Arts & Entertainment

Montclair Film Festival Opens with Red Carpet Appearances and Inspiring Film "Step"

fa23aa4d51e0d45b6d34_DSC_0465.JPG
c146e46156aad2466f81_DSC_0510.JPG
Montclair Film Festival Director Tom Hall being interviewed on the red carpet by Megan Spinelli of TAPinto Montclair. Credits: Natalie Heard Hackett
b58badd636fd21792df3_DSC_0453.JPG
36a74f51208bdc99f635_DSC_0386.JPG
e4db1897adfe66a649a6_DSC_0389.JPG
78834f73dd8d83ca706c_DSC_0394.JPG
a950bc9defad0f3f5a19_DSC_0396.JPG
0c7de61ed381dbae2d75_DSC_0401.JPG
5db8d5a0fe8b756b073a_DSC_0403.JPG
Kenny Anderson on the red carpet at the 2017 Montclair Film Festival being interviewed by Megan Spinelli of TAPinto Montclair. Credits: Natalie Heard Hackett
a817309e1948439e69da_DSC_0405.JPG
21a9449584567f3ca10b_DSC_0406.JPG
f471e4f67880d6f5a2d7_DSC_0413.JPG
4488f0fba6b8e44e98f5_DSC_0414.JPG
8db36871bc9d7bc42972_DSC_0416.JPG
bee06f3c01be48ae1429_DSC_0421.JPG
Director of Montclair Film Festival Tom Hall and his mom. Credits: Natalie Heard Hackett
27d1eb9e5d00dab182b4_DSC_0424.JPG
3232ef4e2f981fdc08f4_DSC_0431.JPG
2dfb986919986eadb5a6_DSC_0432.JPG
abadbaf55373f1fd5fb8_DSC_0433.JPG
08fbb665e3a71db80952_DSC_0436.JPG
84972d639ba608c50156_DSC_0439.JPG
bc802b76ecf3f628ff23_DSC_0440.JPG
60fc6ec8b646fc020ca2_DSC_0446.JPG
dd6349138e0101365336_DSC_0454.JPG
1ac2617fdddca9000dec_DSC_0459.JPG
e5672ee1afd8d4d22199_DSC_0460.JPG
90d27781bd6142596011_DSC_0462.JPG
543e0e993b1e17b08509_DSC_0463.JPG
c644732457811b707a94_DSC_0473.JPG
41604c029b052b37c0d6_DSC_0478.JPG
Retired NBA Player Kenny Anderson and Stephen Colbert Credits: Natalie Heard Hackett
951eafdb59d10f0f67a9_DSC_0479.JPG
7aba6bb1ec067cce67bc_DSC_0480.JPG
c069331b4222087c3888_DSC_0488.JPG
Stephen and Evelyn Colbert at the Montclair Film Festival Credits: Natalie Heard Hackett
d83b2117e6695526ab99_DSC_0489.JPG
5e58bed6e8e7042fe6a4_DSC_0495.JPG
bf75ccc47876fb062fae_DSC_0497.JPG
b73c658810bdaf6f505c_DSC_0504.JPG
17ba32e1b194d07616c5_DSC_0507.JPG
5c6fa668ad194dea870c_DSC_0509.JPG
a13ac74b7af6af6e4ba9_DSC_0511.JPG
fa23aa4d51e0d45b6d34_DSC_0465.JPG

MONTCLAIR, NJ - The Montclair Film Festival kicked off Friday night with a red carpet full of talented people and a film that highlights true perseverance when the odds are not favorable.

The night kicked off with the red carpet outside of the Wellmont Theater and featured appearances from “Mr. Chibbs” subject and retired professional basketball player Kenny Anderson, “Mr. Chibbs” director Jill Campbell, “Dolores” subject Dolores Huerta and various people involved in the festival’s opening night film “Step.” The “Step” notables included step coach Gari McIntyre, college counselor Paula Dofat and the film’s producer Steven Cantor. A step team from Hillside High School in New Jersey was also featured on the red carpet and even performed on stage before the film began.

Stephen Colbert and Montclair Film’s board president Evelyn Colbert were also greeted with excitement when they made their red carpet appearance.

Sign Up for E-News

First on the carpet were Anderson and Campbell, who have been working hard together on the film “Mr. Chibbs” for about three years on and off. The film was named for Anderson’s childhood nickname, a name that the former NBA star said is “very dear” to him.

