31 Mar 2011
- Written by Tri-State Defender Newsroom
Rosetta Miller-Perry, a newspaper publisher and civil rights activist, says executive director Sallie Mayne and artistic director Brian Owens have, “disregarded her advice, refused to allow her to participate or even preview various contenders for this year’s Best Black Filmmaker Award,” which she sponsors and which is presented in her name.
In previous years, said Miller-Perry, “I’ve been given several films in the black filmmaker category and permitted to select the winner.”
The Nashville Film Festival, through Joe Pagetta, media relations manager, issued this response to the concerns in Miller-Perry’s letter.
“We are thankful for Mrs. Miller Perry’s contribution and participation in the Nashville Film Festival (NaFF) these past years, and look forward to again awarding our Black Filmmaker Award this year. We are proud of the quality and diversity of our film programming, and believe our 2011 lineup of more than 200 films from more than 40 countries speaks for itself.
“We stand by the integrity of our film pre-screening process, as well as our committee, board and jury selection processes. We are continually inspired by the talent and experience that artistic director Brian Owens brings to his position and the advancement of film in this community.”
Miller-Perry publishes the weekly Tennessee Tribune newspaper and has has supported the Festival with financial contributions and several weeks of free advertising and promotions. Miller Perry said she and her late husband, L.O.P Perry, Md, began support of the Festival, “long before the Black community was invited to participate.”
Miller-Perry said she is not in conflict with any other Festival participants, adding that, “there is not a balanced approach to or appreciation for Nashville’s diverse cultural and ethnic composition by the Festival.” She notes that there are no tributes or days that are dedicated to Native Americans or Asians.
The Festival’s procedure of having the artistic director (Owens) individually view and select more than 200 film screenings each year draws vehement opposition from Miller-Perry. Her letter points out that many festivals have juries or committees that screen and then vote on which films will be shown during the festival to ensure diversity and avoid racial or cultural bias.
“The very idea that this particular festival could send African-American opinion makers again to the back of the bus, and not only disregard, but refuse to provide an opportunity for ethnic groups to participate in this important artistic decision process, is offensive to me, and to many of my friends, who have been faithful supporters of the Nashville Film Festival since they begrudgingly let us in after 35 years of exclusion,” said Miller-Perry.
There should be an investigation of who selects the board of directors and their qualifications, said Miller-Perry, a former federal investigator, and retired director of the United States Equal Employment Commission.