Starting August 3, Black diasporic filmmakers, creatives and movie lovers from all over the world will descend on Philadelphia for the sixth annual BlackStar Film Festival.* The three-day festival that has been described as "The Black Sundance" released its full lineup today (July 14). This year's theme is"Resistance," with many of the featured projects documenting or depicting Black social justice struggles past and present.
Previous festivals featured Black film leaders including Spike Lee and Haile Gerima. This year will feature a conversation with Ava DuVernay, who will also receive the festival's Richard Nichols Luminary Award.
Whether you're coming to Philly or waiting on your future favorite to have a wider release, here are just a few of the projects worth watching:
"Resistance: The Battle of Philadelphia" Prologue
The prologue episode of M. Asli Dukan's ("Invisible Universe") speculative fiction web series airs during a shorts screening at the festival. The crowdfunded project depicts a group of Black Philadelphians banding together to resist laser cannon-wielding police and their authoritarian partners in city government.
"Tell Them We Are Rising"
Stanley Nelson's "Tell Them We Are Rising" will be BlackStar's final feature screening. The documentary tackles the beginnings and future of historically Black colleges and universities. It incorporates firsthand perspectives from grads and scholars to illuminate the triumphs, traumas and evolution of HBCUs from the antebellum era to now.
"Ayit Mon Amour"
Haitian-American director Guetty Felin ("Closer to the Dream") spotlights Haiti five years after the devastating 2010 earthquake in this multilingual feature film. Three stories converge as its protagonists seek liberation, healing and connection through magical means.
This screening marks the world premiere of "Hello Cupid," a feature film based off of Black & Sexy TV's popular web series of the same name. The movie follows Farrah (Gabrielle Maiden, "Sexless"), a shy young Black woman who enters the online dating world after years of passivity and awkwardness in relationships.
"Wilmington 10—USA 10,000"
Largely screened underground since its 1979 premiere, Haile Gerima's documentary explores the story of the Wilmington 10—a Black man, eight Black teenage boys and one White woman sentenced to over a decade in jail for the 1971 arson of a White-owned Wilmington, North Carolina grocery store. Their case became an international cause célèbre, with many organizations and supporters accusing the city of Wilmington of an unjust and racist conviction.
Check out the full lineup of screenings and events at BlackStarFest.org.
*Note: Colorlines editorial director Akiba Solomon has served on the advisory board of BlackStar and arts and culture reporter Sameer Rao has written for the festival guide.