51: A GIRL LIKE KIRI DAVIS
NANNY 911...We just got the word that Jennifer Lopez is developing a new Showtime series about the world of Latin nannies. Lopez will executive produce the show, called "Ayuda," and former "Friends" producer Alexa Junge will be one of the writers. No word on an air date, but you know we'll let you know. With Lopez racking up TV show deal after deal, we are wondering if any of them, including her MTV stab, will actually draw ratings since the all seem to have niche appeal. But we have to say we're happy to see more Latinas on TV, but we hope homegirl remember to out others on while its her time in the sun.
CALL FOR ENTRIES...The 9th Annual San Francisco Black Film Festival (June 7-10 and June 14-17) has announced its call for entries for films and screenplays. Entry deadline: February 15. They are seeking narrative features, documentaries, shorts, animation, experimental, student and television productions on film, video and digital media, which have been completed after January 1, 2006. Films should be written/directed or produced by an African or African American or feature Africans or African Americans in prominent roles. For details, visit http://www.sfbff.org/. When it comes to film festivals, we say the more the possibility your film gets the deal you're looking for. Enter away.
SNOOP SCARES UP NEW DEAL...Hold onto your hats, he's hosting a a ghetto gothic anthology featuring three blood-curdling screamers in the tradition of Tales From The Crypt entitled Snoop Dogg's Hood of Horror (www.snoopshoodofhorror.com), set to be released on DVD this spring. And here's a twist, Snoop Dogg's Hood of Horror features a blend of live action horror and supernatural anime sequences created by Japan's Madhouse (Animatric, Tokyo Godfather) under the supervision of Academy Award-winner John Gaeta (The Matrix Trilogy). Among the stars on the Snoop project: Daniella Alonso, Pooch Hall (The Game), Billy Dee Williams, Jason Alexander ("Seinfeld"), Method Man, Ernie Hudson, Aries Spears, and NBA stars Lamar Odom and Tayshaun Prince. Directed by Academy Award nominee Stacy Title (The Last Supper). Hood of Horrors was produced by Social Capital Films, BloodWorks, and Snoopadelic Films, and is distributed by Xenon Pictures, Inc.
NEW INTERPRETATION...A couple of weeks ago, we told you about a new DVD featuring the music of Earth, Wind & Fire. Well, we had it a little twisted. The project was actually conceived and executive produced by EWF founder Maurice White and the album is called Interpretations: Celebrating The Music of Earth Wind & Fire. As this is the first release on the newly revitalized Stax Record label, they are going on out. To accompany the CD, which includes an all-star lineup of singers--from Angie Stone to Meshell Ndegeocello to Kirk Franklin doing their take on EWF classics--will be a behind the scenes DVD of the making of the album. The CD hits stores March 27.
GET YOUR PRAISE ON...More big news over at BET. The network is about to tape its annual Praise Fest on Jan. 20 at the Orpheum Theatre in L.A. The all-star gospel celebration will include the likes of Quincy Jones, Tyler Perry, Yolanda Adams, Kirk Franklin, Fantasia, Blair Underwood, Gabrielle Union, Loretta Devine, Idris Elba, Pastor Shirley Caesar, Dr. Bobby Jones, Fred Hammond and Derek Luke. Steve Harvey will host. Look for the show to air on Jan. 28. With gospel getting hotter and hotter within the 18-35 market, the ratings could be a record breaker for a real pioneering effort though would be the inclusion of other artists who support or who have even collaborated with gospel artists in the past, like LL Cool J. Now, that's a show!
CLOSE TO THE EDGE...Fans of the play Women On The Verge (http://www.thewomenontheverge.com/m/) will be happy to hear a revamped production is being launched. Performed by Faith Collins and written by Kimba Henderson, Paul Hagerty steps into the directors shoes. Show dates: Jan. 26, 27 & 28. Producers Kimba Henderson and Julie Judice are aiming to make enough noise this time that Hollywood will take note and possible hand out a deal. We'll let you know if Verge has enough edge.
