Groundbreaking film director Nelson receives Master of Cinema award

Groundbreaking film  director Nelson receives Master of Cinema award
April 30
00:00 2015
( Above: Photo by Erin Mizelle for the Winston-Salem Chronicle- 2015 RiverRun Master of Cinema recipient, producer and director Stanley Nelson, talks about his latest groundbreaking documentary work, “The Black Panthers” Vanguard of the Revolution, during an intimate conversation and Q&A on Friday, April 24, 2015, at the Milton Rhodes Center for the Arts.)

By Tevin Stinson, For The Chronicle

On Friday April,24, groundbreaking film director Stanley Nelson Jr., added another award to his collection when he took home the RiverRun International Film Festival’s Master of Cinema award for his new film “The Black Panthers: Vanguard of a Nation.”

The handmade trophy was given to Nelson during an open conversation moderated by Wake Forest University Professor Peter Gilbert.

The film documents the rise and eventual fall of the Black Panther Party and shows how they were not the rebels media and government made them out to be. The movie portrays them as fighting for justice.

“This country was not going to change; they changed the country,” Nelson said.

Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale started the Black Panther Party in 1966 in California. The Panthers fought to establish revolutionary socialism through community-based programs.

With films such as “Freedom Bags” (1990), “The Murder of Emmett Till” (2003), “Freedom Riders” (2010) and “Freedom Summer” (2014), Nelson has dedicated his career to telling the story of African-Americans who may have otherwise been forgotten.

“I wanted to get into filmmaking to tell the story of the people I knew, the people who I could relate to, who were going through the things I was going through,” Nelson said.

Nelson then explained making documentaries of this magnitude can bring on a number of burdens; not only do you have to tell the story to a new generation, but you also have to make sure all of the facts are correct,.

“I feel a burden all the time, trying to tell the story as accurately and entertaining as possible,” Nelson said. “Sometimes those two can clash.”

The “Black Panthers” film was viewed during the RiverRun Festival for only days, but drew a packed house both times. During the first viewing, a number of members from the Winston-Salem chapter of the Black Panther Party lined the back of the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art auditorium.

Among the Panthers in attendance was Larry Little, one of the earliest members who became the leader of the Winston-Salem chapter. Under Little’s leadership, the party reached the height of its success. Little was excited to see the film and even thanked Nelson for his work.

“I just want to thank Stanley Nelson, not for just telling our story, but for telling it so accurately,” Little said. “I couldn’t be more proud of the film.”

Little still lives in Winston-Salem and works as an associate professor of political science at Winston-Salem State University.

After the viewing, Little presented Nelson with an official patch from the Winston-Salem Chapter of the Black Panthers.

“This is the first time any member of any chapter has presented me with anything,” said Nelson. “It gives me great pleasure to know that I got it right.”

Nelson is raising money for the film, which is scheduled to air on PBS in February 2016, through

The site can be viewed by typing in Panthers.

The fund has raised nearly $50,000 and will go toward getting the film to theaters.


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