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Black Man Films’ ‘Speak Up Brotha’ Wins Best Narrative Short at Morehouse Human Rights Film Festival

For the Second Consecutive Year, Black Man Films wins the Top Prize at the MCHRFF
After winning the Grand Jury Prize at the 26th Annual Dances with Films:LA earlier this summer, Black Man Films’ latest film, “Speak Up Brotha!,” was named BEST NARRATIVE SHORT at the Morehouse College Human Rights Film Festival. The team, founded by actor-writer-producer Roderick Lawrence (Ike Turner in TINA: The Tina Turner Musical) and actor-producer Salma Qarnain (Mrs. Biology-Kumar in Life of Pi), took home the prize for the second consecutive year. In 2022, the team won with their Oscar-qualified short, “Silent Partner.”

Since making its world premiere this Spring at the Oscar-qualifying Cleveland International Film Festival, “Speak Up Brotha!” is an official selection of nine festivals to date, making its Southern premiere at the Oscar-qualifying American Black Film Festival (ABFF); its West Coast premiere at the prestigious Dances with Films:LA at the TCL Chinese Theatres, where the film won the Grand Jury Prize; its Northeastern premiere at the Oscar-qualifying Martha’s Vineyard African-American Film Festival (MVAAFF); and its Atlanta premiere at the Oscar-qualifying BronzeLens Film Festival, where the film was nominated for Best Short.

Written by and starring Roderick Lawrence and featuring Terrence “T.C.” Carson (2023 NAACP Image Awards Nominee, “Living Single”), “Speak Up Brotha!” is an ode to Black romance films of the 90s like “Love Jones” and “Poetic Justice.” It offers a refreshing perspective on anxiety in communication and Black love by uniquely melding narrative storytelling with spoken word. “Speak Up Brotha!” was directed by Wes Andre Goodrich (“Palm Sunday”); co-written by renowned spoken word artist Obbie West and James J. Johnson (“Silent Partner”); lensed by Nona Catusanu (“The Snakes” HBO short film; “The Booze, Bets and Sex that Built America”); and produced by Salma Qarnain (“Silent Partner,” Black Man Films; Broadway’s LIFE OF PI) in association with EPs Ron Gillyard and Will Campbell (Quantasy Studios) and with Emmy Award Winner Dario Harris (“The Girl in Apartment 15”) co-producing.

“Speak Up Brotha” can be screened in-person and online through:

About:

Roderick Lawrence is a highly-acclaimed actor and the Co-Founder of Black Man Films. He is a 2022 BronzeLens Film Festival BEST ACTOR recipient (Oscar-qualifying) and a 2020 AUDELCO nominee. His credits include Simba in Disney’s THE LION KING National Tour, Ramses in the Broadway-bound THE PRINCE OF EGYPT, Othello in John Leguizamo’s OTHELLO: THE REMIX, Floyd Barton in August Wilson’s SEVEN GUITARS, and Jesus in GODSPELL. He is currently starring as Ike Turner in the National Tour of Broadway’s TINA: THE TINA TURNER MUSICAL.

During the pandemic, Roderick created, starred in, and produced the multi-award-winning narrative short, SILENT PARTNER, which garnered twenty-one festival acceptances (four Oscar qualifiers; eight awards and nominations), was a finalist in the HBO MAX® Latino Short Film Competition, and qualified for the 2023 Oscars. Most recently, he wrote, starred in, and produced the narrative short SPEAK UP BROTHA!, which premiered at the Oscar-qualifying Cleveland International Film Festival and is currently on the festival circuit (four Oscar qualifiers; nine official selections to date; Grand Jury Prize recipient at DWF:LA, Best Narrative Short at MCHRFF). The feature version of SILENT PARTNER is set to shoot this December.

Roderick trained at and received his B.M. in Music Theatre at one of the top five music theatre conservatory programs in the country, Baldwin Wallace Conservatory of Music. He is repped by Schacter Entertainment and DGRW.

Salma Qarnain is a Pakistani-American and the Co-Founder of Black Man Films. She is a dynamic, interdisciplinary leader and storyteller with executive-level P&L experience across Aerospace, Internet, Media & Entertainment, and Education.

As a producer, Salma led SILENT PARTNER (twenty-one festival acceptances including four Oscar qualifiers; eight awards and nominations; finalist in the HBO MAX® Latino Short Film Competition; 2023 Oscar contender) and SPEAK UP BROTHA! (four Oscar qualifiers; nine official selections to date; Grand Jury Prize recipient at DWF:LA; Best Narrative Short at MCHRFF) from inception to launch. The feature version of SILENT PARTNER is set to shoot this December. She previously led DC’s premier physical theater, Synetic, to national acclaim, producing over twenty productions and earning thirty Helen Hayes Nominations and nine Awards.

As an actor, she has performed across TV, film, and theater, including Broadway, Off-Broadway, and Off-West-End productions. She is a two-time Helen Hayes Award recipient, an AUDELCO nominee, has collaborated on 20+ developmental workshops and readings of new plays and musicals, and most recently starred in Broadway’s Tony-Award-Winning LIFE OF PI as Mrs. Biology-Kumar/Zaida Khan. Member SAG•AFTRA, AEA and Equity (UK). She is repped by Multi-Ethnic Talent.

Salma holds a B.S. from Stanford, an S.M. from MIT, and an MBA from Harvard Business School. She is currently pursuing her doctorate in organizational behavior at IE Business School.

Ron Gillyard is a trusted marketing and media executive who has advanced the initiatives of companies and individuals in the technology, marketing, and entertainment industries for over twenty-five years. Gillyard is a partner and Chief Growth Officer of Quantasy + Associates [Q+A], an award-winning full-service marketing agency. An intuitive strategist, Gillyard has been able to consistently drive revenue growth, market penetration, and creative development for his clients.

Gillyard served as co-producer of the award-winning documentary “Maurice Hines: Bring Them Back.” He executive produced the Peabody Award-winning, Emmy-nominated documentary, “Mr. Soul.” Additionally, Gillyard has also had the pleasure of producing the award-winning Broadway-bound musical, BORN FOR THIS, and will be bringing the play, SIDNEY, based on the life of Sidney Poitier, to the stage.

Gillyard enjoyed a remarkable career in the music and entertainment industry serving as head of multiple record labels and working with such artists as Stevie Wonder, Luther Vandross, Sean “Diddy” Combs, Bebe and Cece Winans, Mary J. Blige, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Will Smith, and Alicia Keys. Gillyard earned a Grammy award for his work as a producer. Gillyard serves on the board of the Center Theater Group LA and the advisory board of the Boston Arts Academy.

For more information and updates on “Speak Up Brotha!,” visit www.speakupbrotha.com and follow on Instagram at @speakupbrothafilm.

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Last updated on October 6, 2023

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