From films that led to teary eyes and the clutch of a Kleenex tissue, to documentaries that were both thought provoking and inspirational, the 10 year-old Run and Shoot African-American Film Festival fueled emotions with each production that graced the screen.
Talent truly beamed through the auditorium and a sense of pride was felt after watching stories told by and about the Black community. Samantha Knowles' documentary Why Do You Have Black Dolls, filled with beautiful playthings with gorgeous Black faces, was a powerful meditation on the importance of giving our children toys that look like them. I Can Smoke, directed by Tony Ducret, was witty and suspenseful, leaving audience members confused, curious and satisfied all at the same time. Saving Malcolm from director Joseph C. Grant gave audiences goose bumps as the main character goes back in time, twenty-four hours before the assassination of Malcolm X.
Although the movies were enticing, the festival brought more than good films; it brought the simple beauty of seeing images that were uplifting, powerful and for Black people.
In the midst of the hustle and bustle of audience members that anticipated their exposure to raw talent and unforgettable images, stood the founders Floyd A. B. Rance III and Stephanie Tavares-Rance.
The dynamic duo agreed to sit down to speak about the festival’s beginning, the festival today and possible expansion.
EBONY: Why Martha’s Vineyard?
Stephanie Tavares-Rance: We picked Martha’s Vineyard because Floyd and I used to come here and vacation and date before we got married and just really loved it...one year, we rented a house on the beach with people from our town. There was all this free alcohol and food and all these people came and someone brought films just by chance. We convinced [a local theatre to] screen some films and the line was like around the block. It was crazy and I was like 'hey I think I got something here...' Flash forward to like a year or two later, Floyd did a job in Barbados and I went to go hang out with him. I was going to do [a film festival] in Barbados and I just talked to the tourism board. And at the time, they were trying to get more African Americans to come to Barbados...At that time, I had like 10-15 films the first year and Showtime was the sponsor...I don’t even know how I got the films, I think I used like "firstname.lastname@example.org!" People just sent me films in the mail without knowing who [Floyd] and I were...and then 9/11 happened. Barbados pulled out and I was like "I got these films and I got this sponsor, what am I going to do?" So I pushed it and I just said "let’s just do it in Martha’s Vineyard."
EBONY: How do you think the image of Black partnership that you and your husband reflect impacts the film festival?
STR: I think it’s very positive that younger people see that. It is hard to separate work from our married life and we have two small kids. I think it is important to see a husband and wife who have been together for twenty years. It is really positive. [Chuckles] There are some days that I definitely want to set [Floyd] on fire, but I can’t do that. I’m sure he wants to do the same to me. I think that the older people who come to the festival appreciate that and they see Floyd and I like ‘they are our kids’, because they have kids who are probably our age. They are like "oh my gosh, they are a young couple doing their thing, I want to support them!"
EBONY: What does the audience typically look like?
Floyd A. B. Rance III - The audience ranges from early twenties to about fifty-five. So we get three generations, grandparents, parents and kids. A lot of people come here for family vacations, family reunions, sorority reunions, fraternity reunions and college reunions. It’s very nice.
EBONY: Do you feel like the film festival will expand off of the island?
FR: Yeah, we have toyed with that. Every year, we contemplate doing it somewhere else [in addition to the Vineyard.] It is definitely a thought because there are a lot of people who want to come but can’t because of whatever restriction.
EBONY: How do you select the films for the festival?
FR: We have a process where we sit down and review a film once by ourselves and maybe once together and perhaps once more with panel judges. We take feedback from them and then we decipher that feedback and we move on. Some films are no brainers, and it’s easy. Other films are not accepted for whatever reason and then the ones that are really difficult are the ones that are in between. Those are the ones that you