By Aaron Allen
The Seattle Medium
As part of their celebration of women in comedy, the Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF) played host to actress Regina Hall last Saturday, who they honored with their 2019 award for Outstanding Achievement in Cinema.
The day-long event featured a VIP Brunch, an on-stage Q&A session and the screening of a new independent film starring Hall entitled “Support The Girls.” In the film, directed by Andrew Bujalski, Hall plays the role of a sports bar manager whose incurable faith and optimism in the girls that work there, her customers and herself are tested over the course of a very long and strange day.
According to Hall, she connected with the script because it had similarities to her own story, i.e. changes in relationships, relocating from a different place and the challenges of making new friends and being accepted.
“What I loved about the story is she found a placed that needed her and all the women in that restaurant needed her,” says Hall. “What I loved about what Andrew did was he still created a place of integrity and boundaries in a place we don’t necessarily think about having and the sisterhood.”
A native of Washington D.C., Hall, who has a Bachelor’s Degree in English from Fordham University in New York and Master’s Degree in Journalism from New York University, originally considered journalism as a career but admits that she also could have very well have been a professional student.
“I loved being a student,” says Hall. “I could’ve gone to school until I was 75 as long as somebody would’ve paid my rent.”
“I would’ve been a professional student,” she chuckled.
During the Q&A session, Hall says that she came from a very close family claims that it was her mother’s sense of humor that had a major impact on her.
“My family is very close and I would say that when it comes to my sense of humor I got that from my mother,” Hall responded to a question regarding her comedic talents.
Hall, whose career spans over twenty-two years, has been part of the emergence of Black films, Black actors/actresses, and Blacks working in the film industry that has taken place over the last two decades. Starring in films like “Girls Trip”, “Little”, “Think Like a Man” and the upcoming new Shaft film featuring Samuel L. Jackson, Hall has been a trailblazer in her own right. She recently became the first African American to win the coveted New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actress and she has received nominations for the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy series and Motion Picture, the Gotham Award and the Independent Spirit Award for Best Actress.
In 1997, at the age of twenty-six, Hall appeared in her first television commercial. Her television career began with a role on the soap opera “Loving” as well as guest appearances on the Fox police drama “New York Undercover”.
In 1999, Hall landed her first movie appearance in “The Best Man” alongside Taye Diggs and Nia Long where she made a lasting impression on viewers as the character Candace “Candy” Sparks and where she met long-time friend and fellow actress Sanaa Lathan leading to her second film “Love and Basketball”.
“It was my very first film,” recalls Hall. “I met Sanaa Lathan on it and we did Love and Basketball together, which was my second film and it was a big deal because I’d never been on set before.”
This was a pivotal moment in the career of Regina Hall.
With increased recognition and mainstream roles for African Americans in the film industry Hall’s work in Hollywood has cemented her as an A list actress representing Black women in a White male dominated culture.
In Hollywood, according to Hall, success is based on the numbers both in viewership and financially, it’s a numbers game and ultimately it is a business. Addressing the issue of Black success in Hollywood it is such a broad topic but to the point, with Black producers and directors such F. Gary Gray and Tim Stuart and others at the helm and when Black movies do well in the box office, its success and perspectives can influence people and having people of color, women, Black people who are working behind the scenes, success is always possible and that is when Hollywood takes notice.
Hall expresses, “that [African American recognition in Hollywood] is such a broad topic to talk about to answer in a sound bite, but I will say that when movies or television are successful financially, it ends up ultimately being a numbers game, you’re training people to think differently, to think broader and when you see the success of that, Hollywood, I always feel like it responds to success.”
“I think that movies that continue to do well and having a broader perspective, having women, people color, black people behind the scenes, making decisions says, “we can try this, we can do this,” says Hall.
Overall SIFF’s festival was eventful and a success as it promoted the contributions women in motion pictures, art and entertainment and the recognition of the work by Regina Hall was well deserved.
Christiane Owens — a photographer, artist and production assistant as well as a supporter of the Seattle International Film Festival — who was a guest at the event summoned up her experience in meeting Regina Hall and the festival as a whole like this.
“The event was delightful! I enjoyed the opportunity to meet the great Regina Hall in person as well as connect with a very diverse and vibrant group of SIFF lovers dedicated to supporting international and independent film making,” says Owens. “The experience was enriching and I would recommend SIFF to anyone looking to broaden their knowledge and perspective of the art of cinema.”