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Arts Events Wrap Up Black History Month

By Amanda Morad | February 28, 2012

Booker T. Mattison and Barbara Ciara discuss African Americans in Hollywood.

As February draws to a close, Regent University concluded its Black History Month celebration with events to honor African American contributions to the arts. On Thursday, Feb. 23, the School of Communication & the Arts hosted a film screening and discussion. On Friday, Feb. 24, the Office of Military Affairs hosted a jazz night with the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) Band.

The Regent endowed short film, Bama & Fred, showcases an African American family and stars actors Ted Lange (The Love Boat) and Novella Nelson (Law & Order, Antwone Fisher). Also making an appearance in the film as a supporting actress was Barbara Ciara, a news anchor from WTKR 3, the CBS affiliate in Norfolk, Va.

Ciara attended the screening and hosted an interview with the film's executive producer and School of Communication & the Arts assistant professor, Booker T. Mattison. During the interview, the two discussed African American films and the future of an industry Mattison admits is "contracting."

"The hard part is not making the pitch, but getting in to make the pitch," Mattison said. This challenge is compounded when the story premise and cast are predominantly African American. Case in point, he explained, is George Lucas' newest feature Red Tails, an African American World War II drama.

While Lucas may have overspent and placed a little too much trust in American audiences, Mattison cited Tyler Perry as a successful filmmaker who has discovered the secret for getting people out to see a film. "He knows his voice; he knows his audience, and he serves them," Mattison said.

Ciara and Mattison also discussed the prospect of black films being successful internationally. While conventional wisdom deters distribution companies from promoting these films to a global audience, Mattison believes "it's a psychological barrier that becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy." He cited other predominantly-black American entities that have found an international audience, like the NBA and hip-hop. "If basketball and music can do well, why not film?" he asked.

He left the audience with a little advice for aspiring African American filmmakers. "It's still all about who you know. Distribution is all about rising above the noise," he said.

The following evening, the TRADOC Band shared music in a special Military Jazz Night tribute. The group performed a number of jazz selections in the classic New Orleans style. The evening featured remarks from U.S. Maj. Gen. Wallace C. Arnold, U.S. Army (Ret.), who currently serves as the director of technical development at Hampton University in Hampton, Va. Also, a presentation of honor was made to wounded warrior U.S. Army Sgt. Taria Loder.

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