The City of Brotherly Love is one again playing host to the BlackStar Film Festival,* which commenced its four day-long program of screenings, panels, talks and parties yesterday (August 2). The seventh annual convening maintains its roots in Black cinema, pushing its international reach beyond the United States with screenings of films from 14 countries (including Palestine and South Africa).
For the artists and cinephiles building community through film in Philadelphia—or social media—this weekend, the “Black Sundance” boasts a full line-up of screen projects. Here are five of the many films worth looking for after this weekend:
Directed by Menelek Lumumba and shot by cinematographer Hans Charles (“13th”), this narrative film about racism at an elite liberal arts college premiered at the festival yesterday. The “12 Angry Men”-inspired drama follows Mike, a socially isolated senior at his predominantly White New England institution, wrestling with an unspecified trauma while confronting the subtleties of racism at school. Things come to a head as the source of Mike’s despair is eventually revealed.
Keith McQuirter’s feature documentary explores the lives of Black children, adults and families who live in Wisconsin zip code that incarcerates the highest percentage (close to 62 percent) of Black men in the country. The 54-minute film spotlights the deeply personal effects of mass incarceration on communities.
Shaz Bennett draws from her experiences with drag culture and homophobic violence for her first feature film about a working-class Alaskan of color (Martin L. Washington Jr., “Glass”) who seeks liberation through boxing and drag performance.
This documentary revisits the Soweto Uprising of 1976 in which thousands of Black South African students assembled to protest the White nationalist apartheid regime’s imposition of Afrikaans in schools. Former activists and other South Africans revisit the uprising, during which government forces shot and killed over a hundred protesting students as chaos and repression engulfed the township.
Racial justice organization Color of Change presents the Philly premiere of this documentary on Sunday (August 5). The 80-minute film chronicles how journalist Assia Boundaoui uncovered one of the largest counterterrorism probes that the FBI conducted before 9/11, as well as the investigations traumatizing impact on her Arab-American community in Chicago.
*Colorlines editorial director Akiba Solomon has served on the advisory board of BlackStar.