Whether they know it or not, Charlotte film lovers owe a debt of gratitude to the late Robert West. A lifelong devotee, producer and supporter of filmmaking, West died June 6 in Wilmington, NC, of Glioblastoma Multiforme (MFB), a form of terminal brain cancer. West was diagnosed in fall 2012 and had stepped down from his executive director position in early 2013.
From 1985 to 1999, West was curator of film and video at the Mint Museum in Charlotte. He led a renowned media program that began the Charlotte Film & Video Festival, a national independent film festival, and organized national touring film programs for documentaries featuring social justice issues. The Mint position cemented West's reputation and he was a frequent presence - as board member, arts funder, juror and idea guy - for a variety of statewide and national arts groups, including the National Endowment for the Arts, the NC Arts Council, the Sundance Film Festival and PBS. He was also a board member of the National Alliance for Media Arts and Culture.
West was perhaps best-known as the co-founder and longtime executive director of Working Films, a documentary film production company. The company, which is focused on producing provocative documentary works linked to community organizing, social justice and activism, is based in Wilmington, with satellite offices in New York and London.
Robert was a passionate, effective advocate for all the arts, specifically film and video, and left an indelible mark on Charlotte's cultural scene, raising expectations of local artists and imbuing local filmmakers with confidence and a helping hand.
From Working Films: A memorial service celebrating Robert's life and legacy will be held on Saturday, June 22, at 2 PM, at the Cameron Museum of Art, 3201 South 17th Street, Wilmington, NC. It will be followed by a celebration that he planned at the historic firehouse at 602 South 5th Avenue, which was Robert's home and is also the headquarters of Working Films.
If you're planning or even considering going to Wilmington for the memorial, please let Working Films know as soon as possible by emailing or calling Andy Myers (email@example.com / 910-342-9000).
(To read a piece that CL did on West and the Charlotte Film & Video Festival for our 25th Anniversary Issue last summer, go here.)