Our Image Film & Arts Festival Showcases Work By & About African Americans

Tey. It is a French-Senegalese word meaning "today," as in the last 24 hours Satche spends alive: "No one must waste his time today," says a woman to him on his last morning jaunt through his village.

Directed by Alain Gomis, the foreign-language film is shot in a series of close-ups and heart-pounding drums, but Tey really owes its award-winning success to the portrayal of emotional nuance, visualized as longing stares, wide eyes and half-smiles. The other reason for its success is Saul Williams, actor and spoken word poet. As an actor, Williams plays the part of Satche with quiet esteem. As a poet, Williams is a favored visitor to the Houston arts and culture scene, so much so that his film holds a marquee position for the 4th Annual Our Image Film & Arts Festival, being held October 25 and 26 at Rice Media Center.

The festival is an annual event, planned by the organization of the same name, which was started in 2009 by Monie Henderson, a New York transplant, and Marc Newsome, a independent film producer and director who ping-ponged between the East and West coasts. When the pair moved to Houston, they were surprised by a lack of visible art, film and music by blacks, despite the city's diversity.

"This stuff is brilliant!" Henderson, Our Image Film & Arts co-founder and co-executive director, remembers saying about the black art, film and music she did encounter. "Why isn't this stuff being showcased somewhere?"

With a board and a cast of volunteers, Henderson and Newsome set about the task of showcasing cultural work by and about African Americans. In addition to the film festival, Our Image Film & Arts holds events throughout most of the year, from January to October. Lectures, mixed media events and exhibits run until the annual festival, one that, since its start in 2009, has grown from an evening affair to a two-day event.

There are more than 10 short and feature films being shown this year, the first that called for open submissions. When they extended the call for submissions, Henderson says that the nonprofit received more than 50 submissions. With the award-winning Tey, however, the exchange was mutual.

"At the same time we were reaching out to them, they were trying to come here," says Monie Henderson.

Despite Tey's seriousness, Henderson says that satire resonates throughout many of this year's other films. Titles such as Destination: Planet Negro and Thugs the Musical, with David Alan Grier, verify the presence of political comedy.

This festival has become quite popular, Henderson says, but they still want to grow.

"Our goals this year are to definitely expand the audience...and we want to expand the submission portion," Henderson says.

They've already accomplished their original goal: to showcase the cultural efforts of the city's African-American artisans. The festival draws a diverse audience, one that sees each film, not for the color of its creator, but for the creativity, coolness and courage of its content.

"At the end of the day, it's art."

Williams will hold a Q&A session after the showing of Tey on Friday, October 25. There will be also be musical performances and art on display. Visit ourimagefest.com for more information and to buy tickets.

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