The inaugural Blackstar Film Festival went down in Philly this past weekend under the direction of Maori Karmael Holmes.
Guests included Nelson George, Louis Massiah, Ava DuVernay and Radha Blank among others.
I am admittedly jaded in regards to festivals. I enjoy a good festival, but often times, newer and smaller fests bite off more than they can chew and don’t offer a decent slate of films. A few years back I attended a festival where the fest’s director hadn’t screened the opening night film and had no idea of how bad (and unfinished) it was until it was too late and the audience was groaning.
Blackstar, however, was the most enjoyable festival I’ve been to in years. It managed to create a space that felt more like a reunion, than an industry event.
- Ava DuVernay spoke candidly to a packed house about being free as an artist and needing us to show up and support AFFRM projects. The audience was also treated to an extended clip of Middle of Nowhere.
- Kindred the Family Soul’s Aja Graydon Dantzler spoke on the “Black Independent Media Panel” and stressed the importance of maintaining ownership of your image and content.
- Michelle Serieux of the New Caribbean Cinema movement gave an overview of her collective and asked to be included in the dialogue of independent filmmakers. The collective works together to make short films that are shot in one day and as unit they plan to tour internationally with their works to gain more exposure for Caribbean filmmakers. She screened her film Missed, which stars Roger Guenveur Smith.
- Director Nisa Ra led a discussion based on her film Black Love Lives that explores the idea of countering the negative imagery we see in the media with images and stories of black folks expressing love in ways we seldom see.
- Najma Nuriddin screened her film A Lover’s Call. That along with Rodney Lee’s Bump, were my two favorites among an excellent slate of films.
Ava DuVernay tweeted after her talk, “Something extraordinary is happening in Philly. So beautiful. So nourishing. So necessary. A stellar experience.”
A graduate of the American Film Institute (M.F.A., Screenwriting), Phill is currently an Assistant Professor of English and Cinema Studies at his undergraduate alma mater Hampton University (B.A., Mass Media). Phill is a former president of the Los Angeles chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists. He also has an essay in the upcoming anthology “For Colored Boys Who Have Considered Suicide when the Rainbow is Still Not Enough: Coming of Age, Coming Out and Coming Home.” In addition, he co-created and writes an award-winning web series, The PuNanny Diaries.