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Must-see films at this year’s IBFF

Five Easy Pieces


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Black Nation (1 p.m. Sept. 30, Bishop Joseph Johnson Black Cultural Center, Vanderbilt)

Swedish director Matts Hjelm's documentary spotlights one of the nation's most controversial religious figures, Rev. Jaramogi Menelike Kimathi, bishop of the Shrine of the Pan African Orthodox Christian Church in Detroit. Few churches are more involved in every facet of their members' daily lives, from political to social, and Bishop Kimathi dismisses the notion a theological mission should be kept separate from a secular one. Hjelm, whose father was also a director, visually examines the wreckage of Detroit following the auto industry's demise and explores the mass exodus that's seen the city's population dwindle. Kimathi's views are, to put it mildly, militant and unorthodox, and this is a fascinating portrait of a church that's alternately loved, hated and feared.

Frederick Douglass and the White Negro (2:30 p.m. Sept. 30, Bishop Joseph Johnson Black Cultural Center, Vanderbilt)

Though he's been called by some "the 19th century Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.," that tag doesn't do justice to the impact and influence Frederick Douglass enjoyed in an era when most blacks weren't even considered human beings, let alone received audiences with the president. John J. Doherty's documentary not only covers his escape from slavery, subsequent marriage to Anna Murray and involvement in the women's suffrage movement, but Douglass' journey to Ireland and that trip's affect on him. For many this segment will be the doc's revelation, as Douglass witnessed incredible suffering and poverty during the great famine and became the friend and comrade of a varied crew.

A Screaming Man (6:45 p.m. Sept. 30, Sarratt)

Winner of the Jury Prize at Cannes this year, the fourth film from Paris-based, Chad-born Mahamat Saleh Haroun (Daratt) continues his cinematic probe of the way civil war has hit various African nations. This time he returns to his native land, with Youssouf Djaro portraying a former Central African swimming champion now resigned to a dull existence as a hotel lifeguard. To secure his position, he elects to make a terrible offering to the civil war raging outside. A major coup for the festival — it makes its U.S. premiere in Nashville just weeks after its high-profile berth in Toronto — the French/Arabic-language film offers IBFF audiences a rare glimpse of current events in a nation that's seldom shown on the nightly news.

Voices of the South (12:30 p.m. Oct. 1, Bishop Joseph Johnson Black Cultural Center, Vanderbilt)

Rap began in New York's streets, then spread across the nation — but over the past decade the South has staked its own claim as a hip-hop center. Travis Pearson's documentary takes a thorough look at the rise of rap and hip-hop culture in the land of the blues, jazz, soul and gospel. It's not only become the dominant youth sound, but the centerpiece of a thorny generational conflict that at times has threatened to break out into open warfare. Pearson focuses predominantly on younger fans who've grown up with Southern hip-hop and rap, and he probes how the music, lyrics and fashions reflect their outlook on life, love and politics.

35 And Ticking (7:15 p.m. Oct. 1, Sarratt)

The latest from radio host turned filmmaker Russ Parr has already gotten plenty of exposure in Essence magazine, thanks to an interview with star Tamala Jones. She plays a successful, married professional who's baffled because her husband has no interest in having children. But as she pursues the issue, she discovers fear of children isn't his only or even main issue — leading to far more troubling secrets. Parr not only peels back the tensions many couples face regardless of skin color, but the special tensions many black women face as they near middle age.

Note: Show times and venues updated on this page Sept. 29. For more information and a full schedule, see


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