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From August 2 to 5, 81 films by social justice-oriented filmmakers screened in Philadelphia as part of the BlackStar Film Festival.
Founder Maori Holmes launched the festival after she began looking up films with Black directors that hadn’t played in her city. “[I] was shocked at how many there were,” she said. “That first year we had 40 films.” The festival, now in its seventh year, has grown to include panels, workshops and conversations to expand awareness of specifically Black experiences and experiences related to communities of color.
For those behind-the-scenes, conquering the rigorous selection process can be a gateway to a rare level of success—not only for politically-minded creatives, but for Black creatives as well. “We have definitely been on the vanguard with an artist, emerging or established, screening at our festival,” told Ms., “and then their career blowing up shortly afterward.”
Many of the films that screened at BlackStar this year had a distinctly feminist bent—spanning topics and the experiences of women of color around the world. We hope they blow up, too.
(please view the links in the actual post–they appear in a strange format below)
1. BLOOD RUNS DOWN (Dir. Zandashe Brown)
It’s the night before Ana’s fifth birthday and Elize wants to make sure all is in order to give her daughter the best celebration yet. Invitations have been sent, food has been prepared and Ana’s last braid is finally secured, meaning it’s time to rest before the big day. Consistently weary from the never-ending job of single motherhood with no outlets for her own care, Elize searches for a place for her own peace and vulnerability. But for women like her, vulnerability comes with a price. When Elize undergoes a frightening transition, Ana must decide between saving her or protecting herself in this haunting account of inheritance, daughterhood and demons.
2. HAIR WOLF (Dir. Mariama Diallo)
In a black hair salon in gentrifying Brooklyn, the local residents fend off a strange new monster: white women intent on sucking the lifeblood from black culture.
3. NUUCA (Dir. Michelle Latimer)
Over the last decade, an oil boom in North Dakota has seen the state’s population double with primarily male workers flocking to the region. With this dramatic increase, has come an influx of drugs, crime and sexual violence. On the Fort Berthold Indian reservation alone, rates of sexual violence have increased 168 percent, with Indigenous women most affected. Juxtaposing the ravaged yet starkly beautiful landscape with personal testimony from young Indigenous women living on the reservation, Nuuca is an evocative meditation revealing the connections between the rape of the earth and the violence perpetrated against Indigenous women and girls.
4. RIVERMENT (Dir. Shayla Racquel)
A former Civil Rights activist fears for the safety of her granddaughter when her granddaughter decides to follow in her footsteps.
5. SUITABLE (Dir. Thembi L. Banks)
Brandy, a high school tomboy, comes to terms with her sexuality when she decides what she’ll wear to the prom.
6. BEHIND THE DOOR: JOLA’S STORY (Dir. Michael Adeyeye)
A story of loss, struggle and liberation. Jola who was trafficked from her home country of Nigeria when she was a child has spent the last decade being transported across different countries and cities. We begin to unravel the pieces of her individual story and her journey towards liberation.
7. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MARSHA! (Dir. Reina Gossett and Sasha Wortzel)
Happy Birthday, Marsha! is a film about iconic transgender artist and activist, Marsha “Pay it No Mind” Johnson and her life in the hours before she ignited the 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York City.
8. KYENVU (Dir. Kemiyondo Coutinho)
A young African feminist millennial finds love in a bittersweet moment as she struggles to find her footing in a patriarchal society.
9. REBIRTH IS NECESSARY (Dir. Jenn Nkiru)
This film explores the magic and dynamism of Blackness in a realm where time and space are altered. The now, the past and the future are rethought and reordered to create something soulful and mind bendingly visceral. Unfolding through the gaze of Jenn Nkiru, it is an audio / visual feast which pulls on broad yet unique sound and visual references to push the story forward. The soundtrack features music and sounds from James Baldwin, Sun Ra, Chance The Rapper, Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment, Rotary Connection, Pharaoh Sanders and Shafiq Husayn. It also includes quotes and moments from Alice Coltrane, Audre Lorde, Kwame Nkrumah, Sun Ra and James Baldwin.
10. WAR PAINT (Dir. Katrelle Kindred)
A young girl navigates the micro-aggressions in her neighborhood that are far too dangerous than any young person should have to navigate.