Gil Robertson, a Cultural Icon for African American Film, to Help Judge 3rd Annual I See You Awards®
Gil Robertson is a man of meaning with a mission. As President of the African American Film Critics Association, Robertson is motivated by the desire to be of service to others and to lend his accomplishments to elevate the voice of deserving artists in the community. This idea was not something he was instinctively born with, however. Rather, Robertson’s parents instilled this principle within him at a very young age while growing up in Los Angeles, California.
Speaking with I See You Awards® Website Correspondent Phil Elam, Robertson recalled, with great clarity, an evening when he and his brother found humor in televised pictures of disadvantaged kids on the historic Jerry Lewis Telethon. These children were born into families who were unable to afford shoes. When their childlike snickers danced across lips that covered broad smiles on the pre-adolescents’ faces, Robertson instantly relived the seething anger that erupted from his mother who sat nearby on the family’s favorite love-seat recliner. Fanny Robertson’s rant of convicted rage could only be described as a Lord-Loving-Pissed-Off-Church-Lady doing battle with the devil knowing that the righteousness of Jesus was on her side.
“Oh, you think it’s funny that those children don’t have shoes?” Fanny Robertson proclaimed. “Oh, you think it’s funny that there are children who live without so many things you take for granted? Well it’s high time you get to know what it’s like to go without,” Mrs. Robertson concluded as she sent Gil and his brother to bed that night without dinner! Gil Robertson remembers how he and his brother cried themselves to sleep with hunger pains they had never experienced before.
Robertson credits that night as a life force lesson that still serves as his North Star.
Another lesson Robertson gleaned from the evening was that nothing is guaranteed. Even though he knew his parents were there to support him, it was his responsibility to do everything in his power to make a way for himself. Robertson is a man who understands that one must do whatever he or she can to create opportunity. With that being said, it goes without saying that certain people are born into circumstances (like the children without shoes) where creating opportunity is not that easy; instances exist where opportunity is not equally distributed. Robertson’s objective is to be on the lookout for deserving, motivated, focused and self-driven talent. “I didn’t get here by myself.” Robertson said. “There were several times when my parents picked up the slack when I just had enough to invest in me. I want to do the same for others.”
It was Robertson’s affinity to celebrate up-and-coming talent that led to his decision to accept Terri Lee’s request to be a judge for the third annual I See You Awards® an easy one to make. “I was on board right away,” Robertson explained.
Robertson recognized over 15 years ago that “some people are stronger than others” in the African American community and “together Black film journalists could make something more out of a movement unified as one rather than acting alone.” Now the African American Film Critics Association (AAFCA) is the largest organization of Black film critics in the world. Founded in 2003, Robertson formed the association with Shawn Edwards after meeting at a New York City press junket where the two were concerned with the lack of themed stories in the film industry from the African Diaspora. In several weeks, with the support of other colleagues, their plan to create AAFCA was born with the official announcement of their first “Top Ten List.”
AAFCA’s mission is to actively review cinema from all genres, but to specifically highlight films about the African American experience. AAFCA produces awareness for films with widespread appeal to the black community while stressing the importance of films produced, written, directed and starring people of African descent. “A” List Talent who have been recipients have included, Jamie Foxx, Oprah Winfrey, John Singleton, Spike Lee, Ava Duvernay and others.
The journey, however, to this statured celebration was a far cry from reality for Robertson as he recalled not being invited to many prestigious premiers back in the day. Such shutouts were not a deterrent. Gil always knew of his self-worth when he would oftentimes sew together enough scratch to purchase a plane ticket and make a cheap hotel reservation. Such fortitude in faith made his face a constant at mainstream film industry events. This coupled with his journalistic talent and ability to obtain substantial coverage forced insiders to acknowledge his value. Robertson understood the significance of investing in himself when no one else was willing to see his worth. It paid off. This purposeful foundation instilled in him by his parents has now led to arguably one of the most significant cultural iconic annual events in the African American Community within the last century. But what’s most exciting is that with Robertson as President, the AAFCA is just getting started.
The AAFCA is in preparation for its 10th Annual Awards ceremony under Robertson’s helm. The spectacular event will take place at the Taglyan Complex in Hollywood on February 9, 2019. For more information on the AAFCA, visit their website here.
The third annual I See You Awards® will be held Thursday, August 22 – Sunday, August 25, 2019 at the Emagine Theater in Royal Oak, Michigan. Filmmakers interested in submitting their films and/or getting more information on the event, click here.
The third annual I See You Awards® are sponsored by the Michigan Film & Digital Media Office, Emagine Entertainment, WWJ Newsradio 950, The Lee Group and ES Communications Agency.