3 Films Meant To Bring About Change At The Roxbury International Film Festival

For 19 years, the Roxbury International Film Festival (RIFF) has brought buried voices to the forefront to entertain, to educate and, whenever possible, to spur viewers into action. The festival — for, by and about people of color — boasts over 60 films from a variety of genres this year.

“We have so many films that tell stories that people don’t even know about. I love when people come out of a movie thinking, ‘I had no idea,’ ” says Lisa Simmons, founder and president of the Color of Film Collaborative and director of RIFF.

She talks animatedly about the history of RIFF (which starts Thursday, June 22) and her passion for film, but it’s obvious that the festival’s audience holds a special place in her heart.

“They want to be entertained, but they also want to be moved and they want to, I think, be educated. They’re really passionate about things that they might learn from a particular film, which is what I think draws people to the festival,” she says.

One film that does just that is “Mixed Match.” An emotionally-charged, partially animated documentary written and directed by Canadian filmmaker Jeff Chiba Stearns, “Mixed Match” follows the lives of multiracial blood cancer patients in a desperate search to find mixed-race bone marrow or blood cell donors. Read more.

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Raphael Saadiq set to play Electric Factory

Soul singer, producer and multi-instrumentalist Raphael Saadiq is coming to the Electric Factory May 26.  Saadiq — who made us feel good as one third of ’80s group Tony! Toni! Toné! and made us dance with Lucy Pearl—is back with a new album Stone Rollin.’

Released May 10, Stone Rollin’ is a musical nod to Muddy Waters’ Rollin’ Stone. He took funk, blues and rock and mixed it with contemporary soul to create his masterpiece. As an artist Saadiq has always made good music, but lately he’s seems, well, better.

Reminiscent of times when music making consisted of string sections and doo-wop singers instead of auto tune and drum machines, “Stone Rollin’” sounds familiar, but not common. Lush instrumentation, strong vocals and variety of genres make listening to it a treat. Some standout tracks are “Go to Hell,” “Over You” and “Movin’ Down the Line.”

Saadiq’s talents along with his musical knowledge make him somewhat of a living legend. He’s worked as a producer and/or collaborator with a number of groups from D’Angelo to The Roots to the Bee Gees and is an executive producer of hit TV show Love that Girl starring Tatiana Ali.

Despite his talent and his remarkable fashion sense, Saadiq — born Charles Ray Wiggins — is humble. He readily learns whatever he can from anyone around him and infuses it into his music. In between touring and photo shoots the Tribune had a chance to talk to Saadiq about what he likes to do to relax and what separates the good from the great.

Philadelphia Tribune: Tell me about the Esquire Live in Detroit Fashion shoot. I know you had to write a song for it. Where did your inspiration come from? The song sounded eerie.

Rafael Saadiq: Being inside Motown always makes me feel like that. There are so many great musicians who walked those halls that are dead now. Every time I am there, it feels eerie and creepy. That’s what I was going for.

PT: I know you’ve worked with The Roots before, where do you like to hang out when you come to Philly?

RS: I never really get a chance to. But, I’ve been to that soul food restaurant Ms. Tootsies.

PT: What are some things you try to do everyday?

RS: Go for a walk or run, check out an exhibit at a museum, look at cameras and look at fashion.

PT: I’ve read that you’re a horse lover. Do you take care of them yourself or do you have help?

RS:  Yeah, yeah I do when I’m home. I do everything. I got into them because of my cousin Lamont. He was really into horses. We used to ride them in the summer.

PT:  What music is in heavy rotation for you right now?

RS: Patrice Rushen and Marvin Gaye Live. We have these iPod wars on the tour bus. I am NOT winning! My bass player has everything. He’s like you ever heard of this dude Red? I’m like, I’ve never heard of him. He’s got everything.

PT:  Where’s your favorite place in the world?

RS:  I haven’t been to South Asia or Africa yet so I don’t know. But, I really like Barcelona. It’s one of a few places I can get a healthy breakfast like egg whites, yogurt and fruit.

PT: You recently tweeted that you were paying dues in Germany, but now it’s time for dues to start paying Saadiq. What did you mean by that?

RS: It was just one of those frustrating moments. Like, I gotta get up and go all the time. I was just tired. I haven’t been in my bed with the exception of two to three times since February. As soon as I typed it I thought: Aww hell no. Did I just type that for the whole world to see?

PT: Would you ever revisit Lucy Pearl or put another band together?

RS: Right now, I’m in the middle of so much stuff. I would explore playing with other people, but I’m not sure about completing records together.

PT: What separates the good from the great?

RS:  You can always tell who’s just good. The person who does something good starts to celebrate too soon. The person that’s great is too busy making another move.

Read the interview: Philadelphia Tribune – Raphael Saadiq set to play Electric Factory.pdf

S. Epatha Merkerson’s directorial debut – Bay State Banner

Film, stage and television actress S. Epatha Merkerson — most famous for her role as Lt. Van Buren on NBC’s Law & Order— has finally stepped behind the camera to executive produce and co-direct a documentary,“The Contradictions of Fair Hope.”

Through powerful personal stories narrated by Whoopi Goldberg, the film explores the development and loss of tradition of one of the last remaining African American benevolent societies, The Fair Hope Benevolent Society (FHBS) in Uniontown, Ala.

Read more: Bay State Banner – S. Epatha Merkerson’s directorial debut