Like poet e.e. cummings, acclaimed filmmaker donnie betts refuses to capitalize his name for reasons, perhaps, known only to him.
During Black History Month, the community will have the opportunity to meet this interesting man and view his film, “Music Is My Life, Politics My Mistress.”
“Music Is My Life, Politics My Mistress,” a feature-length documentary about the late Oscar Brown Jr., notable jazz musician and social activist, is told through the eyes of the artist, using historical film footage, live performances of music, dance and poetry and commentary by such noted performing artists and icons as Abbey Lincoln and Studs Terkel.
Hosted by the APSU chapter of the Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi (PKP), a reception for betts is slated for 6:30 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 8 in the Morgan University Center, rooms 303-305. His film will be shown from 7-9 p.m., followed by a short question-and-answer session with the filmmaker. Refreshments will be provided.
According to Dr. Susan Calovini, PKP president and interim dean of the College of Science and Mathematics, besides the events of the evening of Feb. 8, betts will be speaking to several Austin Peay classes and student groups.
He also will be presenting a program from 6:30-8 p.m., Friday, Feb. 9 at the Clarksville-Montgomery County Library. Calovini said, “The Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi is pleased to partner with the Friends of the Library to bring an exciting cultural program to the wider Clarksville community.”
Calovini is confident the film about Brown, who has been deemed the “high priest of hip,” will have wide appeal. “Mr. Brown's story connects with jazz aficionados as will those who are interested in social and political activism,” Calovini said.
Since its release last year, the film has been featured at several notable film festivals, including the Denver International Film Festival. In 2007, it will have a special screening at the National Black Arts Festival, Atlanta.
During the 2006 Nashville Film Festival, Dr. James Thompson, associate professor of biology and PKP Web coordinator, had the opportunity to meet betts and view the film.
Thompson said, “Not only did I have the privilege of meeting donnie betts, I discovered composer, performer, social activist Oscar Brown Jr., thanks to betts' magnificent biographical documentary film. Having ‘met' Oscar Brown in the film, I regret I had no chance to become his friend. He was a modern Renaissance man who led a life enviable for its creativity and contributions to American culture.
On his Web site, betts says, “Long before the recent wave of outspoken poets, journalists and filmmakers began discussions on the current state of affairs, Oscar Brown Jr. was speaking out … on all of the topics that confront, not only black Americans, but all people overlooked and downtrodden by the government.”
Along with the Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi, co-sponsors of the Feb. 8 events are the African American Cultural Center, African American Studies Program, Center of Excellence in the Creative Arts, Department of Art, Department of Communication, Theatre and Dance, Department of Languages and Literature, Honors Program, Women's Studies Program and Phi Alpha Theta history honor society.
To learn more about the film and its subject, go to www.musicismylife.info
. -- Dennie B. Burke