It has been in production far longer than I've called Miami home, but it appears the film East of Overtown is actually inching toward completion. After nearly seven years of snail's-pace production, this chronicle of the glory days of Overtown and the racial tension that's been brewing in Miami and Florida for the past 30 years is slated for a late-'97 release via the Vision Entertainment Corporation of Lauderhill. The independent film -- written and directed by Leo Casino and Tim Hodges and starring Casino and Erinn Cosby (daughter of Bill) -- has been shown previously at film festivals in Florida and California as a work in progress. The finished product will clock in at about 90 minutes.

"The movie is sending out a message of hope to all races and cultures in Miami that despite the differences in our community, we can and should work together to achieve harmony and peace," says Joe Farrow, senior vice president at Vision Entertainment. "It's going to go back and give people an inside look at Overtown -- what it was like in the Fifties, when it was known as the Harlem of Florida. It's going to show the world a positive side of Overtown and touch on why it's in the condition it's in now. You know, it's not the people's fault."

East of Overtown's plot, says Farrow, will also incorporate the McDuffie, Johnson, and Lozano riots, the arrest of Yahweh Ben Yahweh, and the Mariel boatlift.

A 49-year-old Broward native with a background in social work, Farrow used to sneak into Overtown nightspots to catch shows by R&B greats such as James Brown, Hank Ballard, Sam Cooke, and Otis Redding. "That's what sparked me to get into the entertainment field," he reflects. "There was an economic prosperity and security in the area back then. It made a real impact. This was a time of segregation, remember, and blacks couldn't attend white events or go to white establishments. [In Overtown] we had black-owned businesses. We were self-contained and self-surviving."

The film's soundtrack, which is slated for release through Vision, will include music by local artists including blues hotshot Joey Gilmore, P.O.A. (Prince of Authority), and possibly soul chanteuse Betty Wright. Those artists, among others, will perform Sunday, May 18, in a promotional party for East of Overtown at Studio One 83 (2860 NW 183rd St.). Farrow says a 30-minute cut of the film will be shown at the concert.

Call 954-485-8176 for more information about the May 18 show.

One of my favorite things in the world is the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, the two-week music blowout held each year about this time in America's greatest city. (Who cares about a soaring murder rate anyway?) With maybe four or five exceptions, my most memorable live-music experiences have taken place at Jazz Fest: the Five Blind Boys from Alabama practically blowing the gospel tent to the heavens; Sonny Rollins turning in a fifteen-minute version of "St. Thomas"; Sonny Landreth restoring the good name of the guitar hero; Snooks Eaglin absolutely demolishing the blues stage; and a revelatory afternoon under the jazz tent with Horace Silver, Tito Puente, Jimmy Smith, Dave Bartholomew, and the Count Basie Orchestra. And the food. My God, the food.

I wasn't able to make last year's Jazz Fest. I can't go to this one, either, and I am not happy about it. Not one bit. But the lucky stiffs who host WAXY's Crescent City Music Show will be broadcasting live from the festival on Saturday, April 26, and the following Saturday, May 3. (Local artists Khadir and Albita will be performing at the festival as well.) I don't think I'll be able to bring myself to actually tune in -- not being able to go to Jazz Fest is like having somebody tell you there won't be any more cheeseburgers in the world -- but if you're made of stronger stuff, go right ahead: Crescent City Music Show airs at 11:00 p.m.; you'll find WAXY at 790 on the AM side of the dial.

There's a new Amanda Green EP out that warrants your attention and dollars: Charley's Girl, a three-songer on Y&T that features roaring covers of the title track (sourced from Lou Reed's shining 1976 album Coney Island Baby) and Devo's "Turnaround" (a B-side from the Freedom of Choice era that was first revived in '92 by Nirvana). Both are fine examples of Green's admirably ham-fisted guitar style and charmingly eccentric vocals, but "Make It Right" is the reason to pick this one up. A chunky rocker in its original incarnation on Green's fine '96 debut Junk and Stuff, the song surfaces here as a lovely vocal meditation accompanied only by Green's own piano playing. Very nice -- an extremely worthwhile elaboration on one of last year's finest discs.

Green, by the way, is touring the U.S. And there was an A&R rep from London Records in Miami a few months back, sniffing around a Green gig at Tobacco Road.

Rational Inquirer, my favorite local fanzine, has just published its eighth issue, a jumbo 138-page edition with nice pieces on old-school punks the Queers, the recently reformed Dayglo Abortions, Rocket from the Crypt (with photos from their show here last year), and a really funny interview with Kreamy 'Lectric Santa conducted and handwritten by Iggy Scam. I still wish the record reviews were better, but I always enjoy co-editor Nelson Magana's column -- "Fuck You," it's called; a much better name than "Reverb," I might add -- not to mention a letters section that's never anything less than passionate. And the new issue comes with a 71-minute CD compilation loaded with all kinds of punk and ska racket from the Pink Lincolns, Less Than Jake, the Gotohells, and many, many more.

If you can't find a copy around town, drop a line to the Inquirer at 2050 W. 56th St., ste. 32-221, Hialeah, FL 33016. Or if you're online, e-mail rational

-- By John Floyd


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