Friday, March 23, 2007

60:SIFF& More

As Hollywood diversity issues heat up, the voice of new Black Hollywood is giving it to you straight with no chaser. But before you take a taste of The A-List, click here to make your voice heard: Now to...Issue # 60

LOST & FOUND...Though Charles Burnett (The Glass Shield) made his directorial debut, Killer of Sheep (, in 1977, it's just now premiering. The "lost" film will hit screens March 30 at NYC's IFC Center, and L.A.'s Nuart Theatre, April 6. Playdates across the U.S. and Canada follow. And it's already been declared a national treasure--the Library of Congress entered it in the National Film Registry and the National Society of Film Critics selected Killer as one of the 100 Essential Films of all time. Killer of Sheep never saw theatrical distribution because it couldn't obtain music rights for songs featured on the film's soundtrack. The film examines the community of Watts in the mid-1970s through the eyes of Stan, a sensitive dreamer growing detached from the mental toll of working at a slaughterhouse. Don't look for quotes though from the filmmaker because The A-List has learned he's in South Africa working on new film called Nujoma: Where Others Wavered about the struggle to found the country of Namibia, starring Carl Lumbly and Danny Glover, who starred in Burnett's To Sleep With Anger.

JOURNEY TO THE FUTURE...Mainstream Hollywood seems to be all a buzz about the latest craze: HD3D films. While overheard at, of all places, a recent Iraq vigil, the Hollywood insiders present seemed to only want to how many of the same people are working on these new types of films from Journey to the Center of the Earth and more. Seems all the fuss is being made because HD3D films can't be pirated. Thing is, once again, African Americans seem to be left out of the tech party. Rev. Jackson, time for that sit down with us to fine tune that Hollywood Xmas Wish List. Looking forward to it.

HIS PROVOCATIVE?...Despite countless news stories about Bobby Brown and his new reality show, "Dating Bobby Brown," it seems the former R&B singer might still be going stag. Though the rumor mill has him getting cozy with Bravo--former home to "Being Bobby Brown"--the network says there's no such deal in the works. Others report the deal is being inked with the CW. But they too say, no way. Now it seems the soon-to-be-bachelor is still shopping the project, which we're sure he hopes will bring him the same renewed fame Flavor Flav enjoyed with VH-1's successful "Flavor of Love." If Brown does find a network for a new show, it could spell a career revival for the crooner. After all, reality shows--love 'em or hate 'em--are proven to be good comeback moves.

UP, UP & AWAY...Remember we told you about a new A-List discovery called "The Black Superheroes"? Well, the cartoon is now one of the top rated on YouTube (, creator Jerry Craft tells us. Seems like this falls into the category of another "we told you so" for The A-List. Now if Craft lands a deal via his YouTube success, once again the power of the Internet will be proven. Say, wonder if we get a commission?

RETURN OF DOLEMITE...You can't keep a man like Rudy Ray Moore down for long. Although his illness was widely covered not long ago, the comedian is back with his famous "blaxploitation" character Dolemite. Director Bill Fishman recently bought the remake rights and will direct the film. Moore will exec direct. In the new flick, Dolemite "joins forces with a squad of kung-fu fighting females to regain control of his nightclub." Fishman's Fallout Entertainment is currently casting the film, and we hear he is in talks with Snoop Dogg to appear. Shooting is slated for fall, and may head to New Orleans. Could this usher in another wave of '70s remakes? If the box office booms, it will.

SCHOOL'S IN SESSION...Fresh from his Wild Hogs run, word is Martin Lawrence will play Raven-Symone's father in College Road Trip, a comedy for Walt Disney Pictures. College will begin filming June or July with Roger Kumble directing. It seems inevitable that once funny folk like Eddie Murphy, Martin, Chris Rock reach a certain age and Hollywood level they turn to the family friendly daddy role. What's next, Dave Chappelle in a remake of "Father Knows Best"?

READING, WRITING & REELS...The Tribeca Film Institute has launched Tribeca Teaches: Films In Motion, a pilot program in partnership with the Bronx Preparatory Charter School that will educate historically underserved middle and high school students in the South Bronx, about the art and process of filmmaking. It will run through the course of the Tribeca Film Festival, which ends May 6th. Ninety middle school and 30 high school students will participate. One component will include students producing a “classroom snapshot” by creating their own films, which will be screened at the in-school mini festival. Kudos to Tribeca for helping develop the next generation of Hollywood moguls.

TRIBECA TOUCHDOWN...Speaking of Tribeca,there's another yet another development. Tribeca Enterprises, the parent company of the Tribeca Film Festival, and ESPN Inc. have announced the first-ever Tribeca/ESPN Sports Film Festival, which will take place during 2007 Tribeca Film Festival (April 25-May 6). There will be will screenings of 14 feature-length films including 12 World Premieres, a special Tribeca Talks panel discussion and "Sports Saturday," a free, outdoor, day of interactive sports related games and demonstrations. While this in itself is interesting, what's more noteworthy is the lineup on the 2007 board of advisers for the project--Mark Cuban, Spike Lee, Senator Bill Bradley, among others. Tiki Barber will serve as Festival Ambassador. We're sure spots won't be the only talk of the day.

