What a wonderful weekend I had covering the Jacksonville Film Festival. In all fairness, yes, the additions of the African American films (and their producers and featured actresses) were last minute additions, but we made the best of Friday thru Sunday, and I’m grateful to the Gods of journalism that I was able to “capture” and “cover” some semblance of activity that would best promote the “contingency of color.” It would be a wonderful testament if I could offer commentary that included “color” being an irrelevant barrier in the film industry, but just as difficult as it is for women and men of color to land feature roles, it is equally a challenge for budding and/or established producers/directors/writers of independent films to garner funding for quality production and wide distribution.
I had the extraordinaire opportunity to spend quality time with Los Angeles producer Tim Alexander who is best known for his iconic-cult flick, “Diary of a Tired Black Man.” What’s ironic about meeting Tim is that months prior, I composed a blog titled, “Why it’s hard to date a black woman,” and included his film’s poster image. I’d never seen the film, but gee…I never thought I’d breathe both the writer/producer/director into my life by writing a “harmless” (cough, cough) blog. Let me just say it was a blessing in disguise, because to know Tim Alexander and understand his theatrical mission is imperative to the alternative which is simply being “put off” by his approach. The same is true for my often “rush to judge” personality as people are pleasingly surprised that I am much different than expected, once they give me a glass of Chardonnay (Just kidding…sort of). Actually, most people with a strong creative vibe and drive are an anomaly until you pull back their layers. Tim Alexander hides a very delicate and soft interior, but the journey to that revelation is no joke!
We started the evening with an interview at “Indochine” (Downtown) Jacksonville. He appeared very soft-spoken, didn’t drink alcohol, and was Thai food friendly. Loquacious? You bet. Controlling? Of course. Annoying? Nawwwww.
Tim is just Tim, and again, until you’ve broken bread (or chopsticks) with him, don’t judge the impact of an experienced black man…who just so happened to be “tired” as well. Tired of what? Well, let me just offer the following quote, which is a chauvinistic jewel, “I once dated a woman who would argue with me simply because she could breath,” Alexander said. A week later on Facebook, I told him, “You should have done something to take her breath away.” If it were a harmless tennis match, we’d be “Love-Love,” but Tim serves hard and fast and furious, so by the time we endured dinner, my interview was riddled with insults regarding my journalist style (I write freehand, tape recorders are for politicians…and their mistresses). Besides, my subjects don’t tell me what to ask, I ask what I deem necessary to what I will ultimately write, but that night, Tim was determined to monopolize my flow (I must admit he owns a “sexy sense of angry.”)
The night progressed, and Valerie Jones, Chair of Black Cinema Spotlight had publicity plans for Tim, but we had to venture to the Omni Downtown first. This would have also been a harmless event, but then: Tim Alexander met Cassandra Freeman (Thunder, Lightening Bolts, Dogs seek cover…)
Cassie, as she is affectionately called by those worthy, is a Jacksonville native, Douglas Anderson School of the Arts graduate, and emerging actress who has starred opposite Denzel Washington (“Inside Man”) and was featured during the festival as Lieutenant Rose in the stellar, independent film: “Kinyarwanda.”
Let’s just say, “Cassie did not mince words with Tim and Tim met his match.” It was film worthy and I’m certain at least ONE of them would have earned an Oscar for “Oustanding Defense of A Gender Outside A Quasi Upscale Hotel.” Who won? Well, It’s neither here nor there, because like all artists, they both took the high road, and we all moved on. Actually, they posed for a photo as though nothing had ever been blurted, I mean retorted, I mean..said. They are both smiling in the lovely image below (they both think they won!) All I can say is, “As a woman thinketh, so is she.”(A King James Version revision on my part).
