While February is the shortest of all the months, it’s full of celebrations. The month hosts Groundhog Day, Valentine’s Day, President’s Day and for 2019 it’s the month of Lunar New Year. February is also nationally recognized as Black History Month, a time to reflect on the history and contributions of those of African descent.
On Feb. 10, the Morton Theatre Corporation is hosting its third annual Black History Month Film Festival. The Morton Theatre is one of the oldest historic African-American theaters in the country still open and operating. Part of its mission is to provide programming centered around work featuring African Americans.
This year’s festival will feature a screening of the film “Marshall” starring Chadwick Boseman. The film recounts a case in Bridgeport, Connecticut in 1940 where future Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall is called upon to defend a black man accused of rape.
Before the screening, Lesley Feracho of the University of Georgia’s Institute for African American Studies will show a program of short videos. After the film, the Honorable Christopher Ward, Deputy Chief Judge of the Municipal Court of Atlanta, will lead a question-and-answer session with the audience.
Leara Rhodes, a professor from the Grady College of Journalism And Mass Communications, is program chair on the Morton Theatre Corporation’s board. Rhodes hopes by incorporating Judge Ward into the event, there’ll be a conversation about what it’s like to work as an African-American lawyer.
“Having a judge there who’s gone through many of the same discrimination and challenges might bring us to have some sort of discourse that can enlighten us more,” Rhodes said.
In 2018, the Morton Theatre screened “Get On Up,” the story of legendary soul singer James Brown. This year, the theater felt “Marshall” was a fitting film choice, given the events that have been happening in the United States.
“There is a significance with the new movie out about Ruth Bader Ginsburg and with all the Supreme Court justices being chosen,” Rhodes said. “There's a significance in looking at this movie, ‘Marshall’ and being able to put it into context of what's happening today.”
Kimberly Davis, the secretary of the board of directors for the Morton Theatre, also felt “Marshall” would be able to create a discussion on present-day issues.
“You can see that some of the parallels to systemic injustice and racism particularly against African-American people and people of color is still quite prevalent,” Davis said.
Davis said that in the future, Morton Theatre’s board would like to make plans to extend the festival over multiple days. Currently, the festival hopes to highlight the cultural importance of African American issues and cinematic contributions.
“I think for African Americans and people in general … this past year has been a banner year for black cinema — the success of films like ‘Black Panther,’ ‘If Beale Street Could Talk,’ ‘Moonlight’ a couple years ago,” Davis said. “There really is a lot more interest in African-American life and the people whose history we celebrate.”
The Morton Theatre Film Festival is free for all and will collect donations
“It’s a time for the community to come together and celebrate African American history and culture as part of American history and culture,” Davis said.