Monday, March 28, 2011

My 2011 Palm Beach International Film Festival Favorite

On March 24 and 25 I attended screenings of a feature documentary and a feature film at the 16th Annual Palm Beach International Film Festival in Palm Beach County, Florida, March 24-31. I enjoy film festivals as they showcase independent films, and the filmmakers who really have a passion for the craft.  Being someone who appreciates how challenging it can be to maintain a career in the arts, I like to support those who continue to carry the torch.
Michael King

 The Rescuers  
 If the issue of genocide ever crossed your mind, you need to see the documentary, “The Rescuers” (90 minutes) directed by Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Michael King. King's PBS documentary "Bangin," regarding youth violence in America, won the Emmy and International Television and Video Association Award for Best Documentary and Best Editing in 1999.
Previous to watching "The Rescuers," in regards to the Holocaust, I had only been educated on the atrocity of the genocide. The film helped confirm my belief that in the presence of evil there is always good to counteract it. Viewers learn, through the knowledge of Sir Martin Gilbert, a renowned 20th century and Holocaust historian who lost relatives during Holocaust, of 13 diplomats who saved tens of thousands of Jews during World War II. The diplomats were Polish, German, American and Japanese to name a few. But, the film doesn’t stop there. In order to get the audience to understand modern-day genocide, it includes the perspective of Stephanie Nyombayire, a young Rwandan anti-genocide activist who lost 100 members of her family in the Rwandan Genocide of the 1990s. Sir Martin Gilbert and Nyombayire travel across three continents and 15 countries where they interview survivors and descendants of the diplomats.

To describe the film in one word, three syllables: Pow-er-ful.
During the Q&A session after the film, producer Joyce D. Mandell asked how many people in the audience knew of the story of the diplomats prior to the screening. Only about 2 percent of the audience, in a packed theater, raised their hands. We also heard testimonials from two audience members who said if it were not for the courageous acts of the diplomats, their family would not have survived, they wouldn’t be here today. Mandell and King also shared the film was screened at the 2011 NAACP Image Awards, and the audience was really receptive. It also won Best of the Fest at the 2011 Palm Springs International Film Festival.
After the Q&A, I had the opportunity to meet King and express to him how I appreciated the film connecting the dots: Genocide is genocide whether it is in Darfur in 2011 or in eastern Europe 1944. The practice is horrific. Modern-day diplomats need to take a cue from those courageous 13.
For more information, and to see the trailer, visit:

Fully Loaded
I met director Shira Piven at the screening of “The Rescuers” when we both spoke with Michael King after the screening. She was really friendly, and had a great perspective on the film.
From our interaction, I definitely wanted to check out the world premiere of her film showing the following day, March 25, “Fully Loaded” (80 minutes). 
The film, a dark-comedy set in Los Angeles, is about two single mothers (Paula Killen and Lisa Orkin) who go out for a night on the town. The majority of the film takes place in the vehicle coming home, where they talk about the night at the bar, especially a chance encounter with a stranger (Dweezil Zappa), thoughts on relationships and personal issues, including surving breast cancer and how to break up with a guy. The two even manage to engage in a car chase during their talks. The screenplay is based on a two-person play staring Killen and Orkin, and directed by Piven. Piven, also an actress, comes from a theatrical background. She is on the Advisory Board of the Piven Theatre Workshop.
I thought the acting in the film was great. The chemistry between the two, and the quirky dialog, made me feel like I was on a three-person phone call, except I just listened, chuckling, while thinking to myself “No she just didn’t say that!” I enjoyed getting a feel for the late night/ early morning L.A. scene while the two chatted during the drive. I also liked the ‘70s influence throughout the film.
An interesting tidbit for HBO’s “Entourage” fans is co-producer of “Fully Loaded” is Piven’s brother, Jeremy Piven, “Ari Gold” on the series. If you’re in the area, “Fully Loaded” will be playing again at Muvico Parisian 20 at CityPlace in West Palm Beach at 2:15 p.m. today, March 28.
Visit the film's website at:

For more info on the Palm Beach International Film Festival, visit:

UPDATE:  The winners of the Palm Beach International Film Festival have been announced. “The Rescuers,” Michael King, was awarded Best Documentary Feature. And, “Fully Loaded,” Shira Piven, was awarded Audience Favorite Award for Best Feature

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Happy 119th Birthday Rebecca Lanier

I try to recognize when I wake up in the morning each day is a gift, especially when I feel like I could use a few more winks of sleep. On Tuesday, March 22, 2011, Mrs. Rebecca Lanier of Ohio received her 119th gift. She is the oldest living person in the U.S.

Mrs. Lanier was born in 1892, her parents slaves in Mississippi. Learning what her eyes have seen and ears have heard in her 119 years would be better than reading a history textbook. I'd love to sit and have a conversation with Mrs. Lanier, and be in the presence of her wisdom.

Mrs. Rebecca Lanier celebrates her 119th birthday

According to the story, the U.S. government recognizes her age as 119, but she has no birth certificate. At the time she was born, they weren't issued to blacks. Without a birth certificate, Guinness World Records won't recognize her as the oldest living person in the U.S.

