Friday, October 26, 2007

American Ethnic Cleansing Explored in “Banished”, November 2nd

Groups Work Together to Host Seattle Premiere of Critically Acclaimed Film

Seattle, WA – Filmmaker Marco Williams will be on hand to discuss his widely acclaimed documentary, “Banished” as part of the Langston Hughes African American Film Festival Underground Railroad Film Series in partnership with the Seattle Office of Civil Rights and the Seattle Art Museum. The film will screen for the community Friday, November 2nd at 1PM at the Seattle Art Museum and 7pm at the Rainier Valley Cultural Center. Williams will also participate as guest speaker in the Seattle Race Conference held on Saturday, November 3 at the Seattle Center. Both events are open to the public.

BANISHED chronicles both the history and legacy of three southern Counties who practiced violent eviction of Black communities, burning their homes, lynching the men and appropriating their land.

New York Times writer Manhola Dargis describes this infamous period in history as a time when “Reconstruction died, and Jim Crow moved right in.” Director Marco Williams’ film patiently addresses this American tragedy with an unflinching and thoughtful investigation of racism, responsibility and land ownership.

The film not only reflects on the past, but also explores the impact on the descendants of these communities whose combination of silence and shame beg the questions of history, memory and contemporary justice। Throughout the film, Williams searches the recollections of current and past residents whose stories reveal the resident’s myopic sensibility, which keeps these towns mostly white today. Williams’ film delves into the impact of these violent expulsions and reframes the notion of reparations, providing thoughtful context to this complex subject.

The three counties studied, Forsyth County (Georgia), Pierce City (Missouri) and Harrison (Arkansas) remain virtually all white and their victims’ descendants remain uncompensated.
Filmmaker Marco Williams interviews both groups. Described as handsome, soft-spoken, articulate and unfailingly polite, critics site Williams as the perfect foil for drawing out KKK members and guilty liberals alike. He takes an incendiary subject and through force of personality weaves a thoughtful investigation of racism, responsibility and real estate.

Williams will be on hand Friday evening to introduce the film. The screening will be followed with discussion hosted by the Langston Hughes African American Film Festival and partners at the Rainier Valley Cultural Center. On Saturday, Williams will participate in the Seattle Race Conference, bringing excerpts of the film and inviting the conference's 300 participants to reflect on the work. Williams and co producers Working Films and the Center for Investigative Reporting have launched a national outreach program to discuss the issues raised in the film.

The Race Conference keynote will be presented by Dr. James Gregory, Director of the University of Washington Seattle Civil Rights and Labor History Project with presentation titled, "Remembering Segregated Seattle and the Civil Rights Movements that Changed Our City. This screening, community discussion and connection to the Seattle Race Conference will provide a powerful platform for Seattle and King County audiences to address our history and provide context for the issues of racism faced yet today across the country and in our own back yard.

The Langston Hughes African American Film Festival and Underground Railroad Film Series are programs of Seattle Parks and Recreation’s Langston Hughes Performing Arts Center. The Seattle Race Conference is presented by a coalition of community groups in partnership with the Seattle Office for Civil Rights and the Seattle Center. The Seattle Art Museum is the Pacific Northwest’s premiere venue for art, with more than 23,000 objects from across cultures, exploring the connections between past and present, connecting people to art.

Screening Date/Time/Location

Date: Friday, November 2, 2007

Time: 1PM City of Seattle Staff & 7PM Public Screening Doors at 6:30 ($5 suggested donation)

Location: 1PM Seattle Art Museum ; 7PM Rainier Valley Cultural Center

For info on the Langston Hughes Underground Railroad Film Series-

To register for the Race Conference visit

For info on SAM, visit

Film Facts:

(USA 2007) 87 Minutes Official Website

Director/Producer : Marco Williams

Co-Producer: Maia Harris

Editors: Kathryn Barnier, Sandra Christie

Camera: Stephen McCarthy

Sound: J.T. Takagi

Music Composed by: David Murray


BANISHED won the Grand Jury Prize for Best Documentary at the Miami International Film Festival, the Spectrum Award at the Full Frame Film Festival, and the Nashville Film Festival's Best Documentary Award.


