “Ark of Return” – United Nations (6 minutes)
    6:07pm: “Then I’ll Be Free To Travel Home” Part 1 (86 minutes) followed by a panel discussion, “The Impact and Legacy of Slavery on Black Lives, Black Images, and Black Culture.” The panel is moderated by veteran telivision anchor Carol Jenkins. Panelists include playwright–author J.E. Franklin, historian-genealogist Sharon Wilkins, UN “Remember Slavery Programme” representative Omyma David, NPS Ranger Sean Ghazala, and the filmmaker Eric V. Tait, Jr.