A person can watch television and go to the movies all their life but it’s not until you attend a film festival that you fully appreciate the depth or magnitude of the independent filmmaker’s craft and the messages they hope to convey in the artistry of their work.
Gary native William “Bill” Johnson returned to Gary the weekend of February 15th and 16th to host his 8th Annual Gary Film Festival during Black History Month at the Glen Theatre.
Film Festival Director and African American Achievers Board Chairman, Dr. Vernon Smith said the first night was hosted by the NAACP. On the opening night a red carpet reception is held with food and champagne and photo opportunities against the film festivals backdrop.
For the first night the host chose relationships as the theme for films shown. The feature film selected for screening that night, “Perfectly Single” focused on the struggle women are having with Black males.
Another film titled, “If things were turned around” was about a Black cop dealing with a white citizen and how the treatment would differ.
Five films were shown, one feature film and four movie shorts, at the close all of the directors, writers and actors come to the podium and discuss the films, as well as take questions from the audience. Most of the conversations were about the feature film, “Perfectly Single” which starred the host of the Film Festival, Bill Johnson.
Dr. Vernon G. Smith, who is an Indiana State Representative said referring to Johnson, “He is a great actor and that film received the most favorably comments.” The audience evaluates the films each night, which is used to support the grant the festival receives from the South Shore Arts Commission.
The grant funds are used to cover traveling and housing expenses for the artists. This year they had 7 guests that traveled from the east and west coast, as well as several states in between. The guests come in a day early to make appearances on television and radio shows to promote the festival.
A youth film festival was held at two Gary schools — Glen Park Academy and Charter School of the Dunes earlier on the opening day. Student filmmakers showcased their works to other students and the professionals attending the festival.
The second night repeats the format of the first night, but with a different theme for the films. Dr. Smith’s favorite film that night was “Letting Go” because of the surprise twist in the ending.
Sponsors included the AKA Sorority, NAACP Gary Branch, Froebel Alumni Park Committee, Sororities Delta Sigma Theta, Zeta Phi Beta, and Sigma Gamma Rho. Fraternities Omega Psi Phi – AKK Chapter, Bea’s Classy Ladies, Brothers Keeper, Feed My Sheep Resource Center, Inc., Xinos & Kudos, The Blind Social Center, Higher Education Matters, Red Roses and the First AME Missionary Church.