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Sixth Annual Annapolis Film Festival Showcased 80+ Films

Sammy Davis Jr. documentary ready for PBS-TV’s ‘American Masters’

Timothy Cox | 3/30/2018, 6 a.m.
A documentary film about the life of entertainment legend Sammy Davis, Jr. packed the house at the Maryland Hall for ...
Filmmakers Samuel Pollard, Suzanne Kay and moderator Chris Haley addressed the audience and responded to the film ‘Sammy Davis Jr.: I’ve Gotta Be Me.’ at the recent Annapolis Film Festival. Timothy Cox

A documentary film about the life of entertainment legend Sammy Davis, Jr. packed the house at the Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts at the Annapolis Film Festival, held March 22-25, 2018.

Sammy Davis Jr: I’ve Gotta Be Me documentary was an immediate show-stealer on just the second day of the annual film showcase, which hopes to someday rival events like Sundance, Cannes and Tribeca.

At the former Annapolis High School auditorium, nearly a thousand folks packed the venue to witness the soon-to-be-released feature film, directed and produced by Samuel D. Pollard. The filmmaker is a colleague of Shelton “Spike” Lee, and is also a product of New York City, Spanish Harlem to be exact, he said during the post-film question and answer sessions with the audience. Suzanne Kay, Dianne Carroll’s daughter, also joined Pollard onstage to respond to audience reactions to Pollard’s production.

Though recent works have focused on Sammy’s life via the TV idiom, including the TV One-produced UNSUNG HOLLYWOOD biopic, Pollard is able to dig much deeper in taking an in-depth view at the complicated life of the superstar. Surprisingly, Davis Jr. died at a somewhat youthful age of 64. His career began at age three, however.

Pollard’s film reveals the “ups and downs” of Davis, who’s considered the original trailblazer for all black performers who ultimately wanted to entertain multi-racial audiences. Though it came at a price, Davis Jr. fought a continuous civil rights battle to achieve equality as a true human being, and for his entire race. Interestingly, Pollard’s film utilized onscreen interviews with Davis’ close friends like Whoopi Goldberg, Jerry Lewis, Quincy Jones and a former lover actress Kim Novak.

Pollard said his now-finished product is headed for PBS-TV’s “American Masters,” with a release date set for late spring, early Summer 2018.

Pollard began his career as a producer on “Eyes on the Prize II: America at the Racial Crossroads in 1989.”

Another intriguing film, which screened as one of the 80-plus that appeared from March 22-25, was “Flock of Four.” The Gregory Caruso-produced film spotlighted a quartet of young white jazz musicians who were enamored with the premier black musicians of the period. The piece was set in 1950s Los Angeles, and displays when the youngsters gathered their nerves and took a cab trip to South Central Los Angeles.

While the film had a great opportunity to display racial harmony through the bonds of musicianship, unfortunately – the theme took a played-out, over-used flavor of racism on both ends. While filmed mostly at night, or within doors – the movie had a dark edge, and is simply one I cannot recommend for further viewing. Entirely way too much use of the “N” word and other negative vibes permeate the otherwise classic jazz music soundtrack (“Night In Tunesia” and “Blue Rondo a la Turk”), which flows throughout the entire film.

Suzanne Kay, the daughter of legendary actress Diahann Carroll, appeared at the festival where she promoted her upcoming feature film, dedicated to ‘Sullivision: Ed Sullivan’ which examines the variety show host’s ground-breaking record of staging black artists on his show in the 1950s and 1960s, when such appearances on TV were unusual and rare.

Lastly, Joanne Froggatt, the English actress of stage, television and film, was a special attraction at the Annapolis Film Festival, where she starred in the Spotlight Film called “A Crooked Somebody.” Ms. Froggatt is known internationally, having appeared in all six seasons of the popular UK-produced period piece known as Downton Abbey. She played lady’s maid, Anna Bates during all six seasons of the PBS-based drama. The show ran from 2010 to 2016.