Introducing Creatively Speaking: A Curated Film Series

By: Sophia Brewer


After coming across a large portion of African American and Latino filmmakers with high quality films, but with nowhere to exhibit them, original founding partners Kathryn Bowser and Michelle Materre decided to craft Creatively Speaking. Since 1996, Creatively Speaking has maintained a reputation as the leading curated film series that brings together a handpicked selection of high quality, entertaining and informative films and videos consisting of an in-depth look of people of the African, Latino, and Caribbean Diasporas.

By forming an exclusive partnership with Aaron Davis Hall (now Harlem Stage), Bowser and Materre began exhibiting these films on an annual basis.  In due time, Creatively Speaking would expand to other locations including Brooklyn Academy of Music, the University of the West Indies at Cave Hill, Barbados, and The New School. After a two-year hiatus, Materre, now lead curator, has re-launched Creatively Speaking at MIST Harlem, where the program has transitioned into a monthly film series.

The Creatively Speaking team with Calypso Rose after screening her film. Michelle Materre is pictured left of center, wearing red.

Assistant Curator Empress Varnado says the series is currently in the process of doing a massive facelift.  Materre has brought along Varnado and four other young professionals to help revamp and reinvigorate the series. “We want to redefine the black media experience and Creatively Speaking will serve as a hub for people of color in the entertainment industry to connect, network and share their stories,” said the assistant curator. Varnado says the selection of films is rather organic. “We generally stray away from the broad submission process, so we rely mostly on word of mouth, suggestions from other programmers, [and] attending festivals and other film series.”

Every month there is a new theme. March was dubbed “Women’s History Month,” the program entailed 12 films by up and coming women of color filmmakers. Since Earth Day will fall during April, next month’s theme will be “Urban and Green: Stories of Environmental Injustice.” The series will run from April 19-21. On May 20th, Creatively Speaking, in conjunction with Project Blaq, an online tv network for black film, will be launching a new program called Black, Brown and Digital (#BBDigital).  This onsite and online event geared towards young professionals that love hip-hop and culture, will screen the “best of” from some of today’s breakout minority stars from across the web.

Although Creatively Speaking has been receiving a high-turnout of attendees, Varnado says young professionals can show their support in a plethora of ways. “Follow us via twitter, like our Facebook page and  come to our monthly curated film programs on the third weekend of every month.”

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About the Author, Sophia Brewer

sophia-brewerSophia Brewer is a transplant to NYC from Atlanta, Ga. She obtained a M.A Journalism from Columbia
College in Chicago and received a B.A. in Broadcast Journalism from CAU. Throughout her studies, she
interned at top news stations in Chicago and Atlanta. In addition, she served as a Publicity Assistant for a
NFL player.



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