Day 1 : Screening and Q&A – Free In Deed
The stars came out for BUFF 2017 launch at the plush BT Tower. Founder Emmanuel Anyiam-Osigwe welcomed attendees to his 13th celebration of everything urban on screen, but all eyes were on Hollywood actor, turned ‘Supergirl,‘ David Harewood for the London premiere of his latest movie ‘Free In Deed.’
Following complimentary pre-movie drinks we entered the BT auditorium for the screening.
Based on a true story, this slow paced disturbing drama works its way through the struggles of a single mother, played by Edwina Findley Dickerson, trying to raise two kids, one of which has severe autism. She encounters an old lady who introduces her to the church.
Set against the desolate backdrop of Memphis, in stark contrast to the beautiful mountaintop that Dr King dreamed of, Pastor Abe Wilkins’ (Harewood) attempts to exorcize demons fails to rid her 8-year-old son of his autism, instead leaving the child dead and Wilkins in deeper and darker torment.
For those not familiar with Pentecostal worship the movie provides a window into ‘Black Church.’ (We [black people] know. We have been there in the UK too.)
Hat’s off to Harewood for embodying the character so well of, quite frankly, a rather creepy married man who’s a school janitor by day, and spiritual healing by night. A stark contrast to the real Harewood, who during the Q&A after the movie was full of humour and relishing insight into how the production came together organically.
Within 3 days they had ditched the script and any attempts of trying to replicate Ray Hemphill, the minister the story is based on. By Day 17 it was a wrap after zero budget and lots of improv. The church featured was the REAL church, REAL pastors and REALLY REAL congregation. Harewood said some even thought he was a REAL PASTOR!!
Free In Deed is truly a memorable piece that highlights the horror that can ensue when all the best intentions have such a catastrophic effect. Also, this movie shows star quality acting from the little boy who Harewood says fell into character with ease.
Post Q&A we were ushered to BT Towers 34th floor for more Shiraz, canapé’s and a chance to mingle with guests and celebrities in the house while taking in the breathtaking view of the central London.
DAY 3: Screening and Q&A – Chapter & Verse
Back again for more of the same; drinks, movie, Q&A and canapé’s, but this time with Jamal Joseph director and co-writer of Chapter & Verse, producer Cheryl Hill and Chris Preddie OBE. Joseph spent time in prison in the 70’s for his activist role as a New York Black Panther. His experience, and the continued disproportionate incarceration of black men, helped shape the script for this gritty intense drama.
Ex-con, Lance Ingram, played by Daniel Beaty who also co-wrote, attempts to stay the right side of parole on the streets of Harlem. After 8 years away he reconnects with an old friend (Omari Hardwick) and builds a heartwarming new one with Ms. Maddy (Loretta Devine) a widow and carer of her gang member grandson Ty. Ingram’s half-way to freedom but faces challenges.
This story covers homelessness, drugs, gangs, guns, projects, terminal illness, assisted suicide, entrepreneurism, poverty, welfare, sex, gentrification and more. You’re constantly rooting for Ingram to make it.
During the Q&A Joseph and Hill amazingly reveal Chapter & Verse is their first production under Harlem Film Company. It’s no surprise this feature is so impacting with Hill’s resume steeped in Hollywood and the scriptwriters first and second hand experiences of life after lock-up.
In 2012 Preddie was the youngest black male to receive an OBE at the age of 25 honouring his passion for guiding youngers to make the right choice, which mirrors Ingram’s schooling of Ty. This theme and others touched on in the movie are prevalent in society today in the UK and the States.
Keep abreast of #BTBUFF2017 happenings for 2018 as they take it to #AWholeNewLevel .
By Angela Douglas