The Apollo Theater is internationally renowned for having influenced American and pop culture more than any other entertainment venue. On November 15, the Raleigh (NC) Chapter of The Links, Incorporated joined forces with The Apollo Virtual Screening Series: The Power of Arts & Culture for a free virtual screening of the Emmy award winning documentary, THE APOLLO. Presented by The Arts Facet, the film represents the third documentary the Facet has sponsored over the past two years. This year’s documentary was hosted in partnership with the North Carolina Arts Council. Over 200 registered for the virtual movie screening and panel discussion that followed the screening.
The screening event began with an introduction by one of its directors, Lisa Cortes. Ms. Cortes, nominated for an Academy Award for the film Precious, was awarded an Emmy for The Apollo. Directed by Lisa Cortes and Roger Ross Williams, with staging by Ta-Nehisi Coates, the film takes a look at the history of the legendary New York City landmark Apollo Theater. The feature length documentary weaves together archival footage, music, comedy, and dance performances, and behind-the-scenes undirected conversations with the team that makes the theater run, and features interviews with artists including Patti LaBelle, Pharrell Williams, Smokey Robinson, and Jamie Foxx.
Vintage footage included Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holliday and Lena Horne. But, The Apollo Documentary demonstrated that this African-American treasure is not just historical, it continues to be a contemporary beacon for up and coming artists. The well-known Amateur Night is the longest running program of its kind and since the mid 1930s up to today, this program still gives artists a chance at stardom.
The film frames the way in which The Apollo explores the current struggle of black lives in America, the role that art plays in that struggle, and the broad range of African American achievement that the Apollo Theater represents.
Following the film, a panel of students representing three area Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), moderated by Dr. Tamara Brothers, Deputy Direct of the North Carolina Arts Council, offered their perspective on the film in their discussion “Who Tells the Story? The Power in Representation.” The student panelists were: Ian Finley, a Political Science honors student at Shaw University; a freshman Film major at Saint Augustine’s University, panelist Naiylah Archer aspires to be a film director; majoring in Jazz Studies at North Carolina Central University, panelists Dexter J. Moses plans to graduate next spring.
This Raleigh (NC) Links virtual movie screening event was aligned with the National Arts Facet’s Transforming Communities Through Film initiative. Helping communities tell their stories through film and it follows the chapter’s recent sponsorship of the local Raleigh Art & Film Festival. Both the movie screening and film festival sponsorship are important tenets recommended by the National Arts Facet Subcommittee on Film.