French Embassy Honors Founder of Nashville’s International Black Film Festival
HAZEL JOYNER-SMITH RECEIVES FRANCE’S HIGHEST RANK FOR CONTRIBUTIONS
SEPTEMBER 22, 2011
(Nashville, TN)- Hazel Joyner-Smith, CEO and founder of the International Black Film Festival of Nashville (IBFFN), has been bestowed the rank of chevalier, or knight, in France’s Ordre des Arts et des Lettres for her lifelong contributions in furthering the arts in France and throughout the world while enhancing Nashville’s cultural arena.
A true pioneer in the creation of innovative programs promoting cultural diversity, inclusion and awareness, Joyner-Smith is founder of the International Black Film Festival of Nashville, the first festival series in Nashville and the state of Tennessee to highlight the contributions of African-American filmmakers.
“Ms. Joyner-Smith has not only strengthened the cooperation between France and the United States – by inviting French and French speaking movie makers to the IBFFN and developing a young artists training program with the Cannes Film Festival – but she has worked tirelessly to make the world a better place,” declared Pascal Le Deunff, Consul General of France in Atlanta. “She is a true renaissance woman who highly deserves this recognition.”
Established in 1957 and awarded by France’s minister of state for cultural affairs, The Ordre des Arts et des Lettres recognizes significant contributions to the French arts, literature or the propagation of these fields abroad. Laureates include both natives of France and non-natives. Recent American recipients include Paul Auster, Morgan Freeman, and Meryl Streep.
“I am honored to be among the Americans who have been endowed with this international distinction. In my professional journey, I have taken every opportunity to create an atmosphere of acceptance, knowledge, and awareness in the industries of film, television, and music. I am grateful to the country of France for acknowledging my contributions,” said Joyner-Smith, who in the role of executive producer of IBFFN, oversees the organization’s strategic direction and ensures that the festival addresses the need of the local, national and international film community.
Since inception, the festival has been received by the film community with enthusiasm and has offered a venue for the underserved, emerging and veteran filmmaker to screen their work. Now in year five, the organization will present its 2011 festival, October 5 – 9, screening more than 30 films and hosting a conversation with internationally acclaimed filmmaker Gaston Kabore.
Prior to establishing IBFFN, Joyner-Smith served in two consecutive roles as assistant director and program director of the Fisk University Race Relations Institute, where she worked to actively revitalize the research arm of the institute and develop a sustainable infrastructure for the historical program. The veteran educator co-founded and hosted the first annual Fisk Film Festivals and conducted a community forum on race and race relations, “Lift Every Voice” for middle Tennessee.
A North Carolina native, Joyner-Smith earned a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education from Winston-Salem State University and a master’s degree in educational administration from North Carolina A&T State University.
“As an educator at heart, I have always campaigned for equity of access and aimed to become a national and international negotiator for human rights issues. I accept this honor with the utmost gratitude and humility,” she added.
The Consul General of France in Atlanta, Pascal Le Deunff, visited Nashville to present Joyner-Smith with the Arts et Lettres medal award during a private reception on September 22, 2011.
The consul also honored Susan Edwards, Executive Director of the Frist Center for the Visual Arts, with the same distinction.