Independent Film Producer Tanya Elaine Hamilton Is Guest Presenter at March 2011 City Tech Film Forum
A March 2011 Film Forum at New York City College of Technology, sponsored by the RARE Women Club and ACCESS for Women (AFW), featured Independent film producer Tanya Elaine Hamilton and a viewing of her film, Night Catches Us, which premiered last December in New York City. ACCESS FOR WOMEN is a program in City Tech’s Division of Continuing Education that provides professional development activities for women students in nontraditional technical areas of study. RARE Women is sponsored by AFW. The event was supported by the College’s Black Women’s Networking Committee, Women’s Center and Department of Entertainment Technology, and the Women’s Press Collective.
In preparation for the event, RARE Women club members and young adults enrolled in AFW’s pre-college program, Expanding Options, read and discussed newspaper reviews of the film and biographical information on Hamilton. In attendance at the forum were 26 students, nine faculty and staff members, two representatives from Women Press Collective and a guest from New York Women in Film & Television. A reception hosted by the Black Women’s Networking Committee was held in the Faculty Lounge following the forum.
Two goals of the event were to showcase Hamilton as an independent filmmaker and role model in a nontraditional career for women and to give students different roles in which to put their leadership and presentation skills to use. The event began with a program overview given by Jacqueline Anscombe, an entertainment technology major, and Momna Shaukat, an accounting major. Courtney Francis, a marketing management graduate, introduced the speaker, and Manpreet Kaur, a computer systems technology major, documented the occasion on film.
In her presentation, Hamilton, who received technical training and support from the Sundance Institute, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the discovery and development of independent artists and audiences in film and theatre, spoke about the years of research, development and fundraising that went into producing the film. What resulted was based on historical documentation, including actual film footage, of events during the 1960s that involved the Black Panther organization, Philadelphia Police Department and a community which the Panthers identified as their own. A mix of eventual outcomes revealed to the audience facts concerning the people and conditions of the time and how they had changed, were still changing or had remained as they had been in the 1960s.
Questioning Hamilton after the screening were mostly young people who knew little or nothing about the Black Panthers. In responding to their inquiries, the filmmaker spoke about extensive research as her own learning process as the film is about events that occurred before she was born. As she explained her journey of discovery, it became clear that the challenges confronting her in writing the script for the film involved gathering facts that explained the same points that were being raised by the audience – who the Black Panthers were, their activities in Philadelphia during the 1960s, how their infamous reputation in the media was created, the government’s investigation of them, legal actions taken against Panther members, and life for them and their community years afterwards. Hamilton’s closing remarks focused on the success that can come from group strength organized around commitment to constructive goals, options for negotiation in a power struggle, and lessons learned from the story.
“All in attendance were deeply moved by Ms. Hamilton’s presentation and film,” says Nona Smith, ACCESS program director. “Both RARE Women and ACCESS are grateful for her contribution to the work we proudly do to expand educational and career opportunities for women.”