Sandra Evers Manly (Courtesy Photo)

Ms. Sandra J. Evers-Manly is president of the Black Hollywood Education and Resource Center (BHERC), and former president of the Beverly Hills/Hollywood NAACP in Los Angeles, California. Evers-Manly is the cousin of slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers. She is author of the book “Raised Up By Mrs. Manly and Her L’s” and ardent philanthropist and recent member of the 2020 Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Academy.

Evers-Manly is the visionary behind the 26th Annual African American Film Marketplace & S.E. Manly Short Film Showcase. The film festival features 140 films from 18 countries, 10 panels and special events, the virtual online premiere of the Films With a Purpose funded “I’m Not Special” from emerging filmmaker Larry Ulrich and star filled tribute to prolific stage/film and television Director Michael Schultz. 

LA Sentinel (LAS): Ms. Evers-Manly, you have been holding this festival for 26 years now.  Tell us what New about the festival this year with everything is that has gone on in the world. 

Sandra J. Evers-Manly (Evers-Manly):  Well the biggest change is that everything will be online this year.  Virtual.  We launched our streaming service BHERC TV in February of this year, just prior to the pandemic.  So BHERC TV has been a saving grace that has allowed us to continue not only this festival, but all of the BHERC festivals and programs we are known for.

LAS: In addition to the COVID – 19 pandemic, the country has been in an upheaval of social and civil unrest.  Has this had an impact on the festival?

Evers-Manly: Those events gave us an emboldened sense of responsibility, more urgent, present, and accountable to the social and civil rights events of 2020.  So, one of the many things we could easily do was to expand the BHERC film selections to include a more global voice of hope and inspiration with filmmakers.  As a result, we have filmmakers from 18 countries sharing their distinctive voice and point of view from lenses not often available to an American public. The festival which includes 140 plus films, an online premiere, 10 panels, special events and a special tribute can be sorted by film by genres that include: Action, Animation, Comedy, Documentary, Drama, Historical, Horror, Inspirational, Music, Romance, Sci-Fi, Spoken Word and Thriller.  They may also explore by topics such as Art, Diversity, Family, Faith-Based, LGBT+, Mental Health, People with Disabilities and Social Justice.  The festival also plays host to a few young filmmakers from Film schools such as: Academy of Art, Florida State University, High Definition Film Academy, Loyola Marymount University, New York Film Academy, Oral Roberts University, University of California Los Angeles, and University of Southern California.  However, the youngest filmmaker is self-taught nine-year old.

LAS: The BHERC AAFM festival has always been known for its special events and programming, what can we look forward to this year?

Evers-Manly:  Yes, once again we are vey excited to present along with the gifted filmmakers excellent special programs opening weekend.  Opening Night Friday, October 23, 5:00PM (PDT) BHERC will spotlight the filmmakers and films and provide a welcome and overview of the festival from our Executive Director John Forbes, curator of the film festival.  As we previously announced the festival is dedicated in honor of prolific TV stage and film director Michael Schultz Cooley High, Black Lightning.  We are so pleased to honor Mr. Schultz as well as commemorate the 45th Anniversary of the ground-breaking film Cooley High at our fan favorite BHERC signature event “A Great Day in Black Hollywood”, Saturday, October 24th. We will screen The Black Classic Film Cooley High at 3:00pm PDT.  So get your family and friends, snacks and popcorn and get ready to enjoy the film gem.  Then following at 5:30PM (PDT), out Tribute to Michael Schultz begins with original cast members Glynn Turman Fargo, Garrett Morris Jackpot, Gloria Schultz Cooley High, Lawrence Hilton Jacobs The Jacksons: An American Dream, Brandon Schultz, Steven Williams X-Files, Cooley High and Jackie Taylor Chi-Raq along with industry icons director Bill Duke Black Lighting, producer Charles Floyd Johnson “NCIS”, director Oz Scott Black Lighting  and director Warrington Hudlin Boomerang will join in the tribute and celebration. On Sunday, October 25, 5:00 PM PDT, Films With A Purpose presents the Online premiere of “I’m Not Special” a new film from emerging filmmaker Larry Ulrich. In this film Ulrich tells the story of an eleven-year-old Down Syndrome athlete who battles for a once in a lifetime opportunity to participate in the Special Games, while battling against his drug dependent father’s addiction.  The film is followed by a Q and A with the cast.

LAS: I understand that you are offering all of your special events and panels free of charge.  Tell us about the Panels.

