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Black History documentary to have red-carpet premiere in Melbourne

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When workers loaded a small, aging wooden cottage onto a flatbed truck from the southern bank of Crane Creek in May 2020, Orlando documentary filmmaker Jennifer East shot footage of the action. 

This modest structure housed the dining room where a small group of Melbourne’s Black pioneers met in 1884 and founded the community’s first house of worship — Greater Allen Chapel AME Church — four years before tiny Melbourne became a village.

“She went there thinking this was just going to be a little one-day shoot. And that was when she said, ‘No, we’ve got a story to tell,’ ” said Mary Brotherton, president and editor-in-chief of Merritt Island-based bUneke Productions.

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“The documentary is about uncovering history — that almost died. Because a lot of people saw the house and thought it was just an old abandoned shack,” Brotherton said.

The creative result was “Moving History,” a 33-minute documentary featuring interviews with the Rev. Lorenzo Laws of Greater Allen Chapel AME Church, Charles Jackson Sr., Lizetta Southern and Joseph McNeil. 

“Moving History” will premiere during a red-carpet event at 6 p.m. Thursday at CWTheaters West Melbourne 15, 4345 W. New Haven Ave.

East, who directed and edited the documentary, and community members who were instrumental in the film’s creation will attend. 

Tickets cost $10. Proceeds will benefit the nonprofit Greater Allen Development Corp.’s campaign to convert the pioneer home into the Melbourne Founders Museum at Crane Creek. To reserve tickets, call James Shackleford at 321-727-3913. Tickets will also be sold at the door. 

“I think it’s great. It certainly tells the story of how Melbourne evolved from Crane Creek to what it is today,” said Shackleford, president of the Greater Allen Development Corp.

“And I think it’s certainly important not only for adults, but for children to understand the history of the city,” Shackleford said.

Previously, East filmed and edited the documentary “Forgotten Enchantress” showcasing Green Gables, the Melbourne 1896-vintage historic home listed on the National Register of Historic Places. That film debuted during a January 2020 screening at Premiere Theaters Oaks Stadium 10 in Melbourne.

“Moving History” has won an award of merit for history from the IndieFEST Film Awards in Los Angeles and is a Black history feature finalist at the Lane Doc Fest in Jackson, Tennessee.

East said the film is in the upcoming lineups of FLOW Festival & Film Market in Miami; Snow Leopard International Film Festival in Madrid, Spain; and Athvikvaruni International Film Festival in the Philippines.

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