RiverRun hosts free Black Panthers screenings

by Mark Burger

The RiverRun International Film Festival has joined forces with UNC-TV and Winston-Salem State University for an exclusive “Indie Lens Pop Up” screening of Stanley Nelson’s award-winning documentary The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution Thursday on the WSSU campus in Winston-Salem.

The film was screened last year to great acclaim at the RiverRun festival, where Nelson was presented with the Master of Cinema award, and The Black Panthers also won the festival’s Audience Award.

Following the screening, there will be a community conversation moderated by Deborah Hunt Noel, senior producer at UNC-TV, with the following guests scheduled to attend: Laurens Gant, producer of the film; Larry Little, former leader of the Winston- Salem chapter of the Black Panthers and an associate professor at WSSU; Hazel Mack, another former leader of the Black Panthers Winston-Salem chapter and currently the regional managing attorney for Legal Aid of North Carolina; Paula McCoy, executive director of Neighbors for Better Neighborhoods; Corey D.B. Walker, dean of the college at WSSU; and Mona Zahir, a WSSU graduate and attorney general in the Student Government Association.

There is no charge to attend the event, but as seating is limited those planning to attend are asked to RSVP at http://members.unc-tv. org/site/Calendar?id=104161&view=Detail.

There will also be a special encore screening Wednesday, Feb. 10 at Salem College, with a community discussion likewise to follow.

“We are thrilled to have the opportunity to screen (the film) again for the community, and that RiverRun’s Films With Class has been invited to again collaborate with WSSU for the presentation, as well as with UNC-TV,” says Jane McKim, RiverRun’s community director and Films With Class program coordinator. “Thanks to this collaboration, the film will be followed by a panel of distinguished guests, including the former leaders of the Winston-Salem Black Panther party, to discuss this powerful film.”

“The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution played at RiverRun last year and drew big audiences to both of its screenings and even ended up winning our overall Audience Award,” adds Mary Dossinger, RiverRun’s program director and interim director. “The film was screened to honor our 2015 Master of Cinema award winner, Stanley Nelson, whose body of documentary film work has won just about every major award including an Emmy and the Peabody Award.”

Since its release last year, The Black Panthers has also been cited by the National Board of Review as one of the top five documentaries of 2015, and earned nominations from the Black Reel Awards and Image Awards (Outstanding Documentary), Cleveland International Film Festival (Greg Gund Memorial Standing Up award), International Documentary Association (Best Feature), Sheffield International Documentary Festival (Grand Jury Award) and Stockholm Film Festival (Best Documentary).

The film is the first in a proposed trilogy of feature documentaries about African- American history called America Revisited. The subsequent installments will be Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Historically Black Colleges and The Slave Trade: Creating a New World.

Last year, before attending RiverRun, Nelson (a three-time Emmy winner) discussed The Black Panthers as well as his other acclaimed documentaries, among them The Murder of Emmett Till (2003), Jonestown: The Life and Death of People’s Temple (2006), Freedom Riders (2010) and Freedom Summer (2014), which are renowned for presenting historical events in a comprehensive fashion that examines each point of view.

“These are stories we think we know,” he said. “People have their impressions about Jonestown or the Freedom Riders from what they’ve read or seen on the news.

“We think we know the Panthers,” he observed. “I thought I knew the Black Panthers, but this is a brand new story – so different than what I ever expected. I didn’t know exactly who they were and what they did.” !


Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution will be screened 7 pm Thursday in the Donald Julian Reaves Student Center in Campus Hall, at Winston-Salem State University, 601 S. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, Winston-Salem. There will be an encore screening 7:30 pm Wednesday, Feb. 10 at Huber Theatre at Salem College, 601 S. Church St., Winston-Salem. For more information, call 336.721.1502 or see:

The official RiverRun International Film Festival website is: