DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- Black excellence was on full display inside the Hayti Heritage Center at the opening ceremony of the 28th annual film festival. It's a celebration of black talent, voices, and stories. This year's theme is, 'We carry them with us.'
"It's so important that Black faces, Black talent is able to do what we do. Storytelling at its best, because it expands the whole notion and story of human beings," said Lana Garland.
She is the film festival's co-director. Garland is a filmmaker herself and understands what this opportunity means for up-and-coming writers, producers, directors, and storytellers. "Not being able to have enough people of color on my sets that's a problem. So, the more I can provide an environment and an atmosphere for Black filmmakers to be seen and heard and flourish," she continued.
Elegance Bratton and Chester Algernal Gordon are among the emerging directors and producers, Garland is witnessing bloom.
Bratton and Gordon are the director-producer duo of the award-winning movie Inspection, which was the featured movie screened during the film festival's opening reception Thursday night.
The movie is based on Bratton's journey of being a young black gay man who was kicked out of his home as a teenager but finds his way with the help of a U.S. Marine Corps recruiter.
The movie stars Jeremy Pope, Gabrielle Union, and Bokeem Woodbine
"It was important for me to get them here. And I was trying to get them here for so very long and then Inspection came out, and then I saw it. And it's a powerful story. I come to find out that it's actually Elegance, his personal journey and personal history. And so that made it extra special for me. So, I knew I had to get them here for opening night."
And the duo made it. Elegance Bratton and Chester Algernal Gordon made their way to the historic Hayti community.
Bratton shared what the moment meant for him. "As an artist, you don't really get a chance very much in the film to interact with the audience and get to know the people who are supporting the work. So it's really great to be here and to make those connections and to meet the folks."
They both shared their voice, wisdom, and talents with filmmakers who are hoping to one day get to where they are. Gordon shared these words of wisdom.
"I think it's really important that when you're trying to be a filmmaker to your first story that you try to tell a story that only you can tell. Take people on a journey that you could only take them to," explained Gordon.
"Every Black film is a celebration of blackness. And I'm just grateful to be in a position in my life and in my career where I get to celebrate blackness on a global scale," continued Bratton.
And that's what the Hayti Heritage Film Festival is all about, celebrating and cultivating the next generation of storytellers.
The festival continues through Saturday with workshops, and a town hall discussion, along with in-person and virtual movie screenings.