Event Recap: Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom Film Screening

by Lauren Legette


How many times have you tuned in to a Docu-film about the life of an extraordinary individual, only to be disappointed by poor acting, low budget corner cutting, or the room full of loud and distracting moviegoers who have ruined the entire experience for you?  Stopped counting?  Yes, me too.

However, Thursday, November 14, 2013 was different.  Yes, I missed Scandal (of which I heard was a totally knock out episode but I digress) for perhaps the most moving experience of my life.  I was among 200 guests invited to a New York City Screening of Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom at the Alice Tully Hall Theater.  Notable attendees included Singer Tony Bennett, TV Personality A.J. Calloway, Recording Artist Ashanti and CBS Anchor Gayle King to name a few.

The film’s Director, Justin Chadwick, who spoke of the amazing journey it took to develop this film, addressed the audience.  He shared how Producer Anant Singh spent nearly 25 years conducting research on the life of Nelson Mandela in order to vividly tell this very factual story.  Chadwick then introduced some of the actors and among them were Naomie Harris (Winnie Mandela) and Idris Elba (Nelson Mandela).

The film was absolutely extraordinary from the second it began.  It is an intense look at Mandela’s gradual rise to becoming a civil rights activist.  Viewers got an in-depth look at his fearlessness, which is so common among history’s most notable Civil Rights Leaders.  A fearlessness that Winnie Mandela, played by Naomie Harris, quickly adopted.

A feeling of heartbreak permeated the room as we watched Mandela experience the loss of his mother and son and, in many ways, the rest of his family as he sat in a jail cell for over 20 years.

We all know (or think we know) the story of Nelson Mandela.  But this film captures the very essence of his life and is without a doubt a must see.  I am so empowered by the strength of Nelson Mandela and the impact he had not just on his country but the world!  5 stars!

Following the movie premiere, there was an intimate after party where guests mingled among the actors. In a quick exchange I said to actress Naomie Harris, “I’m so proud of you!  Thank you for being such an incredible role model for someone even at my age.”  To which she replied, “Thank you so much for your support!  It means so much to me!”

About the Author, Lauren Legette
Lauren Legette is a graduate of Hampton University where she obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Broadcast Journalism. She is currently working for Fast Company Magazine in New York City.

black brown and digital panel 2013

Event Recap: High turnout for Black Brown and Digital

By Sophia Brewer

black brown and digital panel 2013

How do you launch a webseries? Well, it’s all about the audience, and in a packed stadium-style theater at MIST Harlem sat close to 200 people ready to take part in Black, Brown and Digital. In the first collaborative effort between Creatively Speaking Film Series and Project Blaq, BBdigital served as the ultimate kick-off to Internet week in NYC.  With the addition of music and food, the free event brought together the creators of web series and vloggers, or video bloggers, made by people of color for a curated discussion about the new media culture in the digital world.

Besides having the experience of being in a room with other like-minded people, Empress Varnado, assistant curator for Creatively Speaking, says this occasion was special to her because it has provided people of color the opportunity to put our own material out. “Web series are the wave of the future. We have content creators making their own stuff and not waiting for jobs to be given to them,” said Varnado.

Jasmin Goodman, Creator of Project Blaq says BBDigital was special to her because previously there was a void in the digital world. “No one had yet thought to create a community of indie black and brown filmmakers who are creating for the web. By connecting creators with their audience in a conversation about how to monetize, we are able to effectively grow this industry,” said Goodman.

After a montage of various web series trailers were shown on screen, including Lenox Avenue and Open City Mixtape, series creators were invited up to an open panel discussion on why they decided to film certain topics and how to obtain funding.

Michael Cordero, producer for East Willy B, a Latino series based in a Bushwick neighborhood that touches on subjects including gentrification and the pros and cons on the renovation of Brooklyn neighborhoods stated, “We chose this content because no one is talking about it.”

Tony Clomax, creator and director of 12 Steps to Recovery, an award-winning romantic comedy about an NYC actor getting back in the dating scene after suffering from heartache, says it’s all about getting your project to the next level. “I uploaded 21 episodes online and the show was picked up by a cable network.” The creator hired 100 actors from NYC that were featured in his film. As far as funding, Clomax used unemployment money to create episodes and pay actors. “If you want to achieve anything in life, you have to make sacrifices,” he noted. According to the director, 60 percent of his series was also shot using sponsorship money.

BBDigital attendee Cheryll Williams says the event was good and informative and a great opportunity to expose everyone to the idea of black independent films. “I thought many of the series that were shown dealt with some issues that many can relate to regardless of race or background. They covered everything from dating in NYC, to drug addiction, chasing the American Dream and even gentrification.”

Be sure to look out for future projects held by Creatively Speaking and Project Blaq as both are poised to do some great work together. “We got to work brainstorming our next event the day after BBDigital,” said Goodman.

For more information, visit and

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 Clark Atlanta University. 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.


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.”

Visit for more information.

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.