BronzeLens Film Festival tackles pandemic, social justice issues

Scene from "The Ball Method," a new short film that tells the story of Alice Ball, an African American chemist who discovered a treatment for leprosy in 1915. CONTRIBUTED
Scene from "The Ball Method," a new short film that tells the story of Alice Ball, an African American chemist who discovered a treatment for leprosy in 1915. CONTRIBUTED

Credit: BronzeLens Film Festival

Credit: BronzeLens Film Festival

Film lovers and those interested in a career in the business can get real talk from some of the most powerful figures in cinema and television during the 11th Annual BronzeLens Film Festival, which runs through Sunday.

This year, the festival, which highlights films covering the diaspora and Blacks in the industry, is virtual due to the pandemic.

There are panel discussions and screenings, all of which are free. For a schedule and to register, go to www.bronzelens.com.

The foundation of the festival is “to educate our community and to provide a platform for the untold stories of people of color from across the globe,” said Executive Producer Kathleen Bertrand. “The festival’s community outreach and collaborations throughout the year continue to give a voice to our stories beyond the festival.”

The BronzeLens festival is an Academy Award qualifying festival in the shorts category, which means that the winner of the festival’s best short film award becomes eligible to be submitted to the academy for consideration.

Here’s a brief look at the rest of the week:

A two-part “Powerhouse Conversations” with the Reel Divas will be held from 4 to 6 p.m. Friday. The program will be moderated by Lisa Cunningham and begins with the topic “Producing in the Pandemic,” followed by “Content That Matters.”

Panelists for “Producing in the Pandemic” include Terri J. Vaughn, actress and director; Dianne Ashford, producer.

The second segment, “Content That Matters,” addresses how the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement have filmmakers rethinking the work they create.

Panelists include Angi Bones, producer, director and showrunner; and Wendy Eley Jackson, producer, director and media and film professor.

At 4 p.m Saturday, there will be a panel on black couples in the business, including actress and director Salli Richardson Whitfield and actor Dondré Whitfield.

Highlights on Sunday include a noon “Brunch With the Brothers” featuring Roger Bobb, president and producer of Bobbcat Films; director and and Urban Movie Channel Chief Content Officer Brett Dismuke.

The festival will also hold its awards program honoring the “Best of Festival” awards in categories including the best in features, documentaries and international films.

Festival organizers had to do a 180-degree turnaround to go from in-person to virtual as a result of COVID-19.

The pandemic has hit the industry in a number of ways, said Bertrand.

“Additionally, many of our supporters are also hurting, and so funding is down sharply,” she said. " As a nonprofit organization, we rely heavily on corporate and other donations, which just aren’t there this year. We have had to eliminate all public engagements and screenings for the safety of our team and our film lovers.

“From the production side, filmmaking and new television production came to a complete halt,” she said. “Actors and crew members went home, and real jobs, including movie theaters, have been lost. This was worldwide, not just in Georgia. Now that guidelines by the union and the CDC are in place, productions are slowly coming back, but nothing like before at this time. Production costs have increased substantially as the costs of COVID-19 protocols, which may include PPE, distancing and testing, have added to budgets.”

On the other hand, Bertrand said, those who work in the industry in front of and behind the camera have been busy.

“Based on the many discussions that I’ve had with persons in the industry,” she said, “several are involved in new collaborations for new content, while others are turning to social media productions.”