A noble endowment at RiverRun Festival and a special screening at UNCSA

by Mark Burger

The second time’s the charm for the RiverRun International Film Festival, having recently received a $10,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) to support travel costs for filmmakers and industry professionals to attend the festival.

This marks the second time that the festival applied for such a grant, but the first time approved.

“Federal grants require a lot of work, so this is a really cool thing,” says Andrew Rodgers, executive director of the festival. “The festival has grown a lot in the last couple of years, and this is a mark of establishment and legitimacy and acceptance.”

The festival brings more than 50 industry guests from around the world, most often filmmakers whose feature or short films are being presented during the festival, as well as special guests including Master of Cinema and Emerging Master of Cinema recipients.

“The NEA grant will allow us to focus more of our existing budget on crucial operations and marketing efforts to help make the festival a greater success than ever before,” Rodgers added in an official statement. “Because of our focus on giving audiences a broad collection of international voices and perspectives, we’ve seen the interest in our programs grow tremendously over the past few years. We are thrilled that audiences continue to look to us to provide exciting alternatives to the status quo found at local multiplexes.”

This year’s festival, which will run April 15-25, will be the largest one in the event’s history. The 2009 festival saw record-breaking attendance of over 12,000 people, a 20 percent jump in ticket sales from the 2008 festival. The festival is already offering the 2010 Ticket Sampler, a $100 ticket packet that enables the bearer to attend screenings and public festival events, all with one punch card. The Ticket Sampler is available at the Stevens Center box office (405 W. 4th St., Winston-Salem). General audience ticket sales for this year’s festival will commence March 22, 2010.

For more information about the RiverRun International Film Festival, including periodic updates, check out the official website: www.riverrunfilm. com.

The UNCSA Big Screen Film Series continues Saturday, March 6 with a special screening of actorturned-director Tim Reid’s first (and best) feature, the award-winning 1995 screen adaptation of Clifton L. Taulbert’s autobiographical best-seller Once Upon a Time… When We Were Colored.


Set in the Deep South in the years between the end of the World War II and the early rumblings of the Civil Rights movement, with events seen through the eyes of young Cliff (played by Willis Norwood Jr. as age 12 and Damon Hines as a teenager).

An all-star supporting cast includes Al Freeman Jr. (superb as the boy’s grandfather), Phylicia Rashad, Isaac Hayes, Taj Mahal, Leon, Bernie Casey, Paula Kelly, Polly Bergen, Phill Lewis and Richard Roundtree.

At the 1997 Acapulco Black Film Festival, the film received the Best Film award. Yours truly happened to catch it at the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival, and for a time my published quote for the South Florida Newspaper Network — I gave the film the highest rating of four stars — was prominent on the film’s official press release. I should know; I still have it in my files!

Some time later, I encountered Tim Reid at a film-festival party and we discussed the film at great length. (We also discussed his work with the late, great director John Frankenheimer, but that’s a story for another time.)

Some years later, when I met Richard Roundtree at the National Black Theatre Festival in Winston- Salem, and asked about the film, he unequivocally stated it was one of the best projects he’d ever been associated with — and opinion I found it impossible to disagree with. About the only “complaint” anyone had about the film is that it wasn’t seen widely enough. (I couldn’t disagree there, either.)

If you’ve never seen this film before, you’re in for something special.

Once Upon a Time… When We Were Colored is rated PG. The screening will be held in the Main Theatre of the ACE Exhibition Complex, located on the UNCSA campus (1533 S. Main St., Winston-Salem).

Tickets are $8; $2 for UNCSA students (with valid ID). All proceeds from the Big Screen Film Series will benefit the UNCSA School of Filmmaking scholarships.

For more information, see