Chuck O’Bannon and Rosalind Withers, left photo, produced the film “SNAP: A Look at Injustice in America.” Anniece Robinson and O’Bannon, right photo, produced “United Front: The People’s Convention 1991 Memphis.” Courtesy photo

By Wiley Henry

Marie Pizano

MEMPHIS, TN — A documentary is a film or video about a person or event based on facts. A documentary should also educate and bridge cultural divides, added Maria V. Pizano, founder and CEO of MVP3 Entertainment Group, which focuses of film, music, and community.

“This is part of my plan,” said Pizano, who is presenting a Black History Month series via MVP3, featuring three Memphis-based films: “Shannon Street: Echoes Under a Blood Red Moon,” “United Front: The People’s Convention 1991 Memphis,” and “SNAP: A Look at Injustice in America.”

“United Front” is screening Wednesday, Jan. 18, and “SNAP” is showing Wednesday, Feb. 1. “Shannon Street” was shown Jan. 11. 

The films are showing at Malco Paradiso, 584 S. Mendenhall Rd., with a meet and greet at 5:30 p.m., showtime at 6:15 p.m., and a panel discussion from 7:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

The Black History Month series benefit the South Memphis Alliance, which serves youth in foster care and families in need through social services, mentoring and advocacy.

“Shannon Street” digs for answers to that fateful night of Jan. 11, 1983, when a tactical squad from the Memphis Police Department stormed the home of Lindberg Sanders and killed seven Black men, including Sanders, after their hostage, officer Robert S. Hester, was beaten and heard pleading for his life.

“This is the 40th anniversary of Shannon Street,” said Pizano, an author, director and producer of the 90-minute documentary. The film’s grueling details, with reflections from both sides of the police-involved shooting, stir the conscience of those who remember the carnage.

“United Front” commemorates the 30th anniversary of the 1991 African-American People’s Convention at the Mid-South Coliseum and the “people’s” selection of a qualified Black consensus candidate to take on the white incumbent Memphis Mayor Richard “Dick” Hackett.

Using the Democratic Convention as a model, Dr. Willie W. Herenton, formerly the superintendent of Memphis City Schools, emerged the victor and went on to eclipse Hackett for the office of mayor by a mere 147 votes. 

Anniece Robinson, one of the convention’s “architects and conveners,” is the “United Front’s” executive producer. Chuck O’Bannon is producer and director of the 67-minute film.

“SNAP” gives us a glimpse in the life and legacy of Dr. Ernest C. Withers Sr., one of this nation’s most celebrated civil rights photographers. The film underscores the historic significance of Dr. Withers’s photography and what they really show.

An iconic photojournalist, Dr. Withers’s vast collection of images include the trial of Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam, in Sumner, Miss., who were acquitted of killing Emmett Till, the Memphis Sanitation Strike of 1968, the Montgomery bus boycott, Negro league baseball, and others.

“SNAP” is presented by The Withers Collection and produced and directed by Chuck O’Bannon. Rosalind Withers, Dr. Withers’s daughter, is the film’s executive producer.

Pizano believes there aren’t enough people in Memphis who know about The Withers Collection. “It’s been here,” she said, “but what about the students? They don’t understand all this; so I want them to learn.”

A connoisseur of history, Pizano says Memphis fascinates her – which makes it “a perfect fit for me to show Shannon Street and to show these other films [United Front and SNAP] to build up toward Black History Month.”

For their work, Pizano said MVP3, her entertainment group, is honoring Anniece Robinson for “United Front,” and both Rosalind Withers and Chuck O’Bannon for “SNAP.”  

“This is history,” she said. “This is the first annual [Black History Month series]. I’d like to kick this off each year in January and build up toward Black History Month.”

Maria V. Pizano can be reached at 901-634-1724. Tickets to the Black History Month series are available, with contributions to South Memphis Alliance, at https://smaweb.harnessapp.com/wv2/donate.