"Miss Juneteenth"
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This year, over 80 films from more than 20 countries will be shown at the flourishing festival, including 24 world premieres.

The BlackStar Film Festival, dubbed "Black Sundance" by members of its community, has become a major annual event celebrating the visual and narrative traditions of not only the African diaspora but the global color communities as well. With a cast consisting mostly of shorts and feature film debuts, the nine-year festival is also a major window for emerging talent, and this year is no different.

The week-long program (August 20-26) usually takes place in Philadelphia and will be entirely online this year, as has been the case with most festivals since the pandemic began that closed much of the country.

But even in a virtual space, BlackStar will showcase more than 80 films – from over 20 countries, including 24 world premieres – a series of live panels and special events bringing together some of the most innovative and impactful filmmakers, producers and thinkers who are today work. Here are the ones we look forward to the most.

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"Miss Juneteenth"

Channing Godfrey Peoples' feature film debut, which features a wonderful performance by Nicole Beharie, tells the story of a former beauty queen who became a hardworking single mother and prepared her rebellious teenage daughter for the Miss Juneteenth pageant in the hope of To keep her from repeating the same mistakes in the life she's made. It's a movie full of black Texan culture, beginning with its holiday of the same name that marked the day – June 19, 1865 – when slaves in Texas learned they were free, as the Declaration of Emancipation had ordered more than two years earlier. And the Fort Worth folk give the film a Texan authenticity, undoubtedly its greatest strength.

"Unapologetic"

After two police killings, Black Millennial organizers are challenging a Chicago government they believe is involved in state violence against its black residents. Narrated by two local leaders of a movement to abolish the police force, "Unapologetic" is a documentary directed by Ashley O & # 39; Shay that provides an in-depth look at the Chicago black life movement following the lesser known murder of Chicagoan Rekia Boyd, a 22-year-old black woman who was fatally shot by an off-duty Chicago police officer in the 2012 election of Lori Lightfoot; the first African American woman to be the mayor of Chicago. It is the feature debut of O’Shay.

"In sudden darkness"

Tayler Montague's debut film is the short In Sudden Darkness, which follows a Bronx, NYC family trying to stay afloat in the midst of the 2003 city-wide blackout. The outage affected over 50 million people in the United States from Ohio to the east coast and southern Canada, and in some cases lasted for weeks, killing nearly 100 people. "In Sudden Darkness" is described as a piece of life film and will steer the blackout from the POV of a black working class family. It will be shown in the festival's Kindred section, which includes films that address "the unsettling intimacy of close relationships". It is Montague's first film to be written for major online film magazines such as Film Comment, Little White Lies and Reverse Shot.

"Farewell Cupid"

Bruce Francis Cole

"Farewell Cupid"

Tanzanian-American filmmaker Ekwa Msangi makes her feature film debut with “Farewell Amor,” which follows an estranged Angolan immigrant family in Brooklyn who strive to bridge the emotional distance between them. Father Walter tries to let go of a previous relationship after his wife Esther and teenage daughter Sylvia, both of whom are struggling to adapt to life in a new country, move to the United States. Eventually they overcome personal and political hurdles and rediscover what they lost after being long apart. The film is a universal story of immigration and an intimate look at the kind of intergenerational conflict that defined America from the start.

"You hide me"

The short documentary, made in 1970 by Ghanaian filmmaker and academic Nii Kwate Owoo, was largely banned after its completion due to what was considered provocative at the time. The film examines the colonization of African art in the British Museum in London. Owoo was given unprecedented access to the vaults of the British Museum, where he filmed stolen African artifacts hidden in the museum's basement and recorded his findings in the documentation. Needless to say, the British didn't like being exposed and went out of their way to suppress the film. It's a compelling story that would be great fodder for a spy novel.

"Daughters of"

Shantrelle Patrice Lewis & # 39; debut film "Daughters Of" honors the life and legacy of today's foremothers of black women and shows their stories, struggles and lessons. It features phenomenal women including Tarana Burke (who started the MeToo movement), Latham Thomas (founder of Mama Glow, a holistic lifestyle center for women to explore their creativity through wellbeing), author, professor, activist and cultural critic Brittney Cooper and so many more, each unpacking and celebrating the legacy they seek to preserve. The film tells the stories of black women whose names were unknown and whose stories have not yet been told.