FESTIVAL ALERT...The founders of the 6th Annual Arizona Black Film Showcase are hoping to reel in a ton of film fanatics for this year's festival, March 22—24 at the Herberger Center Theater and AMC Theaters Arizona Center. The fast and fun fest will include: educational workshops, film screenings, an awards ceremony, and vendor festival. And as a surprise of hip hop fans, guests include the likes of Prodigal Sun from Wu Tang Clan. Wu Tang is hosting a workshop titled, The World of Urban Hip Hop Music and Films. The ABFS is smart in running with the hip hop film connect as this segment of the industry is poised to blow up even bigger. For fest info, visit http://www.azblackfilm.com/.
JOLLY GREEN GIANT... If you haven't heard by now, let us tell you Radio One recently purchased urban lifestyle m ag Giant. The black broadcasting giant bought the up-and-coming mag for just $270,000, according to reports. Under the deal, Radio One will be looking to expand the publication's online presence. Besides the 70 radio stations Radio One owns and/or operates, it owns interests in TV One and Reach Media, Inc., owner of the Tom Joyner Morning Show and other businesses associated with Tom Joyner. The Giant deal marks the firm's foray into yet another media format--print.
THE ART OF BLACK CINEMA...If you just happen to be in Texas, head over to Museum of the Gulf Coast in Port Arthur (http://www.museumofthegulfcoast.org/) to view a new exhibit called "The Separate Cinema: Pride and Purpose in Black Film," opening Jan. 21 Celebrating black filmmakers like Oscar Micheaux and actors like Paul Robeson and Lena Horne, the visit will be worth the trip.
CELEB CHOW FEST...It's time again for the Annual Celebrity Fashion Show/Benefit Brunch to Benefit the HollyRod Foundation and the Honey Shine Mentoring Program. On Feb. 3, the glitz and glamour of Hollywood will converge upon South Beach when actress/humanitarian Holly Robinson Peete and husband Rodney Peete ("Best Damn Sports Show Period'), welcome scores of celebrities, athletes and philanthropists. Alonzo Mourning (Miami Heat) and wife, Tracy Wilson Mourning, executive director of the Honey Shine Mentoring Program, will co-host. Confirmed celebs include: Daisy Fuentes, supermodel Niki Taylor, James Lesure (NBC's "Las Vegas"), Braylon Edwards(Cleveland Browns) and Kenny Watson (Cincinnati Bengals). The HollyRod Foundation provides medical, physical and emotional support to those with Parkinson's disease through the HollyRod Compassionate Care Program. For more info, log onto http://w ww.hollyrod.org/. The Honey Shine Mentoring Program's mission is to provide mentoring experiences that nurture the mind, body and soul, of young women in at-risk situations, between the ages of 8 to 18. For more, visit http://www.honeyshine.org/.
GOOGLE ANNOUNCES NEW CENTER
Google Inc. has just announced plans to build a $600-million data center in North Carolina. Some 210 people will be employed at the so-called "server farm." In a statement, North Carolina Governor Mike Easley said they are looking forward to the center to boost its economy and employement rolls. "This company will provide hundreds of good-paying, kn owledge-based jobs that North Carolinas citizens want," said Gov. Easley. "It will help reinvigorate an area hard hit by the loss of furniture and textile jobs with 21st century opportunities." In return, North Carolina will give the company $4.8 million as part of a total incentives package that is estimated could be more than $100 million.
A GIRL LIKE KIRI DAVIS: Teen Filmmaker Breaks Through With Short, An A-List Exclusive
Manhattan-based Davis, who was 16 when she made the film, wanted to tackle an issue many overlook. "I was inspired to make this film from things me and my friends had gone through. A high-school literature class also inspired me in which I constructed an anthology for a literature with a wide range of different stories that reflected the black girl’s experience," explains Davis. "For the different chapters, I conducted interviews with a variety of black girls in my high school, and a number of issues surfaced concerning different standards such as beauty standards imposed on today’s black girls and how this affects their self-image. I thought this topic would make an interesting film."
