Flaherty Seminar 1987: At The Table

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Featured in this 1989 photo taken at Flaherty are human rights activist Bia Vieira, filmmaker Zeinabu irene Davis, and writer, filmmaker, activist Toni Cade Bambara. Photo by Bia Viera published on the Feminist Wire http://www.thefeministwire.com/2014/11/story-of-immigration


The Robert Flaherty Film Seminar is the longest continuously running film event in the U.S. It’s named after Robert Flaherty who is considered to be the father of documentary filmmaking.  Today, over a hundred filmmakers, curators, artists, scholars, and film enthusiasts attend to celebrate and debate the world of the moving image.

Recently, Patricia Zimmermann, scholar and author of the book The Flaherty:Decades in the Cause of Independent Cinema with Scott MacDonald, invited me to write a reflection piece on my 1989 Flaherty experience.  The event was historic. It was the first time that African American and African filmmakers were invited.  Here’s some of what I was thinking about my work and what was being debated by Black filmmakers then

ABFF: Black Women and Experimental Storytelling

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ABFF: Black Women and Experimental Storytelling

The American Black Film Festival, more commonly known as ABFF, bills itself as America’s largest gathering of Black Film & Television enthusiasts. That’s exactly what it is and I was glad to be highlighted as a 2018 Kathy Collins Innovator at this year’s event and speak on the panel Black Women and Experimental Storytelling: Emerging Technologies and Innovation in Cinema presented by Facebook.

Michele Prettyman Beverly, Ayo, Taura Musgrove, multimedia filmmaker (Freedom Fighter), Natalie Bullock Brown (Baartman, Beyoncé & Me), Terri Prettyman Bowles

The annual event features films by people of African descent. Since 1997, each June, the festival hosts five days of packed programming that features films, panels and networking events.

I hadn’t attended the festival since 2006 and was amazed at how much it had grown. Founder Jeff Friday has done an extraordinary job in bringing his vision into the Black film timeline.

I was delighted to be highlighted on the panel Black Women and Experimental Storytelling: Emerging Technologies and Innovation in Cinema programmed in association with Daughters of Eve (sisters Terri Prettyman Bowles and Dr. Michele Prettyman Beverly).

What an audience of supporters! Folks applauded, testified and cried when hearing about my journey and the work of the other two panelists (now sister friends) Natalie Bullock Brown, (Baartman, Beyoncé & Me) and Taura Musgrove, multimedia filmmaker (Freedom Fighter). We are now the 2018 Kathleen Collins Innovators. Kathy was a beautiful spirit, a pioneering African American filmmaker, scholar and godmother to my daughter HaJ. She is also the reason why in addition to being a filmmaker, I teach in higher education. I will write about my friend at another time.

One of my favorite moments at ABFF was reconnecting with friend Michelle Materre and giving her a shout out for all of the work that she has done over her 30-year career as a producer, curator, programmer, educator and all around fabulous woman.

The wonderful Michelle Materre

It was great afternoon. And, of course, hubby Tim was there being the family documentarian

Hubby Tim

Kudos ABFF

TV Directorial Debut: Queen Sugar

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TV Directorial Debut: Queen Sugar

Sometimes the universe opens up and asks you what you would like to do and then conspires to make it happen. This is how I feel about recently joining the Queen Sugar family as a director.

Imagine receiving a call from Ava DuVernay asking if you want to direct an episode of her television show. The only answer is yes. This will be your tv directorial debut. You arrive on set in steamy New Orleans where you are authentically met with heart felt welcomes by the cast, crew and others associated with the production. They are all knowledgeable, creative, kind, considerate, and committed to the good of the show. This was my Queen Sugar experience. Warrior women Ava and Oprah have used their Black Girl Magic to create something that is historic, nourishing, inspiring, progressive, transgressive and yes, entertaining. This is particularly noteworthy in a climate where women aren’t being considered as directors – and few are looking for Black women directors. Queen Sugar has changed the landscape and given us 25 women directors over three years.

Queen Sugar is a space deserving of our time and attention. Stay tuned for my episode airing August 1st.

New Year New Toy

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New Year New Toy


Generally, I don’t make new year resolutions, but I do think about things that I want to discard and recall some of the things that bring me joy.


What has continually put a smile on my face is exploring electronic and digital toys that are marketed to children.  They often become part of my art palette.  Playing with these colorful, plastic, low tech technologies has been a source of fascination, creativity and pleasure for many years.

In the 80s I purchased the first children’s drawing tablet that could connect to a tv and display an image as you were creating it and the Gameboy where you could attach a camera.

I was ecstatic when later in the decade I found the Fisher Price pixel vision camera PXL2000.  It was billed as a toy camera that produced black and white images and recorded video and audio on a compact audio cassette.  Priced at $100 it was an expensive toy that didn’t do well in sales.  However, sales increased when video artists stormed into Toys”R”Us and purchased every camera in stock.  I still have my pixel vision as well as a modified one with expanded capabilities.

Here’s an early commercial for the camera


You already know that I have a LEGO 3MP Digital Camera — if not, it’s the camera that I’m holding in one of the photos on the home page of the website.

This new year I treated myself to a Kickstarter funded DYI Kano computer kit that’s designed to demystify the computer and coding.  I’m having a great time with simple coding and was as delighted as a child receiving a gift when viewing the basic circle animation that I created. On to creating immersive environments!

So, for all of you image makers, think about what else could be in your toolbox to expand your palette other than the usual pro and semi pro suspects.

Have fun!

Wishing you the very best in the new year and every day.



Interview with Producer Reuben Canon

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Reuben Cannon is a legendary Hollywood producer.  For more than thirty years he has managed to navigate the peculiarities of Hollywood to cast and produce hundreds of films.  Beginning in the mailroom at a major studio, he later launched the careers of Oprah Winfrey, Bruce Willis, Danny Glover, Michael J. Fox and many more.

During our interview at the Spelman College Arts & Entertainment Summit, I asked Reuben, now 71, how an African American man who began in an inner-city housing project in Chicago managed to navigate the Hollywood waters and remain relevant for over thirty years.

The short answer is that he has a deep belief in God and a strong work ethic.

More than the television shows and films that he has cast or produced, Reuben is most proud of how he has mentored people who have become successful in the industry.  His face lit up with memories.

What a beautiful spirit. 

It was an honor to interview him.