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Charlotte independent film crusader Dennis Darrell dies

By Lawrence Toppman
Movie Writer

Dennis Darrell, the individual who most influenced independent film in Charlotte over the last decade, died Monday at 47 of undisclosed causes.

Until he had a stroke last summer, Darrell had been the city's busiest and most far-reaching promoter of films, many with themes that appealed to African-Americans.

He was beginning to get back into a promoting groove this spring, sponsoring a screening of "Don't Blame the Lettuce" by Charlotte director David Jones and bringing actor Malik Yoba to town for an evening called "One Night Stand."

"Dennis was a true hero for independent films, filmmakers and film lovers... and a true, dear friend," said Michael Swanson, producer of two features and a documentary.

"He was the sole reason my wife, Christine, and I added Charlotte to our 'All About You' movie tour in January 2003. He knew Charlotte well and said the audience would love and support the film, and Charlotte became one of our most successful stops."

Darrell came to the city as a management consultant, but film was his first professional love from the day he arrived.

He created a "Shorts in the Spirit Program" in June 2002, showing the best of the Acapulco Black Film Festival. Over the next year, he brought in actor-director Tim Reid, showed the controversial documentary "Biggie and Tupac," created the Legacy of Black Men Short Film Showcase, revived the classic "Cooley High" and put together a showcase of short films meant for black women: "Twists, Dreds, Perms & Fros."

His efforts continued and broadened over time. He created the multidimensional Oc Fest for visual arts, fashion and poetry and organized the Reel Soul Film festival in fall 2008.

Darrell is survived by his wife, Nikita, and three stepsons: Bryant, 21, Adrian, 17 and Joshua, 14. Funeral arrangements are yet to be announced and are being handled by Long & Son Mortuary Services.

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