Reelblack founder, Mike Dennis, inside right, with Selma director, Ava DuVernay, inside left, during DuVernay’s documentary premiere of VENUS Vs. — Submitted photo

Filmmaker Ava DuVernay recently relaunched her collaboration with key Black film festivals and arts organizations through an independent distribution company titled ARRAY. This after operating as the African American Film Festival Releasing Movement (AFFRM).

With an expanded focus on filmmakers of color and women, the distribution collective of arts organizations and individual advocates, including Philly’s own Reelblack, screened films acquired by ARRAY last week.

“It was truly amazing to be surrounded by such powerful, amazing females,” said award-winning South African actress Nthati Moshesh about the making of the movie Ayanda. “And now the film is being distributed by ARRAY with an amazing female director at the helm. Need I say more?!”

Moshesh plays the role of the main character’s mother, who works in a laundromat and dampens the dreams of her daughter, Ayanda.

As a 21-year-old who has been keeping her deceased father’s spirit alive by running a garage he once owned, Ayanda begins a journey of self-discovery as she struggles to save the shop along with her memory of him.

“Not only is Ayanda a story about women, made by women, but it also highlights female entrepreneurship and ingenuity, both talents which can mean the difference between success and hardship in a [world-class] city like Johannesburg,” shared South African and Ayanda’s director, Sara Blecher, during an interview.

Set in vibrant and diverse Johannesburg, Ayanda gives audiences a colorful and vivid view of urban South African youth culture. The film has a youthful cast, and pulsates with an energy and style that is refreshing to see in a movie.

“You’re not going to see it in theaters except through our collective that’s powered by regular people who just love film,” Ava DuVernay stated during an appearance on MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry show. The Golden Globe-nominated director explained why she was inspired to use her global platform to share the stories of others and how ARRAY will advance the collective’s mission.

“Why not create an alternative or allow other kinds of folk to be in our alternative?” she said. DuVernay referenced how films like “Ayanda” are being presented to the public by ARRAY.

Since 2010, Reelblack has introduced independent films to Philadelphia as a founding organization of AFFRM, now ARRAY. “Ayanda” was presented last week, by Reelblack, at the African American Museum in Philadelphia.

“To have the film bought for distribution, by an African-American woman who has made her mark in Hollywood, was an incredibly proud moment for all of us involved in the making of ‘Ayanda,’” DuVernay said.

The film premiered earlier this year at the Cos Angel Film Festival and has been shown at the Vancouver International, BFI London and Africa in Motion (ABM) Film Festivals.

“In this film I wanted to present a new role model to my daughters — one that would allow them to consider new options and possibilities for their own lives,” said Blecher, whose son, Pele, is studying mechanical engineering at the University of Pennsylvania.

“I wanted to showcase a young woman, an entrepreneur, who succeeded by engaging, rather than avoiding, her own issues while at the same time not compromising her own passion, originality or style,” Blecher stated.

“If there is a message in the film it is that I believe very strongly that when a family (or a country) suffer a huge trauma — like Ayanda’s fathers death in the film, or Apartheid in my country’s history — then the only real way you can ever recover is by revisiting the trauma from a place of maturity. It’s only then that you are ever free to move into the future.”

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