Director Ava DuVernay’s award-winning film opens this Friday, March 11. I haven’t seen it, but it seems like it might be something worth checking out. The film won the Narrative Audience Award at the Urbanworld Film Festival and was recently praised by critic Roger Ebert. So, what’s it about? Here goes:
I Will Follow is a tender, thoughtful, inspiring film about love, loss and the ties that bind. Written and directed by Ava DuVernay, this award-winning drama chronicles a day in the life of a grieving woman (Salli Richardson-Whitfield), and the twelve visitors who help her move forward in a brave, new world.
The thing I find most interesting about the film is the way it’s being released. Forgoing traditional distribution, the film is the first offering from AFFRM (pronounced affirm) or the African American Film Releasing Movement. It’s an initiative started by DuVernay in conjunction with several of the black film festivals. The idea is that each of the festivals would chip in towards the cost of getting a film on a screen in their respective cities. The initiative plans to release two films per year. As a result, I Will Follow will be in five AMC Theaters around the country, so folks in NYC, LA, Atlanta, Philly and Seattle should consider supporting.
What’s important to understand is that this initiative gets at the heart of the challenge that black films face. No, it’s not getting films made. In fact, we’re finding creative ways to get films “in the can”. But the fact that film is the most financially intensive artform means that distribution–where a filmmaker can actually make his or her money back–is often a non-starter with traditional releasing companies, who are quick to cite poor box office performance as a reason not to support black indie efforts. Rather, this gets what looks to be an excellent, completed film out into venues where it can be seen.
Cool, too, is that it pairs the film with festivals that have strong ties to their respective communities, thus increasing the chances that not only will the word spread, but that we’ll come out to help make the film matter in the marketplace. Here in NYC, the effort is being supported by Urbanworld and Imagenation.