Evers-Manly:  BHERC has brought together industry professionals and filmmakers to share a wealth of knowledge with both newcomers, veterans, and film fans over a variety of topics.  Space is limited so early registration is suggested.  The following are the times and dates of the panels.  However, we encourage everyone to check the website to register, for update and additional information.

11/1    2PM    The Art of Documentary

11/8    5PM    Atlanta Black Tech Mecca

11/14  11AM  Editors on Editing

11/15  2PM    I’M Good Bro’ addressing Black Male Depression

11/20  5PM    Road to Television designed for 1st timers in the Industry

11/21  11AM  Cinematographers on Cinematography

11/21  5PM    The McHenry Trial…

11/22  4PM    Black Filmmakers on Social Justice

Log on to www.BHERC.TV for the complete schedule.

LAS: With 140 plus films both you and the director must have your favorites.  What are they? 

Evers-Manly: John Forbes, and his team worked very hard to cull the final film selections from the 1500 entries and 18 countries from around the world. The films offered in the 2020 festival are diverse and offer humor, insight, love and much more.  No, we do not have “favorites” but we do have some Executive Directors’ picks that include:

Appreciation – Tomisin Adepeju (United Kingdom) An African Pentecostal Pastor questions everything she believes after a life-changing event.

The McHenry Trial – Ken Sagoes (Los Angeles, CA) A young and brilliant academic phenom who not only passes the bar exam at age 14 but finds himself defending his homeless father on a murder charge when few believe he is innocent. He faces a shrewd law firm, an old school segregationist judge, and an arrogant prosecutor who is preparing to celebrate his 50th consecutive case win.

The Moore Project – Zerick Houston (McKinney, TX) The documentary follows two social activists looking to influence change in their small Mississippi community with a deep racist past.

Atlanta Black Tech Mecca (Short-Docu Series) – C’vonzell Dondrico, Vante’ Gregory (Atlanta, GA) Taking a look at the emerging Black Tech Ecosystem in Atlanta, Georgia while highlighting leaders in the industry and celebrating diversity and inclusion.

            “I’m Not Special” – Larry Ulrich (Los Angeles, CA) a new film from emerging filmmaker Larry Ulrich. In this film Ulrich tells the story of an eleven-year-old Down Syndrome athlete who battles for a once in a lifetime opportunity to participate in the Special Games, while battling against his drug dependent father’s addiction.  The film is followed by a Q and A with the cast.

“Shéár Avory: To Be Continued” – Abram Cerda (Greely, CO) A coming of age story of Shéár Avory (pronouns: they/them/theirs), a 17 year old aspiring social justice advocate in Los Angeles who navigates housing instability and familial dependency on their journey to adulthood. 

“Every Vote” – Sharee Silerio (USA) Man tries to raise funds to pay court fees to register to vote for his own son who doesn’t want his father’s prior record to tarnish his campaign.

“The Dope: The Story of Latasha Harlins”Allison A. Waite (USA) A personal retelling of the life and death of Latasha Harlins, the forgotten spark igniting the Los Angeles uprising of 1992, popularly known as the LA riots.

“I’m Good Bro: Unmasking Black Male Depression”Corbin Coleman, Charles Crouch (Raleigh, NC) This film addresses the historical impact of depression in its many forms.  Documenting the journey of individuals with firsthand experience dealing with depression from the perspective of those who have personally dealt with or who have been diagnosed with the disease.

“The Littlest Angel”Aisha Raison (Palm Desert, CA) While an exuberant 6-year-old is playing a 1940’s era version of Fantasy Baseball in his backyard, he has an unexpected encounter with the Heavenly Coach. The young, diminutive Albie Pearson understands who is speaking and what He is calling him to do. When he says “Yes”, his life is marked thereafter.

Again, these are just a few of the Executive Director’s Picks.   There are so many more for children, family, sci-fi, etc.…

LAS: Well it sounds like there is plenty for anyone to enjoy in the comfort of home.  What are the ticket prices and is there any other information you would like to share?

Evers-Manly: First of all go online to www.BHERC.TV. Festival passes are available online at $75.00 for a full Festival Pass, $25.00 for a Day Pass and $10.00 for a block of 5 films.  Remember All panels and special events are free.  We know that if you log on, you will be enriched by the many stories, and if you are a filmmaker the panels will help you take your craft to a new level!

Remember to log on to www.BHERC.TV and register today!