“My mother named me that when I was 5 days old. They bring me in to see the mother, to see the child, and my mother saw me, she was eating and said ‘cheeks,’ but it came out ‘chibbs,’” Anderson said. “She called me Chibbs and took me home. My brothers, my family, my neighborhood were all calling me Chibbs. I went to kindergarten, I didn’t know my name was Kenneth until she registered me.”

As the subject of the movie, Anderson said he hopes he can give back to viewers by giving them support and showing them they are not alone in whatever they may be dealing with. He said he was extremely open during filming and was willing to share his life with the world.

 “I’m not big into people’s opinions. I could care less. What I’m trying to do is just give back, pay it forward, just to give someone the message that I learned through my life to some of the youth and to some of the adults that are dealing with a lot of issues that they may be hiding,” Anderson said. “It’s my obligation. Somebody saved me, so I’ve got to go back and save somebody and help somebody.”

The film touches on various aspects of Anderson’s life, including marriage, fatherhood and even being molested and abused.

Although some of the subject matter may have been difficult to film, Campbell said she appreciated how open Anderson was.

“This famous icon of a basketball player is a real person going through the same struggles that we all go through every day, and even on top of that he wants to give back, and how many of us get the chance to give back on this platform that he’s giving back in?” Campbell said of working with Anderson. “And that was what was really exciting about doing the film. I’ve never seen an athlete as raw and open as Kenny is.”

Even though Campbell admitted there were struggles like raising funds, she said this was a project unlike any other.

“It was a dream. This was a dream,” Campbell said of Anderson and the project as a whole. “I will never have a project like this again. Dream subject, dream project, dream producers.”

Anderson and Campbell both said they were also excited to see the opening night film “Step.”

“I always want to support everybody,” Anderson said. “That’s the main thing. You’ve got to give love to everybody’s project because people are giving us love.”

“Step” is a film about a step team from inner city Baltimore called the Lethal Ladies. In the film, each girl tries to not only be the first in her family to attend college, but also work hard to create an electric performance and come out on top at a step competition. The film highlights the struggle of balancing school, home and the step team while also maintaining the friendships they have created.

McIntyre and Dofat played a huge role in pushing these girls to do their best and were in attendance for the film’s Montclair Film Festival debut.

Both women were excited to see their film open the festival and see their – and the step team’s – hard work pay off.

“Honestly we’re just simple hometown girls from Baltimore and from Queens and this is a dream come true for the team, a dream come true for us,” Dofat said. “I think what we want to say is we’re blessed and we’re grateful. We don’t take this for granted, not any step of the way.”

In the film – which was shown following the red carpet entrances – the girls at the Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women did not win many step competitions and some were struggling to maintain good grades. By the end of the film and the girls’ senior year though, the Lethal Ladies wont first place in the most important competition and the school’s graduating class had a 100 percent college acceptance rate. One high school student in the film received a full ride to John Hopkins University and another earned a spot in the BridgeEdU program after struggling with her schoolwork.

All of that success was thanks to the girls and their hard work, the girls’ families, and of course, McIntyre and Dofat.

“What I love about the film is how authentic it is and how we went through things,” Dofat said. “They didn’t get steps, they didn’t look good, but the triumph in the end is the big piece of cake, and then 100 percent college acceptance is just remarkable.”

Although the Lethal Ladies team was not present at opening night of the festival, the step team from Hillside High School in New Jersey was and performed for the crowd before the film premiered.

One of the step team members was Zaria Rawls, a junior at Hillside High School. Her mom Reverend Candy Rawls was not only there to watch her step but also there at the red carpet, ready to watch her pose for pictures with Stephen Colbert and Evelyn Colbert, as well as the other festival participants.

Candy Rawls proudly took photos of her daughter and the team and said it has helped Zaria Rawls grow as a person and a student.

“Having her on the team is wonderful because it motivated her,” Candy Rawls said of Zaria Rawls. “It actually helped to create her character. I’m very excited for her.”

Someone else excited for both opening night and for the festival as a whole is Executive Director of Montclair Film Tom Hall. With the organization expanding to a year-round event and transitioning from the Montclair Film Festival to Montclair Film, Hall said he is excited for the future and is excited to see what the organization will do for the Montclair community.

“It’s really about connecting the audiences and the artists. Watching that connection happen at our screenings and the conversations are the things I’m the most passionate about,” Hall said. “The discussion, the dialogue, everyone getting excited about ideas – that’s what this is all about.”

The Montclair Film Festival is taking place from April 28 - May 7. For more information about the Montclair Film Festival, visit http://montclairfilmfest.org/

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

Montclair