Reelblack’s Feb. 22 showing of Let’s Do it Again was more like a “Funkadelic concert” than an ordinary film screening, said Michael Dennis, host and curator of Reelblack Presents, Prince Music Theater’s program of “discoveries and re-discoveries in African-American film.”
A rare Stevie Wonder TV special from 1973, Stevie Wonder’s “Visions” was also shown.
The screening, which took place in the Prince’s dark and groovy Cinema Lounge, was standing room only.
Several of the people who turned up for the screening had never been to the Prince before, Dennis said.
Drawing people out of the places they feel comfortable in, and bringing them together in a safe creative space is part of Dennis’s mission for the Reelblack screenings.
The screenings include a time for discussion of the films, as well as a place for filmmakers to share their ideas and at some point their films as well.
“[We want filmmakers] to reach out to us, to have a place to show their films, without having to spend a fortune [to rent a space],” Dennis said.
The inspiration for the Reelblack series came when Dennis was making a film about Black Lily, the hip-hop night at Philadelphia’s Five Spot club. The performers there were blowing up – many acts were getting record deals within six or seven months of performing there.
Dennis was left with the question, “How do you apply [that kind of exposure] to film?”
The Prince wanted to cultivate diversity in their film program, and asked Dennis to do an African-American film series. Reelblack was born.
Reelblack’s next screening is Graffiti Rock, a TV pilot from 1983 described by Dennis as “American Bandstand for the hip-hop crowd.” Also screened will be The Beat, a feature film by a young California filmmaker, which was shown at Sundance.
Near the end of March, Reelblack will be celebrating the work of comedian Richard Pryor and is tentatively scheduled to show Wattstax (1973), a concert that showcased many of the strong African-American personalities of the 1970s, including Pryor, Isaac Hayes and Jesse Jackson, Woodstock-style.
Give-aways were another part of the evening. Upcoming gifts are DVDs related to the screenings, advanced movie passes and signed Chris Rock memorabilia.
Reelblack is taking the month of April off to open up the space for Philadelphia Film Festival, so be sure to get to the Prince before the hiatus.
“You’re going to be assured quality if you come out,” Dennis said.
Carrie Jones can be reached at email@example.com