Stephanie and Floyd Rance hope their nascent film festival, the Color of Conversation, can someday rival what they call their “third child” — the Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival (MVAAFF), which recently became one of the few multi-cultural festivals to gain accreditation from the Oscars.
But, as with all children, one must take baby steps before running.
“The MVAAFF … that’s a massive, massive undertaking — it’s six days and nights,” Floyd said. “(Denver) is like a sampler size. We want to see what people gravitate to, but we’re sure there’s a need and a thirst for this kind of entertainment and culture.”
Color of Conversation opens Thursday at the Newman Center at the University of Denver. For three nights, The Color of Conversation will showcase about 20 offerings, including “Emanuel.” Produced by Academy Award-winning actress Viola Davis, the film tells the story of the South Carolina African Methodist Episcopal Church where nine people were killed in 2015 by a white supremacist.
Another, “Amazing Grace,” features footage of Aretha Franklin from 1972 as the late superstar recorded what the filmmakers say is the most successful gospel album of all time.
There will also be a retrospective look at the late-1980s CBS comedy “Frank’s Place.” Moderated by local cultural critic Lisa Kennedy, the program will include comments from the star of the series, Tim Reid. On Saturday, Reid is also hosting a free workshop for aspiring filmmakers.
On Friday night, the festival will take on a local flavor, with a segment devoted to works created by local artists. One, “Everything I Whispered to Dorothy,” is called “a meditation on Black Love.” Another, “BLACKFACE: the story of nobody,” by Cajardo Lindsey, is a powerful 10-minute short in which an African-American performs in a minstrel show in Blackface in 1918 and decides to go rogue.
“It’s very moving, but it’s also a somewhat hurtful piece,” Floyd said. “It hurts to hear the character … it’s only 10 minutes, but in that time your soul is stirred.”
The Rances moved to Colorado about three years ago. What was once trepidation has evolved into an appreciation for the local film scene for the former New Yorkers.
“I didn't know that there was a scene here, to be honest,” Stephanie said. “I was very pleasantly surprised and it's been very rewarding to see the passion and love from people of color.”
The MVAAFF has been going on for about 17 years. Its Academy accreditation means Stephaine and Floyd can submit films from the festival for Oscar consideration in the shorts category. Tthe Rances said they receive about 600 entries each year for the Vineyard.
“I never imagined that 17 years later we would still be doing this and that it would be so well received,” Stephanie said. “I mean, studios are calling us all the time asking if they can show our films — it’s crazy, but I’m really happy and I want to do the same for Denver.”