Kam Williams | 7/25/2012, 9:15 a.m.
Dante James is an Emmy Award-winning independent filmmaker who has produced and directed critically acclaimed documentaries and dramatic films. He is also the assistant director of the African Cultural Center at North Carolina State University (NCSU).
Prior to joining the NCSU faculty, he was an artist in residence and instructor at Duke University. In 2006, he won a National Emmy for his work as series producer of the well-received PBS series, “Slavery and the Making of America.”
James’ most recent offering, “Harlem in Montmartre: A Paris Jazz Story,” was awarded Best Documentary at the 2010 Pan African International Film Festival in Cannes, France.
In 2008 he wrote, produced and directed “The Doll,” an adaptation of a classic short story by Charles W. Chesnutt. That picture received the Best Dramatic Short Film Award at that year’s Hollywood Black Film Festival.
Earlier in his career, Dante executive produced the PBS series, “This Far by Faith” for Blackside Films in Boston. He was also honored with the DuPont Columbia Silver Baton for his work at Blackside.
James has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Grand Valley State University and a Master of Arts in Liberal Studies from Duke University. In 2008 he was awarded an honorary Ph.D., a Doctorate of Humane Letters by Grand Valley State University.
During the summer of 2010 he served as a guest lecturer at the University of Cape Town in South Africa. He plans to return to Cape Town to make a film with a black South African resident of the Khayelitsha Township.
What interested you in doing a documentary about Huey Newton?
As a young person, I was interested in the Black Panther Party and their efforts to serve the needs of the community while also having the courage to confront oppressive, exploitative, forces in the community.
That interest grew as I got older and, as you are aware, all of my films explore some aspect of the African American experience. So, a film on Huey P. Newton and the Black Panther Party is an opportunity to grow intellectually while also exploring an often misrepresented movement.
Do you think that the Panthers have been slighted by history because J. Edgar Hoover was so successful at destroying the party?
I think the misrepresentations of the Black Panther Party are certainly connected to J. Edgar Hoover and his unrelenting efforts to destroy the party. For about 10 years, Hoover illegally used the power of the federal government along with black informants to create dissension within the party and to present a negative image of the party to the general public.
Additionally, in concert with local police officials, Hoover used brutal force in his effort to destroy the Black Panther Party. The images and accounts of these efforts have misrepresented the Black Panther Party movement.
Historically, and even today, external forces including the government, the mainstream corporate media and academics have defined the Black Panther Party. This film will be the first to tell the story of the Black Panthers from inside the party. Black Panther Party members will define themselves and their movement.