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Hope And Freedom Festival Returns To Art Theater May 21

Published: May 16, 2011

The Second Annual Hope and Freedom Film Festival returns on Saturday, May 21, at 10 a.m. to the Art Theater at E. 2025 East 4th St. in Long Beach. Admission is free.

The mission of the Hope and Freedom Film Festival is to help create a society where all individuals have equal rights. Festival Director Kevin Johnson is a faculty member in communication studies who earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at CSULB before earning his Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin.

“The festival encourages submissions that further the broad goals of ensuring political, social, educational and economic equality for all people,” he said. “The festival seeks to reward entries from all skill levels that use the power of cinema to inspire hope in the pursuit of freedom from hatred, discrimination and oppressive conditions.”

Topics of this year’s films include the rebirth of the hip-hop nation, the struggles of transgendered people, and such documentaries as “Killing Memories” that follows five veterans who return to Vietnam in order to cope with wartime traumas. Several of the screenings will be followed by Q&A sessions with the filmmakers and cast of the films.

Johnson points with pride to the success of last year’s festival. “We drew an audience of more than 600,” he said. “Plus, it featured a performance by the Orange County Music Award winner Parker Macy Blues, who recently performed with B.B. King and will return in 2011. It was a good time last year and it should be a good time this year.”

The goal for the festival is simple – to create a good event. “Eventually, our vision for this event is to have a double-stage film, arts and music festival that would extend all the way down 4th Street from Junipero to Cherry,” Johnson said.

Beyond that, Johnson hopes to generate awareness and organization for struggles facing people around the world today. “That’s an achievement that can only be reached by working, struggling and organizing every day,” he said. “This festival’s goal is to create an environment where people can come together, have fun, and celebrate. We want to create a climate of fun and cooperation that encourages working together to make society a better place to live.”

Johnson offered special thanks to the Communication Studies Department, the Center for First Amendment Studies, the College of Liberal Arts, the Long Beach branch of the NAACP and CSULB NAACP student chapter.

“The one thing I am really proud of is that this festival administration’s board is representative of CSULB top to bottom,” he said. “Each member, including myself, is either a CSULB student and/or alum — we have graduate students on the board who are also alumni of CSULB.”

He also noted communication studies for its departmental support. “They have been great,” he said. “Faculty members have contributed their personal money and support. For example, this year, our popular hip-hop scholar Dr. Ebony Utley will give a brief talk to festival-goers about the re-birth of the hip-hop nation.”

Hope And Freedom Festival Returns

Johnson hopes the festival creates a new home for area filmmakers. “I want to create an outlet where people can view films,” he said. “I want it to be free to the public and appealing to filmmakers. There would be no way for the film festival to succeed without their support.”

Johnson measures the festival’s success by several variables. “One thing I hope for is greater visibility for such documentaries as happened last year with ‘Humble Beauty,’ an hour-long film that tell stories of a group of talented homeless and formerly homeless men and women who create art – fine arts painting – on Los Angeles’ Skid Row.”

He also hopes the festival will help expose area residents to new ideas. “It is so easy to become saturated by the mass media which reduce access to new ideas,” he said. “The festival is an opportunity for audiences to find a new perspective on the world. This year, the festival will highlight a 2010 documentary titled ‘Finding Kind’ about girl-on-girl bullying. Issues like these are not often covered by mainstream mass media and I measure this festival’s success by exposure to ideas like these.”

One of the surprises Johnson encountered along the way to creating the festival were participants’ willingness to help. “Parker Macy Blues agreed to perform for free and last year, I applauded Scott Hamilton Kennedy for screening his Oscar-nominated documentary `The Garden,” he said. “It surprised me how generous some of these filmmakers are and their commitment to the mission of the film festival.”

Having a festival like this says a lot about the university, he believes. “This university has done a tremendous job of outreach and community support,” he said. “Not only has the festival been successful because the student participation has been very good, but the festival has been successful because it has made the students very good. Our students have grown from their participation in this festival. But this festival also serves as a testament to the quality of education available at CSULB. This film festival makes the good better.”

–Richard Manly