So the night progressed, and Tim rode shotgun with me to our next location which is when I quietly discovered: Tim Alexander is a “narcoleptic.” That man can fall asleep ANYWHERE at the click of a traffic light change. Wow…Let me also add a litany of positive things about him before he reads this and slaughters me with feminist insults: Tim Alexander is one of the most brilliant, confident, determined, hard working men I’ve ever met. He’s a gentle soul, but a man of measure who has an exceptional sense of self. He is a devoted father to two twin sons and is engaged to a most beautiful woman named, “Nyra” who I had the pleasure of speaking to (while driving) and during the few moments Tim was awake, and whenever Tim was awake, he popped his Apple laptop open and shared photos, visions of his mastermind plan, and gazed endearingly at his lovely family.Tim Alexander is 110% devoted to creating films that speak to the more positive and relevant matters of African American families. He is a professed “Social Activist” and founder of “Learning Through Conflict” a company devoted to promoting varied media that inspires.
“When people see my films, I want them to look at themselves, not what’s on the screen,” Alexander said. “People love conflict, but I want them to see something that allows them to see things a different way.” This point of view was more than adequately demonstrated by his debut of “A Mother’s Love.” I literally cried.
It is a magnificent film that is worthy of wide-audience circulation, but preferably, being adapted by a major movie company and, well, I don’t know if that’s what Tim wants, but I do know he wants “Folks” to view it in a theatre near you. At the time of this writing, it debuted in Chicago, Illinois the weekend of December 2nd, 2011. I’ll have to give Tim a call to see how things went. (Yeah, I know…I’m behind the eight ball). By the way Tim, my B1- English IV senior class keeps asking, “Hey, when are we gonna see the rest of that film?”
Moving along with Friday evening, I accompanied Tim to a nightclub to promote his Saturday afternoon viewing which was held in Five Points. (I’m the beautiful individual in the middle of the two “tired black men.”) It wasn’t the best of crowds or opportunity for a “next day” promo, but we made the best of it…Tim made the most of it… and the owner served him some fabulous Tilapia and french fries. I would be remiss if I didn’t say I’ve never been to a West Indian owned ANYTHING that didn’t serve “Ting.” (me devastated Mon.)
I would also be remiss if I didn’t add that Hollywood stunt artist Derrick Simmons debuted his film, “Women Do It Better” and also made a special trip on Thursday prior to the film festival’s opening to Douglas Anderson School of the Arts. Students of Debbie Lee Rouse (Co-chair of the English Department) and my “Critical Theory” crew were thrilled to see his film vignettes as he has appeared in over 100 Hollywood movies for Tyler Perry (he went in the hot tub in “Diary of a Tired Black Woman), tumbled down the steps in “Precious” and was Jamie Foxxes double in “Ray.” Of course there’s more like “The Wire” (great HBO goner…) and Law and Order. I thoroughly enjoyed his film and thought it offered a rather light and humorous side to what women clearly “do better.” We do “IT” better. Now, define your it.
The Jacksonville Film festival proved to be a weekend of “potential” that would have been further enhanced had MORE (or any) African Americans actually showed up to view the films and support ALL artists, regardless of race, creed, or color. Of course African Americans do need and have the right to command more appeal because it’s harder for any Indie (Independent), much harder for an African American Indie, and practically a feat of impossibility for a female indie. But, there are trailblazers, pioneers, examples, and renegades who break through barriers and pave the way for others to follow suit.
Just let me leave you with a reflective thought (Jacksonville): If we fly notable film artists in town from Los Angeles and New York and no one shows up to support them, it looks bad (real bad). Almost as bad as I felt having to explain to Tim Alexander why The Jacksonville Landing is a bust, why our new Courthouse looks like the Parthenon, and why there is a non-moving, passenger-less “Sky Way” track that circles the perimeter of downtown, but never moves. My standard response was, “We have a new black mayor and downtown Jacksonville is getting ready to BLOW UP.” I actually believe the latter and thank my lucky stars that our Film Festival left before our coveted NFL team fired its coach and was sold to a wealthy man from Pakistan. Nevertheless and Nonetheless, we are a city rich with potential, but we need for “every human being with two legs and two eyes” to support the 2012 Jacksonville Film Festival. You never know (All ye of hopes and dreams), the next emerging film success could be you, and it would be a shame if no one ever saw or knew ~
Penny Dickerson 2011
Great Article Ms. Dickerson ! The festival was really good this year. I hope that it grows new levels and bounds next year. There are so many levels to black film and so many different types of stories and hope that we embody that at Jacksonville Film Festival.