Amplifying Voices Schedule
Friday, February 3rd at 7PM
Feature Film and Opening Reception
The Sit-In: Harry Belafonte Hosts The Tonight Show
Documentary, directed by Yoruba Richen, USA, 75 minutes
Q&A to follow with:
- Professor Jamie Wilson of Salem State University
- Associate Professor Elizabeth Matelski, Endicott College
In early February 1968, racial tensions were inflaming the nation and a divisive election was underway. America was exploding politically and culturally, much like today.
That week, trailblazing entertainer and activist Harry Belafonte took over the Tonight Show for an unprecedented week. Harry featured a stunning combination of guests, including Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy, Lena Horne, Paul Newman, Wilt Chamberlain, Aretha Franklin, and Bill Cosby.
And this week was almost lost to history.
“The Sit-In: Harry Belafonte’s Tonight Show” tells this story through contemporary interviews with Belafonte, Whoopi Goldberg, Questlove and many others. The interviews with Dr. King and Robert F. Kennedy are among their last television appearances before both were assassinated.
“The Sit-In” also unearths unknown audio and photos of this week and illuminates how the week changed television culture, opening it up to entertainers of color, and fusing art and politics in a singular way.
Saturday, February 4th at 4PM
Shorts Series: A Slice of History
Strike For Freedom: Frederick Douglass in Scotland
Directed by Parisa Urquhart, Scotland, 15:41
Frederick Douglass, a world-renowned author, orator and activist had a major impact on Scotland. His lifelong mission was to ‘tell the story of the slave’ and when he fled to the UK after exposing his slaveholders’ name and deeds, he fell in love with Scotland and the Scots fell in love with him. At the time the Scots saw Douglass as the icon of the freedom struggle. It’s only now that Scotland is finally acknowledging this.
When I Get Grown: Reflections of a Freedom Rider
Directed by Chris Preitauer, USA, 30:50
Trauma experienced by a seven-year-old sets him on a course to become a civil rights legend and change the course of a nation.
A Call to Action: the Freedom Budget of 1966
Directed by Jenny Alexander, USA, 7:30
Q&A with Jenny Alexander to follow.
“A Call to Action: The Freedom Budget of 1966” tells the story of a little known grassroots push for guaranteed income during the civil rights movement.
Jenny Alexander is an independent filmmaker and senior producer at Northern Light Productions. Her work at Northern Light Productions includes directing and producing documentaries for broadcast on PBS and the Discovery Channel, museums and the National Park Service, as well as interactive media exhibits for museum settings. She recently concluded an immersive exhibit featuring an animated film projected on a 40’ curved wall for the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21.
Jenny’s award-winning independent films, The Vigil and Detained focused on the impact of U.S. immigration policies on families and have screened at festivals in Tel Aviv, Poland, Germany and China as well as within the US. Prior to film, Jenny worked as a community organizer with immigrant youth and as a union organizer for the United Farm Workers and with the Puerto Rican Worker’s Union (Sindicato Puertorriqueño de Trabajadores). She is currently in production on an independent documentary about the immigrant-majority city of Chelsea, Massachusetts and the community’s response to the COVID pandemic.
The Significance of Sidney: A Black Film Mini Lecture
Directed by Mike Dennis, USA, 38:24
In 1964, he became the first Black man to win an Academy Award for best actor for his role in “Lilies of the Field.” His body of work also includes “In the Heat of the Night,” and “To Sir with Love.” Film historian Charles Woods shares his insights on the career of pioneering actor Sidney Poitier.
Saturday, February 4th at 7PM
Feature Film and Closing Reception
Omar Sosa’s: 88 Well-Tuned Drums
Documentary, directed by Soren Sorenson, USA, 99:00
Q&A with Soren Sorenson to follow.
OMAR SOSA’S 88 WELL-TUNED DRUMS is a feature-length documentary film on the life and music of Cuba-born pianist and composer, Omar Sosa (b. 1965). Multiple Grammy-nominee Omar Sosa is one of the most versatile jazz artists on the scene today. He fuses a wide range of jazz, world music, and electronic elements with his native Afro-Cuban roots to create a fresh and original sound—with a Latin jazz heart.
Extensive interviews with Omar Sosa, archival video and stills, and, of course, a lot of music form the backbone of the film, with animated segments bringing bold and colorful movement to Sosa’s stories, especially early ones for which there is no supporting material. The film traces Sosa’s artistic origins from his birth and childhood in Camagüey, Cuba’s third-largest city, conservatory education at the prestigious Escuela Nacional de Música in Havana, military service in Angola during that country’s long civil war, and eventual relocation to Ecuador where, for a time, he wrote, arranged, and performed commercial jingles. Sosa’s story continues with a fateful mid-90s move to the U.S., a stint as a sought-after sideman in the Bay Area’s burgeoning Latin jazz scene, and partnership with longtime manager Scott Price that continues to this day. In his 25+ years as a solo artist, Omar Sosa has released over 30 albums and received four Grammy nominations and three Latin Grammy nominations. Often performing as many as 100 concerts across six continents annually, Sosa is known for a rhythmic style and musical influences and collaborators as diverse as his travel itinerary. As Eugene Holley writes in a 2004 Village Voice piece that inspired the film’s title, “Sosa’s pianisms evoke distant echoes of McCoy Tyner’s power, Keith Jarrett’s improvisational flights of fancy, and Thelonious Monk’s angular harmonies, transforming the piano into 88 well-tuned drums.”
Soren Sorensen is an award-winning filmmaker and educator specializing in documentary production. His first feature-length documentary, My Father’s Vietnam (2016), combines interviews and never-before-seen photographs and footage, to tell the story of three soldiers, only one of whom returned from that War alive. The film premiered at the 2015 Rhode Island International Film Festival, where it won the Soldiers and Sacrifice Grand Prize. My Father’s Vietnam is currently available on streaming video-on-demand platforms and on Blu-ray and DVD. Sorensen’s short, With Dad (2021), chronicles American photographer Stephen DiRado’s 20-year project documenting his father’s decline and eventual death from Alzheimer’s disease. With Dad, based DiRado’s book of the same name, premiered at the 2020 Rhode Island International Film Festival, winning the Youth Jury First Prize for Best Short Documentary. With Dad went on to win awards at the the Massachusetts Independent Film Festival, the Mystic Film Festival, the New York City Independent Film Festival, and the Red Dirt Film Festival. The film is currently streaming at WGBH.org. Sorensen’s second feature-length documentary, Omar Sosa’s 88 Well-Tuned Drums, had its world premiere in 2022 at the USA Film Festival in Dallas, TX. The film is a frenetic and freewheeling biography of the Grammy-nominated Cuban pianist and composer, Omar Sosa. Since leaving Cuba 30 years and 30 albums ago, Sosa has grown into one of the most unpredictable and uncompromising artists on the scene today. Omar Sosa’s 88 Well-Tuned Drums is a portrait of an artist deeply connected to his Cuban roots and tirelessly seeking evolution beyond the genre tags — fusion, jazz, world, etc. — that fail to define his work. Since its premiere, the film has appeared at over 30 film festivals and won several awards, including prizes at the Albuquerque Film+Music Experience, Hamptons Doc Fest, Rhode Island International Film Festival, and the Massachusetts Independent Film Festival. Soren Sorensen is an associate teaching professor of Screen Studies at Clark University in Worcester, MA.