Pick the top African-American films

August 13, 1999|By Ann Hornaday | Ann Hornaday,SUN FILM CRITIC

The Heritage Shadows of the Silver Screen Museum and Cinema is launching a national campaign to select the 50 greatest African-American movies and actors of the 20th century. Heritage founder Michael Johnson announced the campaign Wednesday at a luncheon at City Hall, where Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, City Council representatives Sheila Dixon, Helen Holton and Rochelle "Ricki" Spector and other dignitaries saw clips from the pending HBO movie "Introducing Dorothy Dandridge."

A theatrical screening of the film next week at the Senator Theatre will officially kick off the campaign, Johnson said. "Introducing Dorothy Dandridge," which stars Halle Berry as the first African-American actress ever to be nominated for an Oscar for best actress, will air on HBO on Aug. 21.

"Actors of color of the past are being introduced to another generation," Johnson said, referring to the HBO film. "And present-day actors of color are playing everything from presidents to mad scientists and are being nominated for their work. But who are, who were, the people of vision and talent when film was in its early stages and America was not in its best stages? What drove these fearless, talented people to create movies and create characters that at times made you ashamed, and others made you proud?

Johnson noted that when the American Film Institute chose the 100 most important movies and stars of the century, only one African-American movie and one African-American actor made the lists. But Johnson was quick to point out that "this is not a protest. It's a celebration."

The voting process will begin officially at the "Introducing Dorothy Dandridge" screening, which is sold out (some tickets are still available through radio promotions). Voters can pick up ballots at the Senator Theatre, 5904 York Road, and the payment center at TCI Communications corporate headquarters, 5801 Metro Drive in the Seton Business Park. The movies nominated must have been released no later than Nov. 30, 1999. Voting ends Dec. 1, 1999. Results will be announced Feb. 1.

Supporting the Orpheum

Orpheum owner George Figgs will throw a rent party for the beloved Fells Point cinema on Sept. 12 at the Charles Theatre, 1711 N. Charles St. Baltimore filmmaker Steve Yeager will show outtakes from the movies he has shot of John Waters over the years and will play host at the event. Joy Lusco and Scott Kecken will show a trailer from their coming documentary about Arabbers, and avant-garde filmmaker Martha Colburn will show her recent films.

Figgs is currently restructuring the Orpheum to become a nonprofit film co-op and archive, where historical films, microcinema, documentaries and rare art films will be screened. The New Orpheum would also be a film center where filmmakers and fans could network, Figgs said.

Tickets are available for a donation of $25. Send a check to the Orpheum Cinema, 1724 Thames St., Baltimore, Md. 21231. Include a self-addressed stamped envelope for the tickets. Figgs notes that since the Orpheum has not yet attained nonprofit status, donations are not tax-deductible.

In Little Italy

That was John Pente, the man behind the Open-Air Italian Film Festival, splashed across the front page of the New York Times on Wednesday. Times reporter Francis X. Clines interviewed the Little Italy icon, as well as festival organizers Tom Kiefaber and Mary Ann Cricchio, in a article about the most successful Baltimore film event of the summer.

The festival, which has drawn hundreds of filmgoers to the corner of High and Stiles streets to watch movies al fresco, continues this evening with a screening of "Enchanted April," the fanciful Tuscan romance starring Polly Walker, Miranda Richardson and Joan Plowright, at 9 p.m. As always, bring a lawn chair for your comfort and get into the mood at one of the neighborhood's eateries before escaping to Italy, if only for a few hours. Admission is free and open to the public.

More outdoor fare

The Columbia Lakefront Summer Festival continues its outdoor family film series tonight with a screening of "You've Got Mail" (PG), last year's Meg Ryan-Tom Hanks romantic comedy. Monday's movie will be "Babe: The Gallant Pig," starring the sweetest porker since Elmer. The films begin promptly at dusk on the lawn at the Columbia Town Center Lakefront (Lake Kittamaqundi), off Little Patuxent Parkway. It is free and open to the public.

`Replacements' extras

"The Replacements," the comedy about a group of unlikely heroes during an NFL strike that began filming in Baltimore this week, will be holding two huge casting calls this weekend. The movie needs 20,000 extras each day for crowd scenes in the film. Extras will be needed all day each day. Gates open at 9 a.m. Park in lots B and C, and go to Gate A. Filming begins at 10 a.m. and will run through 6 p.m. For information, call 410-481-CAST.

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