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INDIE FILM DUO: Dennis Leroy Moore and Melissa Dymock are all smiles at festival.

The film is a visceral portrayal of Moore's rage and hopelessness during the late 1990s

in New York, when fallout from police shootings had racial tensions at a boil. Shot

on a hand-held digital camera, the 144-minute film is raw, provocative and demanding.

 

 

Festival gives first-time filmmakers a forum

cbuckley@herald.com

 

Mon, Jul. 01, 2002

Melissa Dymock was terrified to tell her friend Dennis Leroy Moore the news.

Last November, while visiting her parents in Virginia, she had secretly entered her and Moore's film, As An Act of Protest, into the Pan African Film Festival in Los Angeles. Her mother rushed the tape upstairs to place it on the Bible, for good luck and Dymock, a first-time producer, filled out the application.

Now, clutching the acceptance letter, Dymock faced Moore, the film's writer, director and costar. He was in a terrible mood that day, raging about being broke, his emotions frayed by the strain of trying to finish his first film.

''I told him that I had entered the film and that we got in,'' recalled Dymock, 34. ``I was scared he would say it wasn't ready. But all of a sudden, he was nice.''

Dymock and Moore were in Miami Beach to screen their film at the American Black Film Festival, a five-day fete that aired 32 films before ending Sunday. The festival, replete with workshops and networking parties, is designed for industry types and this year's edition was the first in the United States after a five-year run in Acapulco. The schmooze factor among distributors, filmmakers and actors was high, so although As An Act of Protest was not in the competitive section, its creators were still unnerved.

''It just seems more commercial here,'' said Moore, 26. ``I'm not a commercial filmmaker and never will be.''

The film is a visceral portrayal of Moore's rage and hopelessness during the late 1990s in New York, when fallout from police shootings had racial tensions at a boil. Shot on a hand-held digital camera, the 144-minute film is raw, provocative and demanding.

The plight of the film's protagonist, Cairo Medina, all but mirrors Moore's. He had dropped out of Julliard, incensed by a program that concentrated on white playwrights. A brief tenure directing plays at the National Black Theater in Harlem left him disillusioned about the future of black theater. Meanwhile, an unarmed black man had been shot by police 41 times, another sodomized with a broomstick by police.

''Your antennae goes up, especially as a black person,'' said Moore, who grew up in Queens, the son of Trinidadians. ``You see a person on the street, and begin to ask, what's his or her motive? Everything becomes a nightmare.

``So I sat down and wrote the script. It was a missile from my youth. I wrote it for my black friends, my age group.''

`VERY LIBERATING'

At the time, Moore was working an office job at Vanguard Construction in Manhattan, where he befriended Dymock, a construction manager with no background in theater or film.

''It was very liberating,'' Moore said. ``She was the first white person I had ever met who I was able to talk with about race.''

For Dymock, the conversations were an eye-opener. She went to the library to look at old photos of white women screaming ''like scarecrows'' at black schoolgirls entering newly integrated schools. After some thought, she agreed to help make the film.

Finding no corporate backers, Dymock and Moore embarked on a well-worn independent filmmakers' route: maxing out credit cards and tapping friends and family for funds. They used Moore's mom's and brothers apartments as sets and construction workers from Vanguard rigged electricity and lighting for free.

They shot on a digital camera, a Canon Excite, purchased two weeks before shooting began in early January 2001. Moore did a paper edit to save money, watching all 48 uncut tapes on his VCR at home and writing down time codes of the sequences he wanted to keep.

Total cost: $25,000.

The film screened in Miami on Saturday morning. Attendance was thin, and Moore fretted that audiences crave only commercial films, not unvarnished depictions of racism-induced rage.

''Racism is not pretty, so why should a film be like that?'' he said. ``Life is complicated, but the problem is in film, black people are either athletes or dealing drugs.''

`UNSPOKEN ISSUE'

But the film still got into the festival, just as it got in the Pan African Film Festival, which culled 100 entries out of more than 500 applicants.

''Race is an unspoken issue in American today,'' said Ayuko Babu, the Pan African festival director, in Miami for the ABFF. ``Nobody's affirming what you feel. For the white and nonwhite public, there's no public education program for the white to understand what the nonwhite is going through. That's why this film is important.''

Though the prospect makes Moore squeamish, he is preparing to shop the film around, and on Babu's advice will knock on doors at the Independent Film Channel, the Sundance Channel and PBS. He and Dymock rented theaters to screen the film in New York's East Village, and may take it on the road.

''Spike Lee's great at marketing, I'm not,'' he says. ``But I have a little hope that there's one  person with a little money who will take a risk. If no one's going to do it, then we'll do it  ourselves.''

As An Act of Protest was written & directed by Dennis Leroy Moore and produced by Melissa Dymock, A John Brown X Production -- visit www.asanactofprotest.com

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African-American Odyssey, The Combined Volume

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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