May '00 : Blowing Up A Spot!
Film Festival: No Ordinary Festival

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by : LaTrice A. Dixon

On October 1, 1999, at the Glassell School of Arts, Brown Freed Auditorium there was an explosion in the City of Houston, Texas. Blowing Up A Spot! Productions, a Multimedia Arts Project founded by Houston media artist, Angela Williamston, literally broke new ground in the Houston area. Nearly 400 people attended Cinema Shorts:A Womanís Perspective 2000, a three day film and video festival which highlighted the work of emerging women directors with a special emphasis on Latin American and African American women films.

As a filmmaker, who has just begun to send my short film out on the festival circuit, and whose work was presented in Blowin Up a Spot! festival, I know all too well the pain of rejection and the difficulty filmmakers, and especially filmmakers of color, have in finding an appropriate venue to show their work. Blowing Up a Spot! represented the perfect festival home for my short film The Book of Ezekiel. Not only did my film receive a great deal of attention through the promotional efforts of the organizers, but the festival also provided a direct connection to my intended audience, the Women’s community and the African American community.

Media can build community, but I also believe media literacy is lacking in our society. Once we begin to overstand the visual, oral, and literary imagery in the media, then we can begin to control our own images, says Williamston, who strategically brought together a cross section of poets, musicians, filmmakers, activists, health educators and others. Film in Houston is very commercial. They don’t promote real issues, describes Williamston about Texas regional media. With the help of Rahdi Taylor, the film coordinator for Blowin Up a Spot!, Williamston acquired 13 pieces and looked for common themes that would attract community based organizations who are doing similar work and would be interested in lending support to the festival. Women’s issues are not coming out of a vacuum. A woman's issue is a world issue, say's Williamston.

The Houston Chapter of National Black Women’s Health Project took special interest in sponsoring documentaries like NO! a video on Black women and rape, by Philadelphia based maker Aishah Simmons.

A forum was provided for local organizations to speak in between screenings and set up tables to provide information on health care, literacy, and the arts. Other local sponsors included the Multicultural Education and Counseling through the Arts (MECA), the Children's Prison Arts Project, and the Women’s Group, the longest running women’s organization in the Houston area. It became clear that this event was more than just a festival. You could feel the spirit of artistic and community collaboration as audience members were provided with comment cards that they returned to the filmmakers with feedback on their work, which any filmmaker would love. The festival culminated in an enthusiastic discussion where participants were able to dialogue about the role of media and art in their lives. Once you lock down the artist, you lock down the whole country, because the artists are the bridges to change, says Angela Williamston.

For this filmmaker the level of examination and enthusiasm given to my work and the others was a refreshing change from festivals that just want to screen films for purely aesthetic values. The outreach done to involve the community and organizations working toward change gave me a valuable perspective as to how women can use film in their everyday lives.

Blowin' Up A Spot! will host the next festival of women's film in October of 2000 which will feature Women of the Sun: Work by Women of the African Diaspora, 15 feature films from all around the world. Judging by the success of this years event, Houston should keep their eyes and ears open for the Spot’s! next big bang. For more information on Blowiní Up A Spot!

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The writer of this article is LaTrice A. Dixon, a Brooklyn-based media maker who is currently writing her next film Who Saves Brown Girls Who Don’t Holler? She is the Membership/Advocacy Director for the Association of Independent Video and Filmmakers in New York City.


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