My thoughts? So what. When I think of Guinness World Records, I don't think of true historical significance, or living history. I think of someone who broke the record for having the most tattoos.

Ms. Lanier is living history. The oral history she can share should be recorded and documented. In our society we put too much emphasis on the next best thing or technological progression. But, it is the wisdom of our elders, which can truly help to preserve what's good in us and society, and even give a clearer picture of how to proceed.

I wonder if Ms. Lanier thought she'd ever live this long. Would I want to live until 119? Well, that's really not up to me. But, she sure makes 119 look good.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Jazz in the Gardens Music Festival

Lauryn Hill performs at Jazz in the Gardens, Miami, Fla.
My friend Felicia and I took the drive from Palm Beach County to Miami Dade Saturday, March 19 to see the first day of the two-day musical festival Jazz in the Gardens at the Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, the home of the Miami Dolphins.  The show began at 4 p.m., and main acts that day included Lalah Hathaway, Al Jarreau, Heads of State (featuring Johnny Gill, Ralph Tresvant, and Bobby Brown), Charlie Wilson and Lauryn Hill.

It was a beautiful day, temps reaching the low 80's. Everyone was friendly, and in a good mood. Who wouldn't be?  There was good music, food, and sunshine. The event was conducted on the grounds outside of the stadium. As you entered the grounds there were tents with vendors selling a variety of items from T-shirts, art, accessories to natural soap.

Attendees visit the food vendors

The food vendors saw the most business. A lot of the food you'd expect at outdoor festivals. Not the healthiest, but I did spot one stand with salad and fruit. I have to admit, I couldn't pass up the conch fritters. Especially when a polite teen, whose family ran the stand, explained to me why the food served there is so delicious I should try it.

Lalah Hathaway's soulful voice was beautiful. So glad she sang my favorite, "Forever, For Always, For Love." Hearing Al Jarreau brought back so many memories of childhood. My parents listened to him a lot. And, as a youngster I was enamored with his video for "Mornin' " because of the animation. (See here He singing it that afternoon made me think of home.

As a staunch New Edition fan, I was thrilled to hear Heads of State perform. Especially when they sang New Edition classics like, "Mr. Telephone Man." I had flashbacks to grammar school when my friends and I picked a NE member to swoon over. Mine was Ralph Tresvant. And to my delight, he sang his solo hit, "Sensitivity." 

                                           Brown, Tresvant and Gill  rock the audience

                                           Bobby Brown performs with Heads of State

Johnny Gill and Bobby Brown also belted out their solo classics. Bobby B's, "Don't Be Cruel" and "Tenderoni" had all of the ladies on their feet. And, it wouldn't have been right if Johnny Gill didn't serenade females in the audience with "My, My, My." Tresvant, Brown and Gill sounded really, really good, and put on a fantastic show. You've still got it fellas!

                                          Johnny Gill serenades females in the audience

Bobby Brown brings his youngest son on stage

In between acts there was party music playing. A few of the songs got the crowd going so much, many began impromptu Cha-Cha Slides and even the Electric Slide in the aisles. That was almost as fun to watch as the performers. 

Charlie Wilson didn't disappoint either. He had the crowd on its feet for the whole performance. He took us from the old to the new with songs from his Gap Band days, "Outstanding" to his current solo hits, "There Goes My Baby." And yes, he had on one of his Charlie Wilson hats, of which he let the crowd know his signature hats were now available to fans. So, like Country Western concerts where the attendees wear cowboy hats, next time you see Wilson live, you can sport his style.

                                                             Charlie Wilson 

The final act of the day, well the concert kind of went into the next day, was Lauryn Hill. Now, I'm a big Lauryn Hill fan. Prior to Jazz in the Gardens, I've seen her perform twice, once when I was studying abroad as a student in Madrid, Spain she performed with The Fugees, and again at Madison Square Garden when she was on tour for "The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill." We are the same age. She's from New Jersey, I'm from New York. I understand her lyrics, I get her message.

Lauryn Hill gives a passionate performance

Okay, Hill's performance was late due to technical difficulties. But, I didn't care. When you think about it, there are things not worth wasting an hour on, which most of us do every day. Like reality TV. To hear Hill live, I would sacrifice the extra hour of sleep. I was so glad I did! She was great!!! That was the Lauryn Hill I remembered. She and her band rocked Fugees hits like, "Fu-Gee-la," and the always moving version of "Killing Me Softly." Hill also performed some of her solo hits including, "Everything is Everything" and "That Thing." Everyone I was around sang along with her for every song. I'm thrilled Lauryn Hill is back in the building.

All in all I really enjoyed Jazz in the Gardens.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Food Blogging

                                    Conch salad (See link to story Exploring Conch, below)

Though it has been a while since my last blog entry, my pen hasn't been idle.

During this past fall season I had the opportunity to be a food blogger on, the website of Chef Marcus Samuelsson. My weekly blog was called, "Food Thoughts with Sheryl Estrada."

It was a great opportunity to be able to explore food in relation to culture, health and society.

Here are a few of my entries:

-Exploring Conch:

-Taking Over Organically:

-Food and Communication:
This is my favorite post as the photo featured is my goddaughter, Gabriella!

-You Are What You Eat:

-A Tale of Two Tubers: