gives first-time filmmakers a forum
Jul. 01, 2002
Dymock was terrified to tell her friend Dennis Leroy Moore the news.
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.
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.
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.''
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.
just seems more commercial here,'' said Moore, 26. ``I'm not a
commercial filmmaker and never will be.''
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.
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.
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
I sat down and wrote the script. It was a missile from my youth. I wrote
it for my black friends, my age group.''
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.
was very liberating,'' Moore said. ``She was the first white person I
had ever met who I was able to talk with about race.''
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.''
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.
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.''
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.
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
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