By Kenneth Harper, EBMS
I attended The Carnegie Mellon University Film Festival entitled ‘Faces of Conflict’, and made a day of it. I attended two events, A Face to Face Spike Lee and a viewing of ‘Chi-raq’ with Q&A by Spike Lee. As I walked in to Mc Conomy Auditorium I was greeted with a warm welcome and smiles from Jolanta Lion, Festival Director, and Shilo Rea, Public Relations Director.
During the Face to Face with Spike Lee, He spoke on the conflict in the entertainment business and its content being controlled by money. Those who have money their content will be seen in lights and those who don’t money may never be heard of no matter how great their work may be. He also went on to say how culture is one of the factors that drive people to go to the movies and those movies that have exhibited culture have had higher sales in the box office. However, due to the misrepresentation of culture, from those who have a budget to have their content showcased, have created a disconnect within the African American culture based on the negative facets depicted in movies and music videos. Some people feel disconnected while some have made these negative facets a reality for themselves.
This then lead in why Lee decided to become a film director. He was passionate about creating films that highlighted culture in a real way that would give his viewers something to think about. He knew that he didn’t have to attend film school to become a great director but he attended to obtain access to film equipment. We seriously have to think back to the late 1970’s and early 1980’s . This was a time that technology was not as affordable, nor as readily available to people as it is now. He gained the skills and equipment necessary to create the first film directed by Spike Lee entitled ‘ She’s Got to Have It ‘ which was filmed in 1986. This year in August he will be celebrating 30 years of directing film. He briefly discussed how crowd funding can help film directors start and help sustain their film directing career by having some of their projects funded. Crowd funding shows public support of a project by donating publicly money. If groups of people come together to help fund a project they will most likely come out to support the various project once its completed or they want to support new talent creating a positive opportunity for themselves and others. No matter the reason behind it; when someone has the public’s support behind a project it becomes a trending topic and people run to support it. Lee spoke on how two of his projects were crowd funded, which were ‘40 acres and a Mule’ and ‘Sweet Blood of Jesus’.
Spike also mentioned the controversy surrounding the Oscars and the reason why he did not attend this year. All of thecontroversy at the Oscars was not because Will Smith wasn’t nominated; it was because there had not been any diversity in the nominations for the past 2 years. Spike did not attend because he didn’t want to support an awards event that did not show diversity in their nominations. However, He was awarded an Honorary Oscar this year and accepted the award prior to nominations being announced.
We then ventured on to be directed to watch the movie ‘Chi-Raq’. Prior to the movie the introduction was given in reference to the mass shooting that transpired locally in Wilkinsburg. The audience was then directed to take a moment of silence to pay respects to those that have lost their lives due to gun violence. Lee went on to give the synopsis of the movie and included that ‘Chi-Raq’ is a satirical documentary, based on the play ‘Lysistrata’ by Aristophanes in 411 B.C., that used the modern day American issue of gun violence as the basis of this story. Lee explained that more lives were lost in America due to gun violence than fighting the war in Iraq. Are we not in a state of emergency?