Hampton University

faculty q&a

Lights, Camera, Action!

Faculty Q & A: Phill Branch

Dr. Robert M. Dixon

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Film is Assistant Professor Phill Branch’s passion. Educated at HU and the American Film Institute, Branch has nearly 15 years of experience in the entertainment industry. He and Assistant Professor Eleanor Earl of the Department of English are successfully leading the HU cinematic studies program, offering students from every major the opportunity to study and create film. This semester he’s teaching courses on film criticism and written communication and recently hosted a symposium on the film “Precious.” The Student Connection sat down with Branch to ask him about his love for film.

What are your thoughts on black films?

You can’t talk about black films without talking about Tyler Perry. I’ve changed my perspective on him in the last year. I grew up with my parents exposing me to films they grew up on, films about something. The 1980s were age-appropriate, but then you had Spike Lee making amazing films. So I grew up wanting to do what Spike Lee was doing - telling smart, entertaining stories. So that is what I see black filmmaking has the potential to be.

What did you think about Mo’Nique’s recent Oscar win?

After Monique won the Oscar, all of these academics started saying that “Precious” was a setback for black people. I understand, but it’s also important to understand the power of this intellectual fear-based speech. What it’s doing is exactly what you claim other people are doing. So which is more harmful: “Precious” or you using your authority to argue the negative portrayal of black people? I think that’s unfair.

What are some of your side projects when you are not in the classroom?

I have a web series called “The Punanny Diaries” at www.punannydiaries.com. It’s about a woman trying to live as a single woman in LA living a normal, celibate life after a string of bad relationships. It’s being featured at The Pan African Film Festival and the Los Angeles Web Series Festival. I have a script I’ve written called “Love Joy” and I also have a television pilot being shopped around.

What is your favorite film?

There are several of them. “All about Eve.” I just love the acting, writing and the old Hollywood glamour and sensibility. “Sparkle” is one of my all-time favorite films. “Imitation of Life” and of course, “Do the Right Thing” by Spike Lee.

When you were a HU student what activities were you involved in?

I pledged Hampton’s Gamma Iota chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha, served as sophomore and senior class president, and am a member of Ogre Phi Ogre. I wrote an entertainment column for The Script and served in the Student Leadership Program.

-Alison L. Phillips