Charlotte Black Film Festival founder Tommy Nichols (center) with festival participants. Photo cia Charlotte Black Film Festival
Charlotte Black Film Festival founder Tommy Nichols (center) with festival participants. Photo via Charlotte Black Film Festival

Why this story matters: With the critical acclaim and box office success of films like “Us” and “Moonlight,” Black filmmakers and playwrights continue debunking the myth that stories featuring Black narratives aren’t marketable.

Charlotte’s storytelling scene is one that’s #ForTheCulture. This month, one long-standing creative outlet returns while another is set to launch. Both carry a mission to uplift and celebrate the nuances of the African American experience.

Entering its ninth year, the Charlotte Black Film Festival (CBFF) is a fixture in the Charlotte community. Founded in 2010 by Glorified Media CEO Tommy Nichols, CBFF’s mission is to be a voice for independent filmmakers of color. Beyond that, it also creates economic empowerment opportunities for African American cinema as an art form. This year’s festival kicks off on Thursday, April 11, at the Charlotte Convention Center.

“The key is to be true to the story and not allow outside influences to alter the narrative,” Nichols said. “Being able to tell a story from our perspective is critical, and CBFF is uniquely positioned to do just that.”

Storytelling has played a critical role in African American culture, serving as a vehicle for passing down rich history across generations and sharing a variety of narratives. Current social and political climates have made it increasingly important to share these narratives within a broader context.

Several pieces by local filmmakers will be featured including “Manhood,” a film by screenwriter and UNC Charlotte professor Rodney Stringfellow. His film follows a young girl’s rite of passage. He hopes that it will start a conversation about gender roles, rituals and rites of passage that are “part of the human experience.”

Kennedy Johnson stars as Olivia in the short film, “Manhood.”
Kennedy Johnson stars as Olivia in the short film, “Manhood.”

“Representation on screen is important. We’re not only able to see ourselves, but that we’re also capturing more than a single experience,” said Stringfellow, who teaches film studies at UNCC. “We all have a unique voice…the umbrella of society is big enough for them all.”

Enter: Win passes to the Charlotte Black Film Festival

CBFF, more than film screenings

The annual Fashion of Film showcase and the Digital Village Expo return for a second year. The fashion showcase highlights the intersection of two popular forms of creative expression. Competitors are invited to show off collections representing their interpretations of a fashion flair film.

Meanwhile, the Digital Village Expo centers around the business of making films with workshops and more. Nichols describes it as “an empowerment space including 20 speakers and opportunities for attendees to exchange commerce and creativity.”

A collaborative for Black playwrights emerges

Vickie Evans

Vickie Evans, founder of African American Playwrights’ Group, will be a featured speaker during the Digital Village session, “Pursuing Greatness…Beating The Odds” on April 12.

“Playwrights and filmmakers have common strengths and challenges,” Evans said. “I am so glad that we’re making a strong presence in the community.”

That sentiment applies to both Evans’ participation in CBFF and her work in developing the African American Playwrights’ Group, which will officially launch with its first meeting on April 22.

She said the idea for the platform, geared toward meeting the needs of both novice and veteran playwrights, had been brewing in her spirit for years. The group will meet monthly at Queen’s Coffee Bar, a Black-owned business and another nod to the group’s overarching goal of embedding themselves as deeply within the community as possible.

Read: Grab a treat and pop out your laptop at Queen’s Coffee Bar

“If we really go back to the culture that we came from, sharing what we have with one another, we’d realize we’re stronger together,” she said.

Sabrina Clark is a NY native who enjoys the South, but still loves the perfect view of a city skyline. She’s a social worker and child advocate who finds her zen by enjoying all that Charlotte has to offer.