South Side filmmakers showcase creative narrative and experimental films

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 David Weathersby moderates Reel Black Filmmakers monthly online film series 

Reel Black Filmmakers, in collaboration with the Community Film Workshop of Chicago, will present its monthly South Side Online Short Film Series, featuring creative narrative and experimental films by South Side filmmakers from the Digital Storytelling Initiative (DSI) on Wednesday, January 27th at 7 p.m. 

All films were produced through the Digital Storytelling Initiative’s Production Institute, which is a partnership with the Community Film Workshop of Chicago and the Jonathan Logan Family Foundation. Featured filmmakers include: Safiya James (The Journey); Jacqueline Foreman (The Apartment); Cornell Braggs (Get Up Myles); and Okema ‘Seven’ Gunn (Black Mama Sable). 

“These DSI cohorts were a highly motivated, selfless collective genuinely concerned about the success of each other’s projects. Collaboration was their calling card!” stated Kamau Tyehimba, filmmaker, organizer, activist, and co-founder of Reel Black Filmmakers. 

Derek Grace, filmmaker, co-convener of the Reel Black Filmmakers and lead instructor for the Production Institute, added, “I’m proud of the level of commitment and determination shown by this group of filmmakers. I’m very pleased that they worked collaboratively at every phase of production. They took full advantage of classroom instruction, as well as supplemental filmmaking resources.” 

Following the film screenings, filmmaker/videographer and the founder of City Vanguard, David Weathersby, will moderate a Q&A with the filmmakers. 

“David Weathersby is a resourceful filmmaker, who has consistently produced engaging documentaries over several years. David is always willing to share his time and knowledge with emerging filmmakers. He has been committed to the mission and work of Reel Black Filmmakers over the past six years and served as chairperson of Reel Black Filmmakers six years ago,” shared Grace. 

The South Side Online Short Film Series is FREE. Registration is required. To register, https://cfwchic.wixsite.com/website/events. 

For additional information on the Reel Black Filmmakers, contact Derek Grace, graceprd@aol.com, 312.371.4722 and for the Community Film Workshop of Chicago, contact Margaret Caples, cfwchicago@sbcglobal.net, 312.636.4412. 

The Moderator 

David Weathersby 

David Weathersby is a filmmaker/videographer and the founder of City Vanguard, an arts organization that helps independent filmmakers create community-based documentaries for educational and cultural institutions. 

As a director, he has produced films, documentaries, music videos, and video art projects. His past projects include the documentaries, “Got the Love,” “Jazz Occurrence,” “Thee Debauchery Ball,” and “The Color of Art.” His work has been featured on The Africa Channel, WTTW and various film festivals, including Pan African Film Festival, San Diego Black Film Festival, Roxbury International Film Festival, Chicago Onscreen, Chicago South Side Film Festival, Collected Voices Film Festival, Black Harvest Film Festival, Image Union Film Festival, and The Chicago Short Comedy Film Festival. 

In 2018, he was awarded a Black Excellence award for best director by the African American Arts Alliance of Chicago. 

The Filmmakers 

Safiya James 

Over the past few years, Safiya has helped hundreds of people understand and visualize their trauma through art and helped them to find their voices and stand in their true power. Ideal clients include individuals, organizations and companies who have a desire to shed light on traumatic healing by providing a voice for the misunderstood, unheard and unseen by turning their trauma into a healing experience through art and storytelling. 

Safiya is a multi-media artist with over ten years of experience creating and performing through various mediums, including storytelling, filmmaking, fiber work, steel and ceramic sculpture, and printmaking. She is a multi-talented and multi-dimensional creative director with proven skills in event planning and project management, invoking Afrofuturism to create healing experiences for communities. 

She was recently a part of American Disability Act (ADA) 30 lead-on social media team and the National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). She also organized the panel discussion for the ADA’s 30 NDEAM celebration wrap-up show. 

Jacqueline L. Foreman

Jacqueline L. Foreman is an aspiring filmmaker, creative writer, actor, director, and producer. Her love for the creative arts started at the age of 10 when she joined Summer Drama Workshop, a theater program offered by the University of Chicago. In high school, she participated in After School Matters programs that centered on theater and film production. Her favorite was learning improv with The Second City. She also joined an all-year-round youth organization called M. A. G. I. C. (Metropolitan Area Group for Uniting Civilization) created by U of C SSA Alumnus Joseph Strickland and Bryan Echols. 

One of her favorite programs within this organization was Teen Talk Chicago, a youth Television show that was created for and by teens. The show was broadcasted every week on channel 19. From there, Jacqueline has been in numerous plays and films. However, in college, Jacqueline’s love for the arts took a long pause, and now she is on a beautiful journey of getting back into the scene of things. 

Apartment” follows 29-year-old Naima, who is still living with her mother. In pursuit to live however she pleases, Naima comes across the perfect apartment. Question is… is she ready for all that responsibility?

Cornell Braggs 

Cornell Braggs is a self-taught creative within the media arts who has been active in the craft since 2009. 

One of the most influential experiences in his life came in the form of a creative friend. This friend, who had an enriched background in music, brought him his completed hip-hop CD in December of 2008. To Bragg’s surprise, there was not a curse word to be found in any of the songs. It made him feel like he was a part of something greater than himself. His friend’s words danced across Braggs’ mind like poetry, and he could visualize every syllable as if it were a motion picture. That day forever changed Bragg’s life because he was given his first major endeavor in film production. Braggs was given the opportunity to shoot and edit a video for one of the songs. Working on that video reminded him of the dream he had given up after high school. The dream that his family had decided was not for him. 

Instead of listening to his instincts, Braggs followed his family’s advice and chose a different career, but the desire to work in the film industry never left, and he is now ready to make his dream a reality. 

In the past couple of years, a whole world of media has opened up to Braggs. He had the privilege of working as a personal cameraperson for talents, such as Roy Ayers, The Last Poets and Fred Hampton Jr.. Braggs has also been a part of film sets that included, “The Inbox Interviews,” “A Sisterhood of Signatures,” “Black and Privileged,” and numerous other projects where he has been able to acquire production assistant to director of photography skills. 

Out of the many, Braggs is most proud of his involvement in “White People Money.” This feature was a five-day shoot where he was the second assistant cameraman. That production taught Braggs the reality of working on a set, as well as how to conduct himself and be a part of a film crew. A team effort was Braggs’ greatest takeaway. 

Okema ‘Seven’ Gunn 

Okema “Seven” Gunn has been an educator for over 17 years in New York City and the Chicagoland area combined. She has a bachelor’s degree in psychology and masters in secondary education in social studies. She has written movie reviews with Chicago Now and N’DIGO Magapaper. Her film work and interviews have been featured in Newsy, Chicago Sun-Times, Fox32 Chicago, Reel 36O Digital Magazine, (NPR) WBEZ Chicago-Vocalo, WVON Radio, Intellectual Radio, and much more. Her portfolio consists of blogging, film critique, filmmaking, and education. 

Recently, she wrote a monologue piece called, “Black Teacher’s Guide to the Galaxy,” which was performed at the Victory Gardens Theater in Chicago in November 2019. She wrote, directed, and produced her award-winning short film called, “A Sisterhood of Signatures,” that premiered at the Black Harvest Film Festival in August of 2019 and was nominated for a Black Excellence Award for Best Short Film Director (2019). In late 2019, Ms. Gunn also co-produced, directed and co-wrote a short film called, “Black Girl Vs. Ambiguous,” which will be premiering in 2020. 

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