BlackStar Projects has set the lineup of films and events for the 10th annual BlackStar Film Festival. The festival will be a hybrid of virtual and in-person events in Philadelphia which will kick off on August 4 through August 8.
The 2021 BlackStar Film Festival will feature a total of 80 films, representing 27 countries, including 18 world, 2 North American, and 7 US premieres. Twenty-nine additional films will be Philadelphia premieres.
“So much of BlackStar’s magic is in the people, and the opportunity to bring incredible independent filmmakers together. In ten years we have seen so much of that togetherness, of filmmakers finding each other and their audiences, and I can’t wait to see what the next ten bring,” said BlackStar Artistic Director & CEO Maori Karmael Holmes. “And while we remain mostly distanced, with a primarily digital festival again this year, we are excited to share this incredible film slate, which is global in scope, with the global audience the digital format allows.”
“This year’s films speak to a tremendous breadth of experiences, geographies, histories, aesthetics, and visions,” says Festival Director Nehad Khader. “These films address eternal preoccupations and pressing issues alike, and do so with grace, humor, beauty, and intelligence, and we are so excited to celebrate these filmmakers and their work.”
Read the lineup of films below.
Strength, a feature documentary by Jorge Díaz Sánchez chronicling an indigenous youth basketball team in Oaxaca, Mexico, in its world premiere
Friendzone L.A., a short narrative by Angel Kristi Williams, in which two friends, one of whom is quietly in love with the other, spend a day exploring Los Angeles, in its world premiere
Madame Pipi, a short documentary by Rachelle Salnave following the lives of Haitian bathroom attendants working the nightclubs of Miami amidst the uncertainties of COVID-19 and rising costs of living, in its world premiere
The Inheritance, a feature narrative by Ephraim Asili, which weaves the history of the West Philadelphia-based MOVE Organization, the Black Arts Movement, and a narrative based on the filmmaker’s younger years when he was a member of a Black radical collective
Teeth, an experimental film by Jennifer Martin, in which a couple are forced by UK immigration officials to provide increasingly performative evidence their relationship’s legitimacy, a gruelling audition of acceptability that quickly escalates into surreal horror, in its US premiere
The Silent Protest: 1929 Jerusalem, a short documentary by Mahasen Nasser-Eldin chronicling a 1929 protest launched by a Palestinian women’s movement in Jerusalem who held a silent demonstration in protest of the British colonization, in its US premiere
Their Algeria, a feature documentary by Lina Soualem about her grandparents’ separation after 62 years together, their lives in Algeria and their experiences as immigrants living in a small medieval town in central France, in its US premiere
Eyimofe (This Is My Desire), a feature narrative by Arie and Chuko Esiri that follows the stories of a pair of Lagosians, Mofe, a factory technician, and Rosa, a hairdresser, on their quest for what they believe will be a better life on foreign shores, in its Philadelphia premiere
Bitchin’: The Sound and Fury of Rick James, a feature documentary by Sacha Jenkins that tells the story of the legendary funkster’s extraordinary and tumultuous life, times and musical legacy, in its Philadelphia premiere
Pink Carnations, an experimental film by Nadia Hironaka & Matthew Suib reflecting on a Japanese American family’s history at an internment camp during World War II, in its Philadelphia premiere
Writing with Fire, a feature documentary by Rintu Thomas and Sushmit Ghosh profiling India’s only newspaper run by Dalit women, a group of journalists who break traditions on the frontlines of India’s biggest issues and within the confines of their homes, in its Philadelphia premiere
Beans, a feature narrative by Tracey Deer about a 12-year-old torn between innocent childhood and delinquent adolescence; forced to grow up fast to become the tough Mohawk warrior she needs to be during the Indigenous uprising known as The Oka Crisis, which tore Quebec and Canada apart in the summer of 1990, in its Philadelphia premiere
Waikiki, a feature narrative by Christopher Kahunahana about a hula dancer’s fight for survival and sanity in the shadows of Waikiki, an unflinching glimpse into paradise where there remains hope through human connection and reconnection to ʻaina (nature), in its Philadelphia premiere
Melting Snow, an experimental film by Janah Elise exploring the coloniality of Puerto Rico’s labor force through the symbol water
In advance of this years’ Festival, BlackStar has announced the late Menelik Shabazz as the recipient of the 2021 Richard Nichols Luminary Award, recognizing outstanding contributions in the arts and social change. Director of the acclaimed Burning an Illusion, among many other films, Shabazz was also the founder and publisher of Black Filmmaker Magazine. Shabazz, who passed away in June, was one of the most groundbreaking filmmakers of our time, eternally changing Black, Caribbean, British, and global cinema as we know it. Past recipients of the Luminary Award include Haile Gerima, Julie Dash, RZA, Ava DuVernay, dream hampton, and Marcia Smith.