OUT OF SERVICE...Everyone is getting into the act of calling out media exclusionary tactics--even the gospel crowd. Neo Gospel man Kirk Franklin has just sent out an open letter concerning DirecTV's removal of the Gospel Music Channel from its lineup. Considering Gospel is big business--with both Black and White audiences--we wondered why the network was aiming to do so. But DirecTV spokesman Robert Mercer had not seen the letter--so The A-List sent it to him. But he says, " The channel was taken down for a variety of business reasons. We're not at liberty to disclose what those reasons are given that all internal business discussions are private." We will keep you abreast as to if Franklin's call to fellow artists, industry folk and DirecTV subscribers causes them to rethink the move.
ROOTS REDUX...TV One is bringing the 30-year-old epic mini-series "Roots" back, beginning Easter Sunday, April 8. While "Roots" changed the course of TV forever, airing the historic program on TV One is sort of like singing to the choir. The question is: Would ABC--or any other major network--re-air such a program in primetime ever again?

SHOW ME THE MONEY...BET just got a budget boost from its parent company, Viacom Inc. The cash injection will help BET increase original programming by 30 percent to 50 percent this year. You already know of one of the new additions--Queen Latifah's "Wifey" (whose pilot also included Terrence Howard)--but there will be nine more original offerings to be developed. But that ain't all, BET has also unveiled a home-entertainment division and new digital strategy. At presstime, BET's President of Entertainment Reginald Hudlin had not responded to our email request for comment.

TUBE TRIUMPHS...In an obvious next move, YouTube has announced The YouTube Video Awards ( The awards will honor the best original user-created videos of 2006 and the artists who made them in the categories of: Most Creative–Innovative And Cutting Edge Video, Most Inspirational–Things That Make You Think Or Feel, Best Series–The Best In Serial Entertainment, Best Comedy–They Had Us In Stitches, Musician Of The Year–Celebrating YouTube’s Home-Grown Musical Talent, Best Commentary–The Bloggers Who Caught Our Attention, Most Adorable Video Ever– So Cute It Hurts. YouTube community members voted and winners will be revealed March 26. What do they get? A trophy--and of course, online exposure. We'll keep you posted on inevitable deals that will be made from this digital arena onto other platforms.

CLOSING RANKS...Here's our take on all the hoo-ha over the news that NBC Universal and News Corp. have joined forces with several major Internet companies to distribute TV shows, video clips and movies online as a way to compete with YouTube. OK. We get that they want to protect their copyright material, but can old dogs learn new tech tricks? Wouldn't partnerships with new media players--who do what they do the best--be more in order? No matter what the Zuckers and Chernins of the world do, what they don't seem to understand is that they will always be one-step behind because the new offerings that draw 18-34-year olds are hardly ever created by the older, white male gatekeepers of media--and that is always cause for celebration! By the way, the new network will launch this summer.


PASSPORT TO HIP HOP...An award-winning documentary about Hip Hop in Kenya is hitting the DVD market. Hip-hop Colony, distributed by U.S.-based Image Entertainment, was produced/directed by Michael Wanguhu and written by Russell Kenya. The DVD includes footage of the film's Kenya premiere as well as interviews and performances by top Kenyan rappers. With an array of hip-hop film fest awards and being screen at such institutions for higher learning as Harvard University, we'll see if rap outside of the birthplace of hip hop really translates into sales.

BK IN THE HOUSE...Be on the look out for a new hip-hop drama called "Da Stuy," set in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn. Ghetto Eyez Filmworks and Quiet Elegance have been screening parts of the six-parter around NYC (through the Sundance Institute at Brooklyn Academy of Music) in hopes of landing a deal. Written, directed and executive produced by Joseph C. Grant, Jr. Jones tells The A-List he's now on the hunt for a TV deal.

MONSTER'S BALL...Filmmaker Billy Wright is bringing the life of imprisoned gang member Kody "Monster" Scott to the big screen based on Scott's bet-selling memoirs, Monster: The Autobiography of a L.A. Gang Member. Bay area rapper Saafir will portray Scott and Lady of Rage his mother in Can't Stop, Won't Stop (, which is currently filming at sites in L.A., including prison locations. From the set, Wright tells The A-List, it wasn't easy finding financing for the half-million-dollar project. "Funding was hard to secure because all the attention is going to the new young rappers and I'm trying to take it back to the old school. Kody is one of the major influences and architects of the current generation. Money is easier to secure when you are glorifying ... but our intention is to clarify. So yes, to a certain degree it was a hard sell." And Scott is taking a different route. Instead heading straight to the studios, his goal is to "win the Grand Jury prize at Sundance. We hope to blow them away!" says Wright.



