Historical perspective on Hayti opens film festival

Feb. 06, 2014 @ 11:41 AM

“The Lessons of Hayti,” a documentary by Ed Harris Jr. and Byron Hunter, covers ground familiar to lifelong and longtime residents of Durham – how the building of the Durham Freeway split and ended what was a thriving, independent black business district.

The makers of “The Lessons of Hayti” try to offer a view of the story of Hayti through a wider historical perspective. The filmmakers cast this story in light of the rise in the number of African-American legislators after Reconstruction, and the birth of  North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance, which helped make Durham a center for black capitalism in the United States. Urban renewal and the interstate highway system came along in the 1950s, and the filmmakers offer many examples of renewal projects nationwide that were built at the expense of African-American communities like Hayti.
Viewers will recognize a few of their neighbors. Harris and Hunter interviewed funeral home director John “Skeepie” Scarborough III, law professor Irving Joyner, NCM Capital Chairman Maceo Sloan, historian Julianne Malveaux, and others.
The Hayti documentary opens the 2014 Hayti Heritage Film Festival. The film will screen at 6 p.m. Wednesday, with a 7 p.m. Q&A session with the filmmakers.
Other opening night films look at the issue of lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender equality and civil rights.
“The New Black,” a film by director Yoruba Richen, examines how the African-American community is debating the drive toward equality, particularly the push toward same-sex marriage, in the LGBT community. Katina Parker’s “Many Voices Video Campaign” features interviews black gay and transgender Christians who offer their perspective on their faith.

Here are some other films scheduled for screenings (synopses provided by Hayti Heritage Center). For a full schedule, visit www.hayti.org.

-- “Money 1955: The Emmett Till Murder Trial” (Feb. 13, 7:45 p.m.). Filmmakers Rob Underhill and Aravind Ragupathi adapted actor and playwright Mike Wiley’s one-person show “Dar He: The Story of Emmett Till,” into this short film, also starring Wiley. 

-- “Slap the Donkey” (Feb. 13, 9:10 p.m.). Documentary filmmaker Ed Harris Jr. followed the Rev. Al Sharpton during his 2004 bid for the Democratic presidential nomination.

-- Two films with veteran actor Sidney Poitier will be screened as part of a film block on the theme of “Romance and Love.” Poitier and Robert Arthur wrote the 1968 feature film “For Love of Ivy,” about an African-American maid (played by Abbey Lincoln) who wants to leave her job to go to secretarial school. This film will be screened at 6 p.m. Feb. 14. Poitier directed and stars in the 1973 film “A Warm December,” about a doctor who is widowed with a young daughter. This film will screen at 7:55 p.m. Feb. 14. 

Go and DO
: Hayti Heritage Film Festival
WHERE: Hayti Heritage Center, 804 Old Fayetteville St., Durham
WHEN: Feb. 12-15
ADMISSIONAll events are free (donations accepted). For a full schedule, visit www.hayti.org.