Film festival delivers culture

Film festival delivers culture

By Danielle Capalbo

A Nigerian flag hangs from the face of a new house. It flaps quietly, green and white.

Inside, a father and daughter are at odds. His robust West African accent commands her to her room. She appeals, with no trace of an accent. He wears a military costume; she wears a T-shirt and shorts that traveled in her luggage from America.

She finally walks out the door and mounts her bike. Down unpaved streets, she rides away. Joyous Afropop music plays behind her.

The short film, “Autumn’s Turn,” rolls to credits.

For director Faith Kakulu, 32, the autobiographical short is a nod at her past and a look toward the future. Next week, it will be among the films screened at the ninth annual Roxbury Film Festival.

The festival – an acclaimed showcase of films celebrating people of color – is the largest in New England, said the festival’s founder, Candelaria Silva. The program has gained international recognition, Silva said, drawing contributions from England, Brazil, South Africa and the Pan African Film Festival of Cannes.

Silva, who works for Arts, Culture and Trade (ACT) Roxbury, was hired nine years ago to set in motion an idea she hatched: a series of art-related events in Roxbury.

“It was a perfect location that had a lot of cultural riches,” Silva said.

A Northeastern alumna, Silva currently lives in Dorchester and remains at the helm of the festival that netted 62 films this year, including about 12 films made in its namesake neighborhood.

The festival, co-sponsored by ACT Roxbury and the Color of Film Collaborative, will run from August 1 to 5 at various locations, and include special guests, panels and acting workshops.

“Filmmakers and actors find a lot of opportunities to network,” Silva said. “It’s a very active and participatory experience.”

The film festival grew from its one-day, 14-film event in 1999 to last year, when it spanned four days and five screening locations: the Museum of Fine Arts; Massachusetts College of Art; Wentworth Institute of Technology; the Roxbury Center for Arts at Hibernian Hall; and Northeastern, where it started.

“It shows that you can have a cross-cultural committee of people and volunteers, who work to make an idea happen,” she said. “Film is something that’s so immediate to people.”

Silva said the festival unveils the positive artistic potential of an area often adversely portrayed in local media, and residents of Roxbury are proud of the program.

“We put Roxbury on the map in terms of artistic culture, building on what people had done before,” said Silva, who was inspired by local film producer Henry Hampton and WGBH public radio. “This was a rich base.”

For Kakulu, the festival is a chance to confront her past while setting an example for the future of Roxbury youth.

“I was really struck by the great amount of violence and abuse in my surroundings,” Kakulu said.

The cultural influences of Kakulu’s youth influenced “Autumn’s Turn,” a film she wrote and directed at the Florida State University film school in 2005. “Autumn’s Turn” and “Open Secrets” – another of her shorts to be featured in the festival – center around themes of oppression and hard-earned freedom.

Kakulu hopes her success with film will provide inspiration for anyone who has struggled.

“Don’t look back around you and think, ‘There’s nothing else that I can be,'” she said. “Look for me, because I’m looking ahead.”

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