“Williams plays on a distinctly American sense of decency by appealing to his audience's notion of property rather than justice: "We wanted to reintroduce the thought of reparation or reconciliation around an idea that's perhaps more tangible to people than solely reparation for slavery."” Charlie Olsky, Indie Wire

“Williams's very presence in the all-white communities he documents is a canny litmus test ... It doesn't matter that Williams is Harvard-educated, or that he's articulate and hip. As our director sits at a kitchen table in Harrison, Arkansas, listening to the local Klan leader matter-of-factly disclose his disdain for blacks, it's painfully clear that in many small (and large) towns throughout America, the legacy of banishment remains: Black people are not only unwelcome, but unsafe. Just ask the Jena 6.” Lisa Katzman, Village Voice

“It’s stunning how loudly the dead can speak, and with such eloquence.”
– Manohla Dargis, The New York Times

“Goes the extra mile by confronting the descendants of the perpetrators.”
– Time Out NY

“With a forceful and disturbing, and at the same time emotionally resonant sense of investigative inquiry, Williams fearlessly burrows into the depths of this hidden history with brave, unrelenting determination. A rare treasure in the annals of cinema.”

– Prairie Miller,
WBAI Radio

“Investigates the distressing and awkward situation that arises when African-American families
return to land where their ancestors were forced to retreat in the face of domineering racism.
Rather than following an activist agenda, Williams’s intelligent personal narrative raises
monumental questions surrounding ownership and retribution.”

Eric Kohn, New York Press

“A deft drilling down into a little-known or consciously forgotten-about piece of American history.
An important film that renegotiates the issue of reparations.”
– Williams Cole, The Brooklyn Rail

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Underground Railroad Film Series: Stop #3

The Langston Hughes African American Film Festival Underground Railroad Film Series presents

THIS IS NOLLYWOOD, Thursday, November 15, 2007 – location TBA. Please call (206)326-1088 or visit or for updated news about location. $5 suggested donation at the door.

56 minutes, 2007, Nigeria. Producer: Franco Sacchi and Robert Caputo. Associate Producer: Aimee Corrigan; Director: Franco Sacchi

First came Hollywood, then Bollywood and now Nollywood, Nigeria’s booming film industry, which released 2000 feature features in 2006 alone. Where else can you shoot a full-length dramatic film for $10,000 in 7 days? Until recently little known outside its own country, THIS IS NOLLYWOOD explains why Nigerian video production is becoming recognized as a phenomenon with broad implications for the cultural and economic development of Africa.

The industry is wholly self-sustaining, receiving no foreign or government assistance. Directors of these films are proud to admit that their intended audience is the average Nigerian not international film festivals. There are an amazing 55,000,000 video players in Nigeria reaching 90% of the population.

Before the rise of Nollywood, Nigerians saw mostly American Westerns, Hong Kong Kung Fu movies and Bollywood musicals. In contrast, Nollywood appeals to a hunger for indigenous stories with characters and situations audiences can easily relate to. The popularity of these films has spread across English-speaking Africa and their stars have become celebrities from Zambia to Ghana. Nollywood also provides a vital, constantly up-dated link between the vast Nigerian diaspora and their home culture. Thousands of Nigerian films are already available to immigrants to the United States both on DVD and over the internet.

The Nollywood phenomenon is doubtless an expression of the resourcefulness and vigor of Nigerian society. But it also raises questions about the potential social impact of commercial cinema, especially in the developing world. Does Nollywood in fact depict daily Nigerian life any more accurately or incisively than Hollywood portrays American society? Does it dare expose the kleptocracy which for forty years has kept its citizens impoverished by pocketing the nation’s immense oil wealth? As for cultural preservation, Nollywood narratives seem more influenced by international genres like the action thriller and the soap opera than Yoruba drama or Ibo folk tales. Can we reasonably hope that a cinematic Chinua Achebe or Wole Soyinka will emerge out of the frenetic deal-making of Lagos? Superstar Saint Obi optimistically predicts that “I believe very soon we are not only going to have better movies, we’ll have that original Nigerian movie.” For the time being, hard-pressed Nigerians are at least getting their own version of the vicarious excitement and undemanding escapism, which have become the prime commodities of the Information Age. For us, these films may give clearer insights into the apprehensions and aspirations of the average Nigerian than any documentary or political drama.

This documentary film is a partial but intensely focused image from a dense picture—the current cinematic phenomenon in Nigeria which its title proclaims. With an admirable sense of humor, it captures the gritty and confounding optimism that keeps Nigeria going, against all rational expectations. In its innovative approach to narrative and the contingencies of production characteristic of the industry, This is Nollywood becomes the drama it seeks to document, without losing direction.

Akin Adesokan, Indiana University

This is Nollywood captures the problems and dynamism of making movies in Nigeria while giving a vibrant introduction to this fast growing movie industry. Dealing with rainstorms, missing stars, and power cuts, we see the pressure on Nigerian moviemakers and the guerilla filmmaking they have invented to cope. As the director Bond Emeruwa says, “In Nollywood we don’t count the walls, we have learned ways to climb them”.

Brian Larkin, Barnard College; Columbia University