MOVE WHEN THE SPIRIT SAYS MOVE: THE LEGACY OF DOROTHY FOREMAN COTTON will be the opening night selection of the 31st Pan African Film & Arts Festival (PAFF) on Friday, February 10 at 6:45 p.m. PT with an encore screening on Saturday, February 11 at 1:10 p.m. PT at the festival’s flagship theater, Cinemark Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza 15 and XD in Los Angeles. A documentary chronicling Dorothy Foreman Cotton’s civil rights work and accomplishments is directed by Ry Ferro (RIZE UP, THERE’S YOUR READY GIRL, RE:THINKING) and Deborah C. Hoard (RIZE UP, THEY CALL IT MYANMAR, CIVIL WARRIORS). Passes for the festival are available at http://www.paff.org/festival/.

Cotton’s work as King’s executive assistant is chronicled in MOVE WHEN THE SPIRIT SAYS MOVE: THE LEGACY OF DOROTHY FOREMAN COTTON. Among the notable figures included are Ambassador Andrew Young (who worked closely with Cotton & Dr. King), Latosha Brown (Black Voters Matter), and Ash-Lee Woodard Henderson (Highlander Research and Education Center).

The Citizen Education Program (CEP) Cotton developed for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) provided critical skills training to thousands of marginalized African Americans. Participants in literacy, voter registration, and citizenship training were recruited throughout the southeast. African Americans were required to pass a literacy test to cast a vote in elections during the time when CEP was a valuable resource.

Training protestors in nonviolent demonstrations was a key component of Dorothy Cotton’s contribution to nonviolent protest. The teaching of ‘turning the other cheek’ to mobs that were angry was a hazardous endeavor. In the midst of the escalating tensions, Cotton’s calming spirit and inspiring freedom songs gave demonstrators courage.

“We are honored to bring Dorothy’s story to the world during a time when democracy is being threatened,” said Deborah Hoard, producer and director. “Her legacy can help us to recognize our power as citizens and use it to bring about the change we seek.”

Cotton’s life’s work was focused on civil and human rights. In 2007, The Dorothy Cotton Institute (DCI) was launched in Ithaca, N.Y., where she spent the last quarter-century of her life. The organization “…offers education and training to inspire and support people who want to foster and protect human rights and to advance civic participation for social transformation.”

“It is time for everyone to know who Dorothy Cotton was,” said Ry Ferro, director and editor.

“Her lifelong resolve, integrity and dedication to the great struggle to advance democracy in this country was infinite. Our hope is that this film will build on her legacy at a time when democracy is under attack.”

About PhotoSynthesis Productions

PhotoSynthesis Productions (PSP) is a little film company that exists on a big world stage. The company has filmed the Dalai Lama, documented a total eclipse of the sun in Bolivia, and had the film THEY CALL IT MYANMAR named as one of the top documentaries of 2012. Their work for clients like Cornell University and the National Geographic Society has won more than 200 national and international awards. PSP is dedicated to using the power of film for education and social justice purposes. For 30 years they produced long- and short-form films, including RE:THINKING and ANGKOR AWAKENS, that reach international audiences with diverse messages of equity and positive change. The work is widely lauded for its visual excellence, educational value, and emotional impact.

About The Dorothy Cotton Institute

The Dorothy Cotton Institute (DCI) offers education and training based on the philosophy and practices of nonviolence, reconciliation, restoration, and grassroots leadership development. Cotton insisted that DCI’s work not be a monument to her work in the ‘60s and ‘70s, but instead be relevant to contemporary issues and bring visibility to 21st century efforts for justice and freedom, civic engagement, and social transformation. DCI’s work encourages people to believe in themselves, speak up, and stop waiting for somebody else to make things better.

About the Pan African Film & Arts Festival

Taking place February 9-20, 2023, in Los Angeles, the Pan African Film & Arts Festival (PAFF) presents and showcases a broad spectrum of Black creative works, particularly those that reinforce positive images and help to destroy negative stereotypes of Africans and African Americans. Since 1992, PAFF has remained dedicated to the promotion of Black stories and images through the exhibition of film, visual art, and other creative expression. Today, PAFF is one of the largest and most prestigious Black film festivals in the U.S. and attracts local, national, and international audiences. In addition, it is an Oscar-qualifying festival for animation and live-action films, and one of the largest Black History Month events in America. The Pan African Film Festival is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.

Theatre: Cinemark Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza 15 and XD, 4020 Marlton Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90008

ByMichelle Mitchell

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