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Reginald Lewis Museum goes to the movies

The Baltimore Sun

Classic black musicals and a documentary on the life and career of the Baltimore-born actor Howard E. Rollins will be shown in May at a film festival at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture.

This is the second year for the festival, which is titled "Showcasing the Works of Independent Film Makers in Maryland."

"I wanted to showcase directors from or in Maryland," says Nicole Shivers, who selected the films and is the public-programs director at the museum.

"I thought the content was important for people to learn about," she says. "[The museum is] just 2 years old, so I thought this was a good month."

The first film, The Howard Rollins Story, will be shown at 2 p.m. May 19.

Rollins, who died in December 1996, was perhaps best remembered for his role as Virgil Tibbs in the television series In the Heat of the Night.

He made his debut as an actor at 17 in the play Of Mice and Men, directed by Steve Yeager at Spotlighters Theatre on St. Paul Street. He was nominated for an Academy Award in 1982 as best supporting actor for his role as Coalhouse Walker Jr. in Ragtime, the film version of E.L. Doctorow's novel about a black pianist involved in racial tensions, infidelity and violence in New York in the early 1900s.

Yeager, who directed The Howard Rollins Story, will discuss his film with the museum audience after the May 19 showing.

Also to be shown at the museum is The Wiz (May 6), an African- American version of The Wizard of Oz, set in the inner city instead of Kansas.

Sophisticated Ladies, scheduled for May 13, is a film version of the musical based on Duke Ellington's compositions. The musical played for 767 performances after it opened at the Lunt-Fontaine Theatre in New York City in 1981.

Mercer Ellington leads the Ellington orchestra as it plays more than 30 of his father's tunes, including Things Ain't What They Used to Be, Sophisticated Lady, Satin Doll and Mood Indigo.

On May 20 comes Sarafina!, made in 1992 from the point of view of a young black girl living in Soweto. It combines upbeat African music with a description of the atrocious conditions under which black South Africans lived when the film was made.

Whoopi Goldberg plays a dramatic role in this movie as a school instructor teaching lessons of freedom.

"What happens when street dancing is mixed with theater dancing?" is said to be the question raised by Breakin', which plays on May 27.

A struggling young jazz dancer meets two break-dancers. Together they become the sensation of the street crowds. Ice-T, a hip-hop legend, makes his debut in this film.

The subscription for the film festival is $42 for adults and $38.50 for children 17 and younger. A single film costs $8 for adults and $6 for those 17 and younger. Admission to the museum is extra.

For further information, call the museum at 443-263- 2875.

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