You don't have to be a TV junkie to realize that there seems to be a diminishing presence of African Americans on TV, particularly African-American woman. Just a couple of years ago, ABC was positioning itself as the leader for a more "diverse" network. It had shows like "Lost," which started out with an array of folks of color. But that's changed. L. Scott Caldwell who played the cancer-surviving character Rose has all but vanished this season as well as killing off another supporting black actress--April Grace who played Bea Klugh--by shooting her in the heart in the show's episode "Enter 77." Not to mention Latina actress Michelle Rodriguez, who played Ana-Lucia Cortez, being killed off as well in episode "Two For The Road."

But not to be outdone, NBC's "Heroes" also shot its lone black female character, played by Tawny Cypress (pictured, left) by a "unintended" gun wound to the heart.

Maybe "24" started off this killing field, when they did away with not one but two Black actresses in one scene. During season three, Julia Milliken (portrayed by Gina Torres) shot and killed the president's wife Sherry Palmer (Penny Johnson) then turned the gun on herself, committing suicide.

Is this a trend? Window dressing and then spring cleaning? While it does seem the sisters are starting to get more non-stereotypical roles, now they're lacking the prime-time minutes.
We'll see what happens over the course of the summer months and next season. --Anthony Davis

Apple has finally just announced that it will start selling Apple TV, the wireless set-top box designed to show video downloaded from the iTunes store on the living-room television. The device, available through Apple's Website and other retailers, includes a 40GB hard drive capable of storing up to 50 hours of video and a remote control. In February, Apple delayed shipping the Apple TV until mid-March.


Syracuse International Film Festival
Where would townies chauffeur around filmmakers to appointments during a festival? Or where would a student fillmmaker be able to hook up with a professional filmmaker and set off on a road trip? Only the Syracuse International Film Festival (SIFF) can boast such achievements. And it's this type of intimacy and communty interaction that has become trademark for the SIFF and what contributes to its growing success each year. With the mission of showcasing all forms of film and video expression and connecting people, cultures, and ideas; SIFF has been able to seamlessly blend the charm of a community minded festival with an international appeal. Sponsored by Syracuse University and many local and national partners, the festival this year features films from such countries as China, the Czech Republic, Israel, Japan, and Turkey. In addition to the films and videos slated to screen, there are also free forums, which last year focused on women of color in entertainment and media arts, among other topics.

The A List caught up with SIFF Managing Director Christine Fawcett-Shapiro to learn more about SIFF. (Pictured: SIFF Artistic Director Owen Shapiro, Fawcett-Shapiro, and James Earl Jones at last year's festival.)

The A-List: What makes the Syracuse International Film Festival stand out?
Christine Fawcett-Shapiro: We've been able to attract well-known international directors because of Artistic Director Owen Shapiro's contacts, yet the local community is very involved as well. We have several community outreach programs, which include programs with area high schools as well as university students.

AL: Why is important to involve not just college filmmakers but also high schoolers?
CFS: Because of the international scope of the film festival, it introduces the students to cultures and youth from other cultures they might not ever come in contact with. It also helps make the students more film literate by exposing them to films from around the world. It helps build a very film literate audience.

AL: It would seem a plus for the filmmakers to not only interact with industry types but also people who would be ticket-buyers?
CFS: Yes. The community gets very involved with the filmmakers. And they tell their friends and so on. They invite the filmmakers out to dinners. Some invite filmmakers to stay at their homes. In one case we had a student filmmaker contact one of the filmmakers who had a film called Amsterdam to Amsterdam. And since there is also Amsterdam, NY, the two took a road trip and filmed it. But there are also industry people who attend looking for new films.

AL: Are there a lot of deals brokered at the festival?
CFS: Since our launching, we have had an excellent response. Also the festival selects two films each year for our own DVD label, called New Classics. So far we have produced four DVDs. These will be available soon through our website.

AL: What will be some of the forums this year?
CFS: We have a forum on new technology and animation, which will touch on a lot of the new technology available for filmmakers as well as the animation world.

AL: How may films will be showing this year?
CFS: We have 128 out of 600 submissions, including an experimental film that is over three hours long.

AL: That's unusual to include a three-hour long film.
CFS: Yes. Most film festivals would not have accepted it. It was such a great submission our artistic director wanted to include the film. The selection process is very personalized. And we will accommodate a film even if it doesn't fit into film festival standards.

AL: What is the process?
CFS: Our artistic director screens every single entry. Then a jury will go through and the submissions are narrowed down to 128.

AL: What advice would you give to a filmmaker looking to submit next year?
CFS: Make sure you not only have a good quality film, but that you also submit a good quality copy--one that isn't going to fail.

Name:Syracuse International Film Festival
Date: April 18-22th
Location: Syracuse, NY