By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
OKLAHOMA CITY – The Capital City Black Film Festival (CCBFF) will host its eighth annual film competition December 4-6 in Austin, Texas. This year’s virtual event will deliver a “best-in-class experience with thought-provoking programming, virtual networking opportunities, and films and music videos presented by talented filmmakers from across the globe,” organizers said.
Filmmakers and film enthusiasts will have the opportunity to stream this year’s festival on capcitybff.com.
CCBFF’s 2020 theme “Breakthrough: Unleash Your Power” will explore the impact racism plays on the mental health of Black people, specifically Black creatives.
Through an in-depth examination of the state of Black mental health, “CCBFF will highlight stories that explore issues involving mental health, racism and discrimination and offer pathways towards the healing for African diaspora,” the press release stated.
“Our country is at a critical juncture which provides an opportunity to reexamine our past and dismantle the very things that have kept Black people in bondage for centuries,” said CCBFF Executive Director Winston G. Williams. “Black writers, directors, producers and filmmakers have been essential to telling the stories of our trauma and exposing these ills, but they, too, have been affected.”
“Each year, we identify what our community of creatives need to thrive in this industry,” he continued. “For our eighth annual festival, we are using our platform to help filmmakers break the chains of racism and oppression while unlocking their power to create and impact change in the world.”
Over the years, submissions have come from a range of countries including the U.S., South Africa, United Kingdom, France, Australia, Brazil, Japan, and Canada.
As reported by The City Sentinel, in 2018, long-time Capital City festival supporter JuVee Productions screened the documentary series The Last Defense, executive produced by Academy Award winning actress Viola Davis and her husband Julius Tennon.
The docu-series, which aired on ABC, was co-executive produced by Andrew Wang for JuVee Productions; Christine Connor and Lee Beckett for XCON Productions; and Vanessa Potkin, Aida Leisenring, Morgan Hertzan, and Gemma Jordan for Lincoln Square Productions.
The Last Defense examines the case of Julius Jones, a 19-year-old African-American honor student, who was arrested in 1999 and sentenced to death in 2002 for the carjacking murder of a white businessman, in Edmond, Oklahoma. Twenty one years later and having exhausted his appeals, Jones maintains his innocence.
The series revealed critical findings from Julius’ legal team, Dale Baich and Amanda Bass, which they believe could be a violation of Jones’s constitutional rights to a fair trial.
“We were thrilled to screen The Last Defense for our audience and give them an opportunity to learn what it took to create this powerful series,” said Williams.
“JuVee Productions has supported the festival from its inception and we were grateful to integrate this series into our festival line-up,” Williams added. “We were confident that this screening would inspire filmmakers and creatives to develop content that is fueled by passion to ultimately promote positive change in the world.”
Tennon, JuVee Productions President of Development and Production said, “The success of The Last Defense not only resulted in a re-examination of Julius Jones’s death row case, it has revealed that miscarriages of justice happen each day. We are hopeful that by highlighting these cases, it will encourage others to use their platforms and gifts to draw attention to issues of injustice.”
The Last Defense was co-executive produced by Academy award winning actress Viola Davis, Julius Tennon and Andrew Wang for JuVee Productions; Christine Connor and Lee Beckett for XCON Productions; and Vanessa Potkin, Aida Leisenring, Morgan Hertzan, and Gemma Jordan for Lincoln Square Productions.
“The Last Defense put a spotlight on Julius Jones’s case by telling a compelling story about the injustices and racism at play in his case and throughout the criminal justice system as a whole,” Baich said.
“The prosecution’s case against Julius has always rested on a shaky foundation, and the documentary further exposed that fact. Following a conviction, and as a case moves through the courts, procedural technicalities often prevent judges from looking at new and compelling evidence that a person’s constitutional rights have been violated.
“A documentary, unhindered by these technicalities, can educate members of the public about a case, help them understand what happened, and allow them to decide whether to hold their public officials accountable for what went wrong.” Baich added.
“We wanted The Last Defense to be a wake-up call to ordinary citizens that people can be sentenced to death on very little and unreliable evidence,” said Leisenring. “I am overjoyed that viewers became so emotionally invested in Julius Jones. It is this kind of momentum that can save a life and overturn a wrongful conviction. I feel hope.”
Capital City Black Film Festival is made possible from the ongoing support from sponsors including Austin Convention Center and the City of Austin’s Cultural Arts Division Office.
Submissions are open and filmmakers are invited to submit via Film Freeway by Sept. 30. Only films created on or after Jan. 1, 2019 will be considered. Films must be in English or have English subtitles. CCBFF alumni and students currently enrolled in a college or university receive a 50 percent submission discount.