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Black Indie Filmmakers Shine As ABFF Retakes Miami Beach, HBO Short Film Award Turns 25

ES Staff  |  Indie Film Headlines

Filmmakers, artists, journalists, and cinema fans converged to appreciate Black stories and creators.

HBO's Short Film Award is now celebrating its 25th year. The Short Film Award, one of the world's most prestigious short film festivals, helped Ryan Coogler and Stefon Bristol launch their careers. Gia-Rayne Harris, Destiny Macon, Elisee Junior St Preu, Sherif Alabede, and Rebecca Usoro are the 2022 finalists.

Taylour Paige stars in Another Country, based on Natasha Trethewey's Pulitzer Prize-winning Native Guard, a semi-biographical poem about a mixed-race couple raising their child in Jim Crow Mississippi.

Alabede says his teams didn't watch movies for Another Country inspiration, instead looking to Roy DeCarava's 1950s photographs. "Gordon Parks was helpful when the film transitioned to color. We looked at his 1950s segregation work for inspiration. We wanted a fantasy-like tone and ambiance for a poem. It needed longing equality. Lyricism was needed. Still photography inspired me more."

In Elisee Junior St Preux's Southern Delta-set film Aurinko in Adagio, a little musical prodigy is encouraged by his dominating father. The boy discovers ancestral dreaming just before his conservatory audition.

Taj Johnson, a rookie, dominates the night with his weird emotions. St Preux says Taj's from Alabama. "Each boy who auditioned brought something different. He's 12 but has the curiosity of a 2-year-old and the maturity of a 16-year-old. He attended jazz practices with photos and facts. Consequently, I learned a lot from him. He knew our plot. We met through seminars and chemistry books. Only one practice; I rarely practice. On set, we did a lot of improv and had fun. Everyone enjoyed themselves."

Pens & Pencils is a film on the school-to-prison pipeline and why education hasn't been an equalizer in America. Mallory (Dorée Seay), a young Black teacher, searches frantically for a missing student.

Harris demanded audience attention. "I think it's important for audiences to feel what people of color do when they watch these things on TV. I wanted to amaze everyone "said. "Balance makes it hard. You shouldn't produce something harmful. I think everyone should understand the perspective of a minority because I remember things I read in the news. Trauma treatment continues."

Little struggled to keep scary scenes on film. Seeing a Black man's damaged and battered face made the film's executive producers very uncomfortable. "For us, it was crucial to be true to our message and genre."

Destiny Macon's comedy Talk Black portrays a shy engineer who assumes a double identity to deal with workplace intolerance and microaggressions. Macon needed to cast two separate actresses. People have proposed using the same actress in my forthcoming film, so I will. I felt that the main character was getting to know her alter ego since there's another person inside her she doesn't know. If it was the same actress, it would be less shocking. If it's a different individual, she'll have to travel to find her."

The Family Meeting director Rebecca Usoro portrays a grandmother and granddaughter breaching Nigerian-American family conventions. Usoro wanted to include lots of humor in her film. "My parents are natural characters," she laughed. "My writing was mostly gleaned from them. Given that it's Christmas and we have an agenda, the situation is funny. I wanted to create a relatable, engaging family."

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