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Langston Hughes African American Film Festival kicks off
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Langston Hughes African American Film Festival kicks off

by Scott Rice - SGN Contributing Writer

2010 Langston Hughes African American Film Festival
April 17-25
Various film venues


The 2010 Langston Hughes African American Film Festival kicks off April 17 with an Opening Night Gala fundraiser screening of Nurse.Fighter.Boy benefitting the Metropolitan Sickle Cell Task Force. The Festival hopes to promote awareness of the Sickle Cell Centennial. Sickle cell anemia, which affects about 1 in 12 African Americans, is an inherited, lifelong disease in which the body makes sickle-shaped red blood cells.

Nurse.Fighter.Boy is a film about a mother struggling with sickle cell anemia and its devastating effects on her family and her own life. The screening is at the Cinerama (2100 4th Ave.). Doors open at 6 p.m., the screening starts at 7 p.m. Tickets are $20 and available through Brown Paper Tickets or in person seven days a week from 6-11 p.m. at the Central Cinema box office (1411 21st Ave.). The evening will be capped by a special post-screening discussion with director Charles Officer in attendance. Nurse.Fighter.Boy was nominated for 10 Genie Awards, including Best Picture.

Two of the films in this year's festival feature prominent LGBT characters. Vintage: Families of Value is a 1995 experimental documentary that explores African American families through the eyes of Lesbian and Gay siblings. The film was awarded Best Documentary at the 1996 Atlanta International Film Festival and plays at Central Cinema April 18 at 3 p.m.

Mississippi Damned will be screened at 7 p.m. on April 18, also at Central Cinema. Morgan Stiff, the film's producer/editor and life partner of director Tina Mabry will be in attendance to support the film. Stiff also set me up with a preview screening of the movie the week before the festival opens.

Mississippi Damned is based on the actual events of Tina Mabry's childhood growing up in Mississippi. The narrative is rife with violence, abuse, and addiction, and will inevitably be compared to last year's Oscar darling Precious. Though the themes are similar, a couple of things set the films apart: Mississippi Damned is about a family that cares about one another even as they smother under pervasive poverty and struggle to create healthy relationships with little education and few resources. Mississippi Damned also feels much more authentic than Precious. The film is beautiful in its simplicity and honesty. It takes an unflinching look at the individual and collective struggles of three sisters and their offspring. There are no twists, no painterly composition, no villains, and no clear heroes. There are people trying desperately to create homes that are safe and positive places to be. Mabry's direction is sure and steady, and the ensemble cast is terrific. The large number of characters is handled with surprising dexterity by first-time feature film director Mabry. I highly recommend Mississippi Damned.

Other filmmakers expected to attend the festival include Alrick Brown, Ava DuVernay, Thomas Allen Harris, Arjun Kaul, Sharon Lane, and Jessica Chen Drammeh, among others.

The 7th Annual Langston Hughes African American Film Festival runs from April 17-25. All-access festival passes, $50, are on sale now. For more information, go to www.langstonblackfilmfest.org.

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