Co-Lin to present Wright documentary

Published 11:17 pm Friday, February 15, 2008

NATCHEZ — An original documentary about Richard Wright will be shown for the first time during the 19th annual Natchez Literary and Cinema Celebration.

The half-hour documentary, “Richard Wright: A Force for Right,” was produced by Copiah-Lincoln Community College’s Natchez campus. Five students in the Introduction to Broadcasting class and instructor Mark LaFrancis did the filming and editing in what is the college’s most enterprising documentary to date. The students are Landon Henry, Latashia Wansley-Clark, Michael Fuqua, Mark M. LaFrancis and Michelle Wynn.

The documentary is designed to educate and inspire the viewer, particularly young people, about Richard Wright and his stature in the literary world.

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The film will be shown on three separate occasions during the NLCC. The first will be Wednesday in a program at Co-Lin beginning at 11 a.m. in the W. L. Nelson Multi-Purpose Room. Co-Lin’s Student Support Services will conduct a Black History Month program. In addition to the film, Dr. Robert Butler of Cansius College in Buffalo, N.Y., will talk about Wright’s southern religious background as it is revealed in Wright’s autobiography “Black Boy.”

A special program with the documentary will be given to area students at Natchez High School on Friday. There will be a general public showing Saturday, Feb. 23, at 1 p.m. at the Natchez Convention Center during a program that is free.

“Mark LaFrancis and the Co-Lin students have created and produced a compelling, first-rate documentary that will inspire and educate both longtime admirers as well as newcomers to Richard Wright’s work,” said Emmy-winning producer Jennifer Ogden. “The film is well-paced, well-shot and edited; the filmmakers successfully blend technical skill with the creative use of visual images and voiceover to illuminate the importance of Richard Wright’s early life on his work, and the extraordinary legacy he left behind. Congratulations on a film well done.”

Carolyn Vance Smith, founder and co-chairman of the Natchez Literary and Cinema Celebration, said she was glad the film was a part of this year’s fesitval.

“This film is extraordinarily well done and very meaningful. It will enhance the conference immensely.”

The documentary has been in the works for more than a year-and-a-half; it grew out of a desire for Co-Lin Natchez to take part in an educational project for the 2008 NLCC and feature Richard Wright. A plan down the road is for Co-Lin to seek funding to possibly distribute the documentary to secondary schools in Mississippi. Seventeen high school and college students were interviewed for the documentary, both at Co-Lin and at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School in Jackson.

The documentary includes special readings by Dr. Jerry W. Ward Jr., of New Orleans, one of the foremost Richard Wright scholars, of Richard Wright’s own words from his book “Black Boy.”

The film also features interviews with former Mississippi Gov. William F. Winter; Charles Wright, cousin of Richard Wright and Eugenia Perry, whose mother went to school with Richard Wright.