About 10 years ago, Addison Henderson and Korey Green set out to capture the depressing realities of Buffalo's East Side.
Five years ago, the two filmmakers traveled across the Atlantic to capture similar realities on the impoverished West Africa coast.
And this July, a trip to the 15th annual American Black Film Festival in Miami is in order, as the Buffalo natives were invited to promote their first major international documentary, "The Experience."
"[The Experience] is about finding out who you really are," said Henderson, president and founder of Knuckle City Films. "People [in West Africa] don't have much, but they are still able to smile. It was a life-changing experience."
Specifically, Henderson, Green and three others traveled to Ghana in 2006 and sought the answer to one question: What is identity?
Afterward, it was a matter of editing and putting the film together.
"The Experience" marks the second Knuckle City film to be premiered at the American Black Film Festival, sponsored by HBO and CNN. "The Forgotten City," a documentary on a 2001 East Side murder, premiered at the 2006 festival.
Henderson grew inspired from talks with his father, Bishop William Henderson, a longtime pastor of Michigan Street Baptist Church, a final stop for escaping slaves on the Underground Railroad.
"The Experience" follows the five individuals on their trek across Ghana as they uncover the dark history of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, through the aid of locals who live where it all started. They even came across actual shackles used to chain the slaves, which had become rusted and aged over hundreds of years.
One emotional moment in the film occurs when Alex Gyambrah, a Buffalo resident originally from Ghana, arrives to see his family for the first time in years.
For Green, co-owner of Knuckle City, filmmaking is all about raising community awareness. "The Forgotten City" was a major cooperative effort for Henderson and Green, because of key relationships in the murder case the movie revolves around. Henderson was a friend of the victim, and Green a friend of the killer.
They were able to play the film in 30 million homes nationwide, through an agreement with Free Speech TV, an independent, nonprofit network.
"At the end of the day, I feel like my job is not done," Green said. "Things are tough out there for a lot of young, black males."
Now, though, they are looking for donations to help fund the trip to the American Black Film Festival, July 6 to 9. Donors may call (866) 280-0859.
"We just want to get our names out there," Henderson said. "We have a ton of projects. [The festival organizers] want to know what you have next."
Have an idea for a person, organization or event that would make a good East Side Story? E-mail it to email@example.com, fax it to 856-5150 or call 849-6026.