In addition to the digital screenings, there will be a slate of in-person events in Philadelphia this year. These include opening and closing night parties, which are free and open to the public, and free, nightly outdoor film screenings at Eakins Oval, in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, from 8pm to 11pm, August 4 – 7.
Read the in-person events and screenings below.
Free with Registration
Opening Night Party: Revival! with Rashid Zakat, lil’ dave, and Oluwafemi, Co-presented with Firelight Media
August 4, 8pm-12am, Bartram’s Garden, (5400 Lindbergh Blvd., Philadelphia)
Festival Happy Hour by Color of Change
August 8, 5-7pm at Attico (219 S Broad St., Philadelphia)
August 6-8, 8:30am at Drexel Square (3001 Market St., Philadelphia, PA)
BlackStar @ the Mann (ticketed)
August 8, 11am-8pm at the Mann Center for the Performing Arts, TD Pavilion (5201 Parkside Ave., Philadelphia, PA)
Closing Night Party: Kiss-n-Grind, featuring Vikter Duplaix and Rich Medina, hosted by Laiya St. Clair
August 4, 8-11pm, Cira Green, (129 S 30th St., Philadelphia, PA)
BlackStar is partnering with HBO to present the world premiere of feature documentary Eyes on the Prize: Hallowed Ground, which will be screened at the Mann Center at 6pm on August 8, in advance of its streaming availability on HBO Max, which will begin on August 19. Honoring Henry Hampton’s masterpiece Eyes on the Prize, the film conjures ancestral memories, activates the radical imagination, and explores the profound journey for Black liberation through the voices of the movement. A portal through time, Eyes on the Prize: Hallowed Ground is a mystical and lyrical reimagining of the past, present, and future.
The BlackStar Film Festival will also feature conversations, programs, roundtable discussions, and more, highlighting the voices and visions of filmmakers, thinkers, and leaders across the field.
Returning for the third year, and in keeping with the Festival’s maker-centric approach, will be BlackStar’s Pitch Session, which brings eight filmmakers to pitch short doc projects to a panel of experts from foundations, distributors, and production houses. The Pitch Session will take place August 3, and is open to invited guests and festival passholders.
Read the schedule of live-streamed conversations below.
BlackStar Pitch Session
August 3, 12-2:30pm
Presented by WarnerMedia/OneFifty
The Daily Jawn, Presented by PBS and World Channel
A morning talk show co-hosted by BlackStar founder Maori Karmael Holmes, filmmaker-artist Rashid Zakat, and a rotating crew of special guest hosts. The show features interviews with filmmakers and panelists, astrological updates, insightful social critique, and much more.
August 4-8, daily at 9:30am, Facebook Live
With Laiya St. Clair, D’Lo, Ethel Cee, Anne Ishii, Dr. Yaba Blay, and more
Nuotama Bodomo and Fox Maxy in Conversation With Tina Campt
August 4, 12-1pm
Glitch and the Moving Image
August 4, 2-3pm
Co-presented by MediaJustice
With Legacy Russell, Cameron A. Granger, E. Jane and Jazmin Jones; moderated by Imran Siddiquee
August 4, 4-5pm
With Sultana Isham, Jlin, Tamar-Kali, and Amanda Jones; moderated by Dave “DJ lil’ dave” Adams
Sacha Jenkins in Conversation with Dyana Williams
August 4, 6-7pm
Co-presented by Showtime
Meshell Ndegeocello in Conversation with Imani Perry
August 5, 12-1pm
Mental Health and Filmmaking
August 5, 2-3pm
Co-presented by American Documentary (POV), PBS, Scattergood Foundation, and WORLD Channel
With Michèle Stephenson, Lyric Cabral, Gessica Généus, and Nicole Naone; moderated by Yolo Akili
August 7, 4-5pm
With Rashaad Newsome, Maya Cozier, Leilah Weinraub, Aziah “Zola” Wells and Vashni Korin; moderated by Samantha Noël
R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Balancing Power and Care in Doc Filmmaking
August 5, 6-8 pm
In Partnership with the Doc Accountability Working Group
With Natalie Bullock-Brown, Sonya Childress, Michelle Lanier, Twiggy Pucci-Garcon, Poh Si Teng and Dr. Kameelah Rashad
Caribbean Film and Relational Poetics
August 7, 10:30-11:30 am
In partnership with Third Horizon
Co-presented by Black Public Media
With Wally Fall, Jason Fitzroy Jeffers, Shari Petti, and Nino Martