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April 2008
BAMcinématek presents Creatively Speaking | An interview with Curator Michelle Materre

BAMcinématek presents Creatively Speaking | An interview with Curator Michelle Materre
by Wilson Morales

April 25, 2008

Creatively Speaking runs April 25–27 and is BAM's second annual weekend event of independent film and video by and about communities of color on a huge range of topics including dance, music, love, and activism in South Africa. In speaking with Curator Michelle Materre, she gives a rundown as to what the program is about and highlights a few films selected to be shown.

Ms. Materre’s professional background spans 25 years in television, film and video with a concentration on independent film. She has worked in myriad capacities in the nonprofit and commercial entertainment industry as a producer, writer, arts administrator, strategic advisor, outreach consultant, distribution/marketing specialist and/or educator.

What’s the program about?

Michelle Materre : Creatively Speaking is a program that was started 12 years ago and it originated up in Harlem Stage, and the idea behind it was that there were all these amazingshort films by filmmakers of color, but there were very few outlets for the films once they were created. So my partner at the time and I put together a curator program of short films and we would pass them off as though there were featured length program, but they would be a period of shorts, all under one them. We would also have the filmmakers come and speak about the film, hence the title Creatively Speaking. It gave the opportunity for the filmmakers to interact with audiences, and the audiences would learn the process of filmmaking.

This year, Creatively Speaking is in Brooklyn (BAM) as opposed to Harlem. Why the move?

MM: It’s not a move. It’s an addition. We just had a program in Harlem in March, and last year we started curating a program at BAM as well, and this is our second year there. Basically, there is color everywhere we go. Brooklyn is one, and Harlem is another, and often times, people don’t leave their community and can’t find films that are for them, and our idea is for them to see these creative films that were made by them and about them.

What separates this from a festival?

MM: A festival is usually an open solicitation and people submit their work from all over and it’s a longer more tedious process of selecting films. What we would do is look for films all year long, and we’re in contact with filmmakers that we have known over the years. We get referrals from colleagues and other aspects of the business. We look for the finest colleagues and the most universal stories because there is a lot of junk out there; and the fact that it is a curated program, it’s a different process from what goes on with a film festival. A film festival is usually not put together in a thematic way. The idea is that you want to have a context to see films. It is sort of like going to an art exhibition.

Over the years that you have done this, have there been any filmmaker that has gone on to do feature films and gain some notoriety?

MM: Oh, absolutely. One that comes to mind is Malcolm Lee, Spike Lee’s cousin. He had shown his first film, ‘Morningside Prep’, with us in our early years of existence. He then went on to start making feature films such as ‘The Best Man’ and most recently ‘Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins’. The exposure that these filmmakers get even in their early stages of their career is important because you never know who is in the audience. You never know who is looking, so it helps them get some exposure that they might not get anywhere else.

Do you have filmmakers from past programs come in and talk with the current crop of up and coming filmmakers?

MM: We have Q & As after every program. We don’t do panels. That’s something that happens in other places. The Q & As that happens after the programs are many times the films that we have shown before. For the closing night program, there are two films about South Africa, ‘Dressed Like Kings’ and the other is called ‘Road to Ingwavuma’, and we actually shot Stacey Holman’s Dressed Like Kings as a work in progress four years ago, and she’s finished the film and now we are seeing it as a featured length documentary. So, we are really looking forward to that. We also have another African film called ‘Black without Borders’ and it’s about the Americans that have gone to South Africa and have become very successful. That’s made by Stafford and Judy Bailey. We also a race program, a narrative under the title love stories, and under that we have a premiere by kA’ramuu Kush called ‘K(no)w De:tales’. It’s a really fascinating film. It’s entertaining as well as engaging and enlightening. We rarely get to see Black and Latino positive images and positive romance on the screen without it being comedic or violent or with sexual overtones. These films arte all universal stories that anyone can relate to, but they happened to be about the communities from color.

What are you looking for those who have come to see these films to get out of this?

MM: We are looking for people to have a better sense of themselves in the broader community. Travel is our best form of education. Often times, our communities aren’t able to travel. I hope people walk away knowing that there are other alternatives and it’s not all about what’s on TV or what’s at the local Cineplex. We do have to support and search out for these alternatives, more positives and universal images.

BAMcinématek presents Creatively Speaking, April 25–27

BAM Rose Cinemas (30 Lafayette Ave.), Brooklyn, New York


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