Jengo’s Playhouse on the corner of Princess Street and North 9th Street was packed with more than 70 people for the world premier of the sold-out “Black Beach/White Beach: A Tale of Two Beaches” on Friday night.
The documentary is nearly an hour long and focuses on the disparate treatment of people at the predominately white Harley-Davidson Cruisin’ the Coast annual Spring Rally compared to the predominately black Atlantic Beach Bike Festival that ensues the following week.
The film, which premiered at the Cucalorus Film Festival and was the first show to sell out, was the brainchild of Durham-based plumber Ricky Kelly. For 20 years, he said, he’s attended the Atlantic Beach Bike Fest that takes place over Memorial Day weekend.
For the past three years, he’s been filming the documentary
“I lost a friend of mine I used to go to the bike rally with,” Kelly said. “When he passed, it inspired me, because I used to tell him on the rides back, ‘one day I’m going to tell this story to the world.’ And he would listen to me rant with my frustrations of our treatment down there. When he passed it just showed me life is not promised. I didn’t want to be the old man sitting on the porch and somebody else did this film.”
The film shines light on how businesses, police and city leaders treat people differently between the two biker rallies, and discusses the 23-mile traffic loop enforced only for the Atlantic Beach biker rally.
“It’s 2017,” says Kelly in the documentary that features interviews with Myrtle Beach Mayor John Rhodes, Atlantic Beach historians, motorcycle riders, NAACP representatives and a psychologist. “This is the South and racism ain’t going nowhere.”
The documentary highlights the history of Atlantic Beach, also known as The Black Pearl. That formerly segregated beach was where the first Atlantic Beach Bike Festival was held, and the film explores the town’s current relationship with the event.
“I liked the film,” said viewer Bryan Blake, 63. “I think it pointed out a lot of what’s wrong in society. Not just bike week, but everything we’re seeing now that’s coming to the surface again. Things that I thought we had gotten rid of back in the 70s and 60s but apparently not.”
Blake said he remembered vacationing next to Atlantic Beach as a kid, when the beach was still segregated and the family’s housekeeper couldn’t swim in the ocean with them.
“It confused me why she couldn’t go in the ocean with us but she could go around the other side of this chain-link fence and be a regular part of society,” Blake said.
Because of the interest surrounding Black Beach/White Beach at Cucalorus, a second showing was added for Saturday morning.
“It was just overwhelming to find this much love and support from people,” Kelly said.
For those who couldn’t make it to the film fest, the documentary will begin streaming on Thanksgiving, said Kelly, who added that he was still deciding which streaming service to use.
Soon, he’ll be taking pre-orders from those who want hard copies.
But this isn’t his last documentary, and Kelly said he’s working on a film focusing on Duke University.
“I’ve got a couple more on deck right now,” he said. “I’ve got the bug. It’s always been in me, I just didn’t know how to bring it out.”
For more information, follow the film’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/blackbeachwhitebeach/ or the website, at http://www.britespotmedia.com/blackbeachwhitebeach/.
Watch the trailer: