Black History Month affords the opportunity to reflect on the overwhelming importance of African-American culture in our society. Truly the American mosaic would not be nearly as diverse and strong without the likes of Dr. Martin Luther King, Harriet Tubman, Richard Wright, Muhammed Ali, Aretha Franklin, Booker T. Washington, Frederick Douglas, Jim Brown, or Ruby Dee. There are millions more who have contributed to our great nation, and done so with respect, dignity, honor and sacrifice. This is one of the primal and visceral reasons for the Grandin Theatre’s African American Film Festival.
Humanity has developed multiple mediums to express ourselves and address not only the joys of life and its beauty, but also the tremendous injustices, inequities and hardships. Through literature and dance, music and song, interpretive and impressionistic, career and profession, we convey our human emotion and our human condition. However, no medium is more poignant and impactful than that of the motion picture.
The visual ability to capture our imaginations, impart joy and sorrow, and convey the conciseness of humanity in 90-120 minutes, is so well done through film. It is in a sense, the most efficient and accessible of all the visual arts and mediums. Left on the edge of our seat, or sunk down in it, tossed on a roller coaster ride of joy and sadness, film can carry us the farthest the fastest and thus leave us tethered to the emotions we carry – or free form them. It is these reasons we at the Grandin Theatre embrace the importance of celebrations of the cinema and films that represent our culture. It is the reason why we choose Black History Month as an opportunity to celebrate the contributions made around the world of African-American actors, writers, directors, musicians, and on and on and on.
This year we are offering a diverse array of subject matter through our 2019 2nd Annual Grandin Theatre African American Film Festival. The festival begins on Feb. 5 by exploring Morgan Freeman’s award winning role as President Nelson Mandela, and the story of his uniting a country divided through the power of athletic accomplishment in the film INVICTUS. The second offering on Feb. 12 revisits the original classic film GUESS WHO’s COMING TO DINNER? It features Academy Award winning actors Sidney Poitier, Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn, in the film that first tackled interracial relationships.
Our third offering on Feb. 19 is the documentary TELL THEM WE ARE RISING: THE STORY OF BLACK COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES in America. This incredible documentary is a tour de force and genuine celebration of the rise of the African American higher education experience. It also delves into the importance of these institutions after the Civil War and the nadir period in creating a powerful, socially relevant and educated demographic that would go on to make great contributions to our nation and lay the foundational bedrock of the Civil Rights movement and de-segregation. On Feb. 26th we end this year’s festival with the award winning DREAMGIRLS, featuring the amazing story of star power and female empowerment in the era of Motown and the Motown sound.
About 15 percent of Roanoke’s population is African American. And it is that diversity that makes our city an award winning city and an attractive place to live. As the Valley’s last remaining independent nonprofit cinema house, and one of the region’s most iconic cultural community center, we see it as our obligation, honor and joy to celebrate Black History month in the finest fashion possible. We thank you for your interest and hope to see you at the Grandin!
By Ian M. Fortier
Grandin Theatre Foundation