The second annual Chapel Hill Black Film Festival is coming this weekend to the Varsity Theater.

Hosted by Argyle Rebel Films, the CHBFF will take place Friday and Saturday, February 10-11, with films and documentaries by Black filmmakers, plus panel discussions and awards. And on Friday, UNC students Jailyn Neville and Taliajah “Teddy” Vann (who’s also UNC’s student body president) will be recognized as the recipients of the 2023 Carolina Black Pioneer Scholarship. A film by Neville and Vann will also be screened as part of the festival.

97.9 The Hill’s Aaron Keck spoke with Vann, Neville, and Argyle Rebel CEO and festival organizer Michael Washington. This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity. Click here to listen to their full conversation.

Michael Washington: It’s gonna be a whole lot of fun. You know, we started this whole thing a year ago. Myself, Chris Everett, Mike Wiley. We wanted to create a space, we wanted to have a dialogue, we wanted to partner with our best friends, and we wanted to honor the past, celebrate our legacy, and make way for the future of filmmaking here in North Carolina.

And I’m super excited this year. I met Taliajah “Teddy” Vann at a Black alumni event – and if you ever hear her speak, you’ll be like, this is the next Obama, she’s amazing, she’ll take over the world. I’m a huge fan. And she’s like, “Films! I want to do that. You do that. Let’s talk.” So I said, “Listen, here’s equipment, let me give you some money, become our scholarship winner this year, and I want you to make a film.” She’s like, “I can’t do this by myself, I have a partner named Jai who I want you to meet…”

I’m super psyched. They’re the future of film. These are two young women who are going to take over the world, and we get to premiere one of their films at the Chapel Hill Black Film Festival.

Taliajah Vann: We’re so excited. Our film is going to be showing on Friday night, the 10th, and we’re really excited for that. Broadly, our film is about grief and personhood – and in all the work that we do as filmmakers, we really try to bring experiences to people and tell their stories in a way that feels authentic. That’s what we love so much about film. With this (documentary), we want to connect with the experience that we’ve all been having collectively, just grieving the lives that we had before over the last two years.

Aaron Keck: What inspires you about the idea of sitting down and making a film?

Vann: I really love to read books. Like when the Scholastic Book Fair came, I was so excited. What I love the most about that experience: you sit down with this thick chapter book, and by the time you get to the end, you have lost yourself in an entire world. It’s just completely different from where you are, (especially) as somebody who didn’t get to travel a ton. This was traveling for me. Going through books, going through movies, and getting to follow along with the character as they go on their journey. And so what we really love is the idea that we can sit down, put something like that together, and bring that experience to other people. I just want people to be able to feel the beauty and the joy that film has brought to my life, and I love doing that work with Jailyn. We’re literally the Wonder Twins.

Keck: First time for both of you making a film?

Vann: I’m a film studies major at UNC. I take a lot of classes in writing for the screen, (and) I love everything that I’ve experienced in that space. Dr. Michael Acosta has made the experience so wonderful. So I had that early introduction in the classroom, and have decided this is what we want our lives to be.

Keck: What do you know now about filmmaking that you didn’t know when you started this project, that you didn’t expect to learn?

Jailyn Neville: I expected that we would go into the movie knowing exactly what the movie would be. (But) it’s just a very fluid process, and you really don’t know the story at least until you’re halfway done with actually filming. And so it has made me appreciate the movies I saw when I was younger: it’s really hard to communicate a story that’s interesting and changes people’s minds. This is a very fluid medium, and (you have) to embrace that and understand that the story’s going to tell itself as well.

Keck: Do you look at other films now with different eyes?

Neville: Definitely. And I’m asking questions constantly, about what their production might have looked like, or how long it took to pull together, or how many minds were on the idea before they even got to a script – just trying to break down those movies, so that we can make even better films.

Washington: Which they will. I mean, again, these two are the future. What I’m so psyched about is that these are two young women who are graduating from Carolina very soon. I graduated in 2009 and I made my first feature-length film that senior year, so I’m just super psyched to give them the (same) opportunity – but what they already have planned is crazy.

So that’s why you should come out to the Chapel Hill Black Film Festival. Because the idea is that every single year we’re going to have young folks launching their careers based here in North Carolina. And that’s super important to us. We, a hundred percent, believe that what’s happening in LA in Atlanta and all over the world, we can do that here. It’s really important to do that here. We want to use this film festival as a launchpad. So watch out for what they’re going to bring.

Keck: And since Michael’s setting you up to take over the world: what’s the next step in that?

Vann: I think Michael laid it out really well in describing the reasons why Argyle Rebel Films is here and working with filmmakers in North Carolina. We don’t want to have to go to LA or New York or Atlanta to make film. When I decided to be a film studies major, decided I wanted to dedicate my life to this, that was immediately the messaging that I got: “you need to move to one of these places to be successful.” But I love North Carolina. I’m from Durham. I’ve gone to college in Chapel Hill. I love the Triangle. And so to me, what comes next for us is building our film studio, partnering with Argyle and getting to work with all the amazing talents here, and just absorbing that generational knowledge from people who have been doing this longer than we have and who are willing to support us in the incredible ways that Argyle and Michael have done so far.

Washington: And there’s enough room here for every single one of us. There is enough room for all of our stories to be told.

There’s another film festival in town, I’m not going to say who – but they’re like, “you’re coming too close! It’s too much going on!” There’s not enough going on. There’s enough room for all of our stories and all of our people. So, again, I want to keep on pointing towards (Jailyn and Teddy). Phil Ford-style. Point to the passer. Because they are the future. And hopefully we get to work together: there’s a documentary about the Black Pioneers at UNC that we’re producing called Harbinger…

Vann: So excited.

Washington: And we’re actually going to be showing the trailer for Harbinger at the film festival.

Keck: Last word?

Neville: Michael’s belief is very well placed in us. Me and Teddy are exceptional. We’re superstars. And we understand the responsibility that comes with that. And people are looking to us to make things that are innovative and generate more conversation. And we do that on a consistent basis. And I’m very excited to show Michael just why his trust was well placed.

Washington: So cocky, so confident, and so accurate! does not charge subscription fees, and you can directly support our efforts in local journalism here. Want more of what you see on Chapelboro? Let us bring free local news and community information to you by signing up for our biweekly newsletter.