Davis explored the idea on film through a six-year-old organization called Reel Works Teen Filmmaking. "Reel Works Teen Filmmaking is centered of the conviction that every young person has a story to tell and an important contribution to make our world....In the process they gain self-esteem, master state-of-the-art technology and are transformed from passive consumers to active creators of media. We say to teens: You have a voice. Use it!," says Kristin Wernicke, Lab Coordinator. The free program recruits teens from Brooklyn high schools and selects 12 each semester. "[The students] have to fill out an application (with several essay questions) and are interviewed by staff and former students before they are accepted," says Wernicke. "They spend the first 7-8 weeks on story ideas. Once they have solidified their ideas, they have to pitch their ideas to producers who give them feedback on their ideas before they begin shooting." Students can stay in Reel Works throughout high school, participating in different programs (Reel Impact and/or Master Class) after completing The Lab. "We also encourage alumni to stay involved by leading visits at their colleges, coming to the screenings, and even teaching our summer film camp," adds Wernicke.
So after crafting her idea and having it approved, Davis hit the streets running. Though it wasn't her first film--she did shot short narrative films--it was a new experience for Davis. "At times it was difficult being a one-girl crew traveling all over the city and having to wear so many different hats. To doing the lighting, directing, cinematography, as well as editing it was a complicated process at times but it made me a better filmmaker because having to depend on myself more made my technique stronger," remembers Davis. "Also the girls in the film talked about some pretty personal things and at first it was a little difficult for some of them to open up on camera. It became a lot easier when I put my face really close to the camera and told them to think of it as just a conversation with me. While finding the featured girls in the film wasn’t that difficult since they all went to my high school and most were good friends of mine."
To make her point about black girls today, Davis reached back into the past. "I re-conducted the 'doll test,' initially conducted by Dr. Kenneth Clark, which was used in the historic desegregation case, Brown vs. Board of Education. By including this experiment in my film, I would shed new light on how a society affects black children today and how with all the progress we have made many things just haven’t changed."
The result was eyeopening--the self image of many of those Davis captured was still being dictated by Europena standards. "They, like most girls of color, have struggled with the European beauty standards and the stereotypes that surround us. They have had and still have certain insecurities and some have overcome them...Pushing through stereotypes and imposing standards isn’t always the easiest task. By giving the girls in my film an opportunity to talk about these issues and their experiences it would help us all to look deeper and examine the many things in society that affect us and shape who we are," says the filmmaker, seemingly wise beyond her years. "You can tell people all you want how certain standards effect self-esteem but until you actually show people exactly what its doing that’s when people finally get it and it registers with them. I hoped that by making such a film it would promote discussions on the subject matter so that people would feel more comfortable openly discussing such issues making it not seem so taboo."
A Girl Like Me struck a nerve. "After every screening people bombarded me. They said how much they enjoyed the film and what a powerful impact it had on them," recalls Davis. "Some people have later told me that after watching the film they have rethought certain actions of theirs made changes in their lives....After almost every screening of the my film, women and girls of color have come up to me and shared so many of their own personal stories. Even some people who are not of color have been able to share with me how they can relate to the films message, while some have thanked me for opening their eyes to something they were simply not aware of. I have found that even though my film features only people of African descent many of the standards explored in the film effect all people of color and even people who aren’t. Societies impose standards that affect us all no matter what your sex or race is. Standards are standards and they have a huge impact on how we all view each other as well as ourselves."
And Davis hopes to see change affected through her doc. "I'd love for the film to help [girls] understand that you can’t allow people to define who you are. You have to define and celebrate yourself even if your beauty isn’t always exactly celebrated by mainstream society. Also I want people to realize how important it is to know or learn where you come from and your history because that can help to really give you a stronger sense of self," says Davis. "Also as a filmmaker one thing I’d like to do is to help inspire kids and let them know that you can do whatever you set your mind to. If you know what you want to do in life don’t wait to become a 'grown up.' Don’t let your age delay you. I knew I wanted to be a filmmaker and now that’s exactly what I’m doing and it’s only the beginning of my journey. "
And, there is more to come for Davis. "I mainly want to make films about things/issues that are important to me and that will pertain to people of color as well as to my community. I’d like to produce short films about unknown heroes of color and make films that touch on important topics I feel are currently being overlooked," says Davis. "My next film focuses on the education system in my city. Right now I’m in postproduction and still narrowing down my subject matter. I’m not sure if it will be a short or feature length film." And Davis is looking to more than make her mark early on--"I am also have a few other new film projects in the works as well as a television show."
A Girl Like Me will continue to be featured on the Web and available for purchase at Reel Works (http://www.reelworks.org/).