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Celebrating people of color, at home and abroad, in film

Noah Christofer Craigwell (right) directing a scene in “The Last Shot.’’ Noah Christofer Craigwell (right) directing a scene in “The Last Shot.’’
By Loren King
Globe Correspondent / July 17, 2011

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For Noah Christofer Craigwell, the Boston-based director whose debut feature, “The Last Shot,’’ is part of the 13th annual Roxbury International Film Festival (July 28-31), it’s all about family. “The Last Shot,’’ a gritty drama about the trials of a Boston family that finds its love and loyalty tested, was filmed entirely in the Roxbury/Dorchester/Mattapan/Hyde Park neighborhoods where Craigwell - who goes by the name Noah Christofer - and his siblings grew up. His Beyond Measure Productions, formed in 2009, is staffed with members of the accomplished Craigwell clan: His sister, Miranda Craigwell, who co-wrote the script, is currently a Huntington Theatre Playwright Fellow. Brothers Marcus Craigwell, who coaches a team of high school lacrosse players from across the United States, and Miles Craigwell, a rugby star and Brown University graduate, also worked on the production.

Family ties “had something to do with why we were drawn to the film,’’ says Christofer, a graduate of DePaul University, where he played basketball and studied film and video production. “We believe family is the way to get through tough times. ‘The Last Shot’ was a great story with a message we thought was needed.’’ The film is a collaboration between Beyond Measure Productions and producer/co-writer Bill Willis, a Boston police officer and youth advocate, whose documentary, “Shot in the Hood,’’ inspired the feature film.

“The Last Shot’’ screened to sell-out audiences at the 2011 Boston International Film Festival.

Christofer says he’s in talks with a distributor and hopes for a theatrical release in the fall. Shooting in Boston - the crew filmed a scene at the landmark Simco’s hot dog stand “in the wee hours’’ - lent authenticity to the film, he says. “We were all born and raised here. We’ve overcome street violence, but we have friends and co-workers who’ve been touched by it. The Roxbury film festival gives us a great opportunity, in our own backyard, to show young audiences a film with an all-black cast made by an all-black production company right here in the community.’’

Produced by The Color of Film Collaborative, the RIFF is New England’s largest film festival dedicated to celebrating people of color. It offers four days of workshops, panel discussions and screenings of more than 50 features, shorts, documentaries, and youth-produced works at the Museum of Fine Arts, Massachusetts College of Art, Wentworth Institute of Technology, Northeastern University, the Roxbury Center for the Arts at Hibernian Hall, and the Coolidge Corner Theatre. The opening film, “The Athlete,’’ is the true story of marathoner Abebe Bikila, who stunned the world in 1960 as the first black African to win an Olympic gold medal - and for running the event barefoot. Actor/director Rasselas Lakew will be on hand to talk with the audience following the screening.

“Fire in Babylon’’ is Stevan Riley’s documentary about how the gifted West Indian cricket team of the 1970s and 1980s, led by the enigmatic Viv Richards, unified the nation and struck a defiant blow against white prejudice worldwide.

Two other notable documentaries have local ties: Rudy Hypolite’s “Push: Madison vs. Madison’’ is about a talented high school basketball team heading for a championship as it struggles with life in inner-city Boston: rival gangs, a chilling murder rate, and destructive families that threaten the students’ efforts to remain in school and on the team.

Award-winning filmmaker and Harvard University graduate Thomas Allen Harris will present his documentary “Marriage Equality: Byron Rushing and the Fight for Fairness’’ (July 29), a project that connects the black civil rights movement with the marriage equality movement as it explores the work of Rushing, a state representative, on behalf of gay marriage.

For more information or to buy tickets, go to www.roxburyfilmfestival.org.

Words and music The Brattle Theater hosts two special live events this month. On Wednesday (doors open at 7:30 p.m.) Music for Movies celebrates the work of legendary film composers Bernard Herrmann and Nino Rota. A live orchestra, made up of members of Cirkestra and the Boston String Players under the direction of Cirkestra’s Peter Burano, will play selections from the film scores of both composers. On July 28, Sapphire will read from her new novel, “The Kid,’’ which features characters from her novel “Push,’’ the book that inspired the movie “Precious.’’ A screening of “Precious’’ will follow the reading at 7 p.m.

More than Zero For 16 years, Channel Zero has presented offbeat and underground films at venues in and around Boston. “Our essential philosophy is that anything in the way of a film or a TV show that we like or find interesting is worth risking in a public screening,’’ says John L. Galligan, who founded and co-curates Channel Zero with Jon Haber. “We’ve done screenings in the now sadly defunct Liberty Cafe, in Central Square, the Phoenix Landing Pub, the screening room of the Coolidge Corner Theatre, and a number of other venues through the years. Our tastes have always been highly personal and eclectic; we’ve screened everything from Ephraim Kishon’s ‘The Big Dig’ to ‘Hercules in the Haunted World.’ In April, we screened the documentary ‘Wesley Willis: Joyrides’ to a packed house in the Somerville Theatre’s screening room.’’

Channel Zero returns to the Somerville Friday with the 1943 film “The Devil With Hitler,’’ starring Alan Mowbray and Bob Watson. Galligan describes it as “a comedy very much in the spirit of the Three Stooges and starring Bobby Watson, the greatest Hitler impersonator of Hollywood’s golden age, discounting his faint Brooklyn accent.’’ The screening begins at 8 p.m. with a few shorts followed by the feature. Admission is $5.

Loren King can be reached at loren.king@comcast.net.

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