Sultan Sharrief is a filmmaker, educator, and activist.
I had just given up on this giant project that I spent four years of my life on. It was a film and I thought it wasn’t going to get anywhere. You don’t sell DVDs of a film unless you are going to bypass a premiere. I did a new edit of the film to start making DVDs and start selling them out of the trunk of my car.
It was the week of Thanksgiving. That Wednesday, I drove down to Mississippi to a little house I had grown up in. My whole family was coming down. It was the first time we were all in the same house since I was in first grade. I'm 25 now. I get to the house, and get a call. It was Sundance. Someone had submitted my film.
I got into Sundance.
As I'm processing this life-changing information, my whole family is arriving from all over the country. Cousins from Chicago walk in—everyone. They’d all helped with the movie, fundraising, and all that stuff.
Every time somebody arrives, they’d say, “Bilal Stand! The film got into Sundance!” And everyone would be like, “Ahhhh!” And there would be tears and hugging. And someone else would arrive, and again, “The film got into Sundance,” and “Ahhhh.” All of this repeatedly, within, like, an hour.
It was just the most awesome thing. Everything I want, the day before Thanksgiving.