African-American Film Festivals Release 'Kinyarwanda'
This weekend the African-American Film Festival Releasing Movement (AFFRM) is releasing its second film, "Kinyarwanda." Directed by newcomer Alrick Brown, the motion picture is the first film conceived in Rwanda and interweaves six true tales regarding the 1994 genocide that saw one million lives lost in 100 days.
Garnering critical praise and winning the Audience Award in the World Cinema Drama category at the Sundance Film Festival, the historical release will be shown in eight cities, including New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Seattle, Chicago, Washington D.C. and San Francisco.
For AFFRM founder, Ava DuVernay, who directed and released the association's first film "I Will Follow" earlier this year, being able to house Brown's directorial debut is an exhilarating experience.
"For me as a black filmmaker to have this idea about how this all can come together to distribute films and to see that realized in 'Kinyarwanda' is so amazing, even more so than 'I Will Follow' was," she explained to the Huffington Post.
"'I Will Follow' was my film, so I knew that kind of passion that I was bringing to my own work," she added. "But to push myself to work as hard for another filmmaker's film, to push myself and the volunteers and the leaders of all the organizations to do so for a film that's not my own was something that I just wanted to challenge myself to do. And I'm just really proud of the campaign. Every time we do this and we get to opening day I can't believe that we pulled it off."
Powered by the nation's finest black film organizations, including Urbanworld Film Festival, Imagenation, BronzeLens Film Festival, ReelBlack Film Series and Langston Hughes African-American Film Festival, the coalition experienced a tremendous amount of success with DuVernay's "I Will Follow." The film opened last March in more than 20 cities with a screening average of $11,428, and AFFRM did not have formal advertising or a marketing budget.
"We really are doing something that the studio and Hollywood system says can't be done," she said. "Regular people distributing films, regular people deciding the fate of our films. Regular people saying, 'You know what, maybe Hollywood doesn't have all the answers as to what we want to see or what we can do.
"These are grassroots organizations around the country, these are volunteers that have regular jobs during the day that have nothing to do with the industry, that are coming together and saying, 'We want to see this film and we're going to put it out the same way the studio would.' Real theaters, real publicity, real promotion, a real movie."
"This is a model that I'm hoping other niche communities and people that are gathering and congregating around all kinds of films can learn to do," she continued. "And it's basically saying, 'don't wait for permission; don't look to this corporate entity to say your film was good enough to put out.' There are ways for us now to do it ourselves as filmmakers. All of those traditional barriers have been broken down by technology and just with hard work, elbow grease, and passion."
The ambitious filmmaker and distributor is showing no signs of resting on her laurels. Just this week, it was announced that the Compton, Calif. native's forthcoming flick, "Middle of Nowhere," will be among the many films highlighted during the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. Remaining poised and collected, she admitted that the honor is "a special time, and I'm so looking forward to it."