The Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture and History is kicking off its annual Diaspora Festival of Black and Independent Film on Sept. 29 with "Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart," an independent documentary about playwright and activist Lorraine Hansberry.
The Stone Center’s annual Diaspora Festival features various independent directors and filmmakers with showings starting in September and ending in October.
Joseph Jordan, director of the Stone Center, said this event highlights the independent filmmakers focusing on the diaspora.
"The focus is always on independent filmmakers," Jordan said. "It used to be that you generally might not get to see them, but now with things like Netflix and Amazon and all the other things, there’s a better chance that these directors will be seen. But nine times out of 10, you’ll see them here first."
"Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart" is an independent documentary about award-winning playwright Lorraine Hansberry, known for her activism and for being the first Black woman to have a production on Broadway. Hansberry’s best-known work, "A Raisin in the Sun," was made into a film starring Sean "Diddy" Combs.
“If you were to ask a lot of students on campus here about Lorraine Hansberry, only a handful would even know about her story," said Sheriff Drammeh, programs associate at the Stone Center. "That’s one of the reasons why we chose to have the film festival — to identify speakers or topics or subjects that are very important to African-American history, culture and who often don’t get the recognition and attention they deserve."
Though many students may not recognize her name, they can appreciate her accomplishments and her involvement in social justice for Black and LGBTQ+ people.
Jordan said this documentary focuses not only on her accomplishments as a playwright and essayist but also on other aspects of her life that are not often talked about.
"She was directly and intimately involved in civil and social justice with organizations like (Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee)," Jordan said. "She was a very strong supporter of the LGBTQ rights movement because it was revealed later on that she herself had come out as lesbian primarily to her family. Most of the people outside of her family did not know."
Staff at the Stone Center expect this showing to be particularly impactful for students.
“It challenges them to reconsider what they understand about social justice," Jordan said. "It challenges them to reconsider what for us seems to be normal now."
Stephanie Cobert, public communications officer at the Stone Center, said this event brings a high level of film to UNC.
“They will really showcase the breadth of work that we show here, that we have access to all these high-quality films by independent filmmakers," Cobert said.
"Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart" will be shown at 4 p.m. on Sept. 29 at the Varsity Theatre on Franklin Street.