By Ka’Lya Ellis
“This Is Me” can mean many things from the food people eat to the way people talk to how they choose to dress. These are all expressions of a person’s individuality. That was the goal of the “This Is Me” HBCU Film Festival to encourage New Orleans high school and college students to express themselves through creative projects. The festival’s theme “This is Me” showcased filmmakers who created 60-second content about topics that described them. There was an award for the best submission and the prize winners in each category received a year membership to the New Orleans Video Access Center. The event took place on Nov. 30th at the New Orleans Art Center at 3330 St. Claude Ave.
“It is exciting for me to see young emerging filmmakers who are making work and taking creative risk, because I know it can be terrifying,” said Darcy McKinnon, the Executive Director for NOVAC, who served as judge of the submissions. “Congratulations to all the filmmakers and future filmmakers. I’m happy to be a part of this experience,” McKinnon said.
The winner of the film festival’s college submission category, Delaney George, a New Orleans native, has been a budding multimedia content creator, and started her own media company LanesLense LLC. while still a student at Xavier University. She received a NOVAC membership, discounted and free courses, and access to all their events for the next year.
“I’m honestly so shocked! I ended up submitting late and with it being one-minute I didn’t think the audience would understand,” George said. “It really makes me feel like I’m striving in the right direction and having an audience view my work for the first time was truly a humbling experience. I always want people to enact feeling from my work and I think that’s exactly what happened that night, and I’m so blessed for that.”
George entered two films “More Than You Know and “Hot Girl 2003,” one being a sultry and the other an upbeat take on women’s self-expression. She will be taking full advantage to her winnings, she said. “I am a strong admirer of NOVAC and all that they do so I will definitely be involved in the free event access I won, the free courses, and definitely take advantage of this opportunity to network!” George said. “It’s not every day that you win a free membership to an organization in your field, so I will definitely get the most out of my winnings for sure…. I’m still in awe I won.”
The festival also saw submissions from high school students and college faculty. Each entry had its own spin on what it was like to be a Black creative and ranged from documentary to sci-fi style films. The five entry categories were drama, comedy, documentary, high school, and faculty/staff. The event’s organizers wanted the first year’s festival to be truly a community experience bringing creative expression together from different ages, and groups in the City.
“I’m happy to be a part of something that has a space for young Black filmmakers because there are very few opportunities for us,” said Mizani Ball, a senior mass communication student, who served as chairperson for the festival.
“The theme is ‘This Is Me,’ but I want everybody to look beyond themselves and realize this is us as a culture,” said Ball, who said it was her dream to organize such an event, and who aspires to work in the film industry when she graduates from college in May 2019.
The night was not only about the films but other art forms with performances from Nubian Expressions and Xavier’s Gold Star Dancers. There was also a fashion show to support local vendors such as Vaku, Unapologetic, and Seven Fig.
“I am very proud of my film appreciation class and Xavier faculty for putting in the hard work to put on such a great show,” said Tia Smith, Assistant Professor and Department Head of Mass Communication. “And don’t worry if you didn’t get a chance to submit this year, we will be back next year!”