"Legendary: 30 Years of the Philly Ballroom"

Directed by Raishad Hardnett, Lauren M. Schneiderman and Cassie Owens, the documentary shows viewers the ball culture in Philadelphia and how the community endures in the face of adversity. It's a glimpse into efforts to preserve the ballroom scene in Philadelphia, a black and Latin American LGBTQ security room that has been around for 30 years. The documentary explores that story and features key players like Alvernian Prestige, who organizes the Dorian Corey Awards Ball – the city's largest annual ball, organized in honor of Dorian Corey, a trans woman, drag performer, and fashion designer, and Jennie Livingston's seminal Documentary “Paris is Burning” from 1990 – and works as a de facto historian for locals.

"Coded Bias"

The film is a documentary directed by Shalini Kantayya and explores the ramifications of MIT Media Lab researcher's Joy Buolamwini's surprise discovery that facial recognition does not accurately see dark-skinned faces, and her subsequent journey to push for first-time US legislation, against which it rules bias in artificial intelligence. Kantayya, a self-described science fanatic, directed the season finale episode for the National Geographic television series "Breakthrough," a series that introduces pioneering scientists who will change the future, the executive-produced Ron Howard-produced executive and her debut feature film, "Catching." the Sun “the race for a clean energy future.

& # 39; Stateless (Apátrida) & # 39; & # 39;

"Stateless" ("Apátrida")

BlackStar Film Festival

"Stateless" ("Apátrida")

Michèle Stephenson's documentary reveals the depths of racial hatred and institutionalized oppression that divide Haiti and the Dominican Republic, two nations that share the island of Hispaniola. Tensions between the two countries are decades old and show no signs of improvement. Repeatedly ravaged by natural disasters and shaken by political instability, Haitians have looked for work in the economically healthier Dominican Republic, where they have long been ill-treated. In recent years thousands have been pressured to leave voluntarily or forcibly deported. "Stateless" contains footage taken with hidden cameras to trace the history and politics of today that have created an environment in which government-sanctioned racism can flourish.

"Rocío"

The film is a documentary by the Mexican-American filmmaker Dario Guerrero and shows an undocumented mother of three who, after a sudden diagnosis of cancer, is forced to choose between treatment in her native Mexico and the risk of not going back to America can wait a certain death in usa your son is leaving college to come home and take care of her. Their battle against the disease takes them into the world of alternative medicine, where they find hope in a clinic across the border. The catch: it could mean giving up on everything they worked so hard for. The film weaves recordings spanning over 25 years to tell the heartfelt story of a mother's love and striving for the so-called American dream.

Panels

In addition to its eclectic selection of short and feature-length films, BlackStar is also well known for its penetrating panels. This year's edition features important conversations between Wesley Morris, Jenna Wortham and Radha Blank about Blank's acclaimed feature film debut "The 40 Year Old Version". Heidi Saman and Lulu Wang talk about how they make genre bending art as first generation filmmakers. Madeline Anderson (cited as the first black female producer and director of a televised documentary) with Louis Massiah and Michelle Materre; Vee Bravo, Iliana Perez, Sheila Quintana Aguilar, Armando Ibañez, and Dilan Garcia Lopez on working with and investing in undocumented creatives; and Loira Limbal, Natasha K. Ngaiza, A-lan Holt and Roni Nicole Henderson-Day on the special concerns of black mothers who are also filmmakers.

Each panel is free and open to the public. Ticket options to stream the movies include a custom $ 5 day pass that gives you access to all of the content streamed on that particular day and only that day. And a $ 100 all-access pass that gives you access to all festival events. Additional benefits include: Admission to the BlackStar Pitch Session, where a selection of color filmmakers propose their ongoing work to a group of funders, distributors and producers; and an annual BlackStar membership.

Founded by Maori Karmael Holmes, who serves as the festival's artistic director and CEO, the company has already received significant support from across the country from a distinguished list of donors including the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and which belong to John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and industry heavyweights like HBO, CAA, and Comcast / Xfinity, as well as individual donors and partners like Lionsgate / Starz.

It is clear that the festival provides an invaluable service not only to the city of Philadelphia but also to filmmakers of colors around the world.

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