By Genoa Barrow | OBSERVER Senior Staff Writer
The movies being featured in the Sacramento International Black Film Festival aren’t as long as the feature films most people are used to watching, but organizers say folks won’t walk away feeling “short”-changed.
The festival, better known as Cine Soul, will be held at the California Railroad Museum on Sunday, August 20. The festival, in its 18th year, is part of the California Film Festival’s summer offerings. This year’s Cine Soul will feature the screening of 11 short films from promising Black filmmakers. A number of them are based in Sacramento and others created their works throughout Northern California.
The featured shorts will be: “The Reckoning,” by Alex Gonzalez, “Center of Turin,” by Mr. Hooper, “Blue Eye Shadow,” by Terrence Ivory, “Switch” by Tierra Buffin, “The Untold-The Stephon Clark Film,” by Angel Jordan, “I Can Do Anything: A Letter To Burning Man,” by Alba Roland Mejia, “Blood on the Leaves,” by Sharieff Walters, “I Used To Love Her,” by Kayla Robinson, “Looters,” by Reggie Waters, “Sweetest Vacation,” by Ryan Stevens Harris, and“Pruitt & Igoe,” by Rachel Daniels.
The shorts were selected after receiving hundreds of submissions, including ones from outside the United States.
“If you think of the assortment of films that get made throughout the world, it is our films that tell the story from the Black cultural experience,” said festival director Vincent D. Miles. “For many years that simply was not happening and if it was it was on a very limited basis. Furthermore, the manner (in which) Black folks were being portrayed was not necessarily something to be proud of. As the director of a local Black film festival, it is my duty to give my best efforts with providing a platform for Black filmmakers, young and old, to showcase their work,” he continued.
Sacramento-based filmmaker Airric Qualls produced three of the 11 featured films — “The Reckoning,” “Looters,” and “I Used To Love Her.”
Qualls, who is sometimes credited using the “government” spelling of his name — Eric —
started acting in 2018. He’d earned a degree in criminal justice from Sacramento State, but was working as a substitute teacher, after leaving a job with a known finance firm.
“I was at a crossroads of going back to the career that I’ve always wanted, which was working with the intelligence community with the FBI, CIA or something like that, or trying to give this acting thing a try,” Qualls said. “I thought, ‘If you don’t like it, you can always do what your plan was, but if you like it, you never know where it can take you.”
Going from in front of the camera to behind it, was a natural evolution for Qualls.
“The longer you stay in the industry, at least as an actor, you start to realize that it’s not good to just sit around and wait for a phone call for someone to give you a role. You need to go out there and create your own work, whether that’s writing it, helping the film get organized and funded, pretty much that’s producing, or directing it yourself,” he said.
While he’s showcasing films that have comedic and romantic slants, he’s really a fan of crime dramas, suspense, action and thrillers.
“I’ve always told myself I want to try out everything as far as genres in the industry, but my main style is kind of on the darker side with crime dramas and thrillers and suspense films. That’s kind of where I want to be.”
The beauty of film is that each viewer can walk away with something different.
“I would just like for people to walk away and see an actor and a producer who’s on the rise; one who is from Sacramento, who is doing big things,” Qualls said.
He’ll soon be launching a YouTube channel with fellow filmmaker Pharoah Harrington where they’ll show short films and skits under the banner of AK Film. Qualls appreciates the audience that the Cine Soul event provides the community to see their work.
“There’s not a whole lot of Black film festivals around,” Qualls said. “This is something that’s good for our community to help support and uplift us. Years ago, we already had a hard time getting our movies made, or at least taken seriously in the industry. Now we’re at a point in this business where we have Black directors winning Oscars and Black actors winning Oscars as well, so yeah, this is good for the community.”
Qualls, who also volunteers with Cine Soul and another festival in Redwood City, hopes to add his name to the list of notable Black filmmakers, including his inspirations Spike Lee, Antoine Fuqua and Sacramento’s own Deon Taylor.
“Our local filmmakers truly need and deserve all the support we can give them,” Miles said. “I like using that old environmental saying, ‘Think global, act local.’ One never knows where the next Ryan Coogler or Ava DuVernay may come from. Wouldn’t that be extraordinary if the next rising superstar Black filmmaker came from Sac Town?”
The California Railroad Museum is located at 125 I Street in Old Sacramento. The festival is scheduled to begin at 1:00 p.m. For more information, or to purchase tickets, go online and visit californiafilm.net.