Felix Curtis is the developer and curator of Charlotte’s Classic International Black Cinema Series. The series is hosted by the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture and features movies made by and starring people of color. The series began in 2010 and has started a discussion about the artistic values of black film. Curtis is a transplant from the Oakland/San Francisco Bay area, where he had a hand in the Black Filmworks festivals in the early 1990s. He has a particular interest in historical black film.
Q. The series is now in its third season. What have you learned about Charlotte audiences?
There is a very dedicated and core group of filmgoers who look forward to these screenings. I have an email subscriber base of over 100, where I share information about upcoming films and slowly our attendance has been growing.
Q. You have a deep appreciation for the roots and history of black cinema. Why is it so important for you to share that?
I find the unique legacy of black filmmaking helps as a frame of reference for today’s contemporary films. How do themes hold up? What about the quality of the performances? How are social issues dealt with? These all are interesting things to look for.
Q. Each year you run various themed series. What is in store for the remainder of 2012?
“Oscar, Spencer and Paul” is a series that looks at the transition of silent film, of which Oscar Micheaux was a pioneer, to the early talkies with Spencer Williams. Both men worked with the legendary Paul Robeson. The first film is “Body and Soul.” Later in the fall I’ll do a series that features black love in the ’70s, where I’ll show “Claudine” and “A Warm December.”
Q. What has been your best-received film?
I had two screenings of “St. Louis Blues” with Nat King Cole and Ruby Dee. It was incredibly popular. Many people weren’t even aware Nat King Cole made movies.
Q. What are your favorite films?
I have really enjoyed our “Carmen” series. There have been so many interpretations from “Carmen Jones” to “Carmen: A Hip Hopera,” a South African version and even one from Senegal. It has been an interesting journey.