Exploring the history of soul food, understanding the complexity of Black identity and watching an established musician flee a record label to become an independent artist are some of the topics tackled at the BlackStar Film Festival, Aug. 2–5 at the African American Museum in Philadelphia, Art Sanctuary and International House.
During this four-day festival, 40 films, including narratives, documentaries, music videos and experimental films will screen. In addition, the directors, writers and producers of color represent several countries, including Canada, Haiti, Germany, Jamaica, South Africa, Brazil, Zimbabwe, Mexico, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, the United States and United Kingdom.
“I feel there is a strong tradition of art produced by Black people in Philadelphia,” said Maori Karmael Holmes, festival founder and artistic director. “And I felt like there needed to be a film festival that connected to what I think we’re recognized for — music and dance and similar art forms.”
Undergoing a 10-month planning process, the festival team searched for films that would bring social conversation to the Philadelphia community and a renaissance to the entertainment industry.
“[We’re] just purely sharing the work of people,” Holmes said. “I think we’re all trying to make work and that’s how we’re contributing. We’re taking advantage of the lower costs to make work and hopefully make stuff that people are interested in.”
During the festival, filmmaker Ava DuVernay — the first African-American woman to win the award for Best Directing at Sundance — will discuss her latest work and strategies for the continued effort to give African-American filmmakers a voice in the movie industry. Her recent film, “Middle of Nowhere,” scheduled for an October 2012 release, will screen an exclusive excerpt at the festival.
International filmmaker, Oliver Hardt (Germany) will premiere his film, “The United States of Hoodoo,” for the first time in the United States. This film follows a writer who returns to America to reveal the myths and legends of Voodoo.
Representing the United Kingdom, Canada and Haiti is filmmaker, Sonia Godding Togobo. Her film, “Adopted ID,” follows the journey of a woman who returns to Haiti after the 2010 earthquake to locate her birth parents. This will also be the film’s premiere showing in the United States.
In Steven Zegans’ film, “The Res Documentary,” Res—a soul rock singer whose single, “They Say Vision” was a Top 40 hit, shows her life as a musician. Having singles like “Golden Boys” and “Ice King,” which all received radio time, Res makes a decision to leave her label when a project is delayed and ultimately dropped. Moving back to Philadelphia and creating music, Res finds a renewing outlook on her career. There will be a question and answer panel with Zegans and Res after the film.
Another element to the festival will be the screenplay readings. There will be two readings, one screenplay and one television pilot. Holmes said that readings don’t often happen at film festivals.
“We’re excited to allow people into the process of making a film by letting them see a screenplay from where it begins,” Holmes said.
Throughout the festival, there will also be free workshops, parties and receptions.
“My goal is to share [the films] on the big screen which is how I feel most filmmakers intend for their films to be seen,” Holmes said. “And that’s not often how they get a chance to be viewed. Here’s your opportunity to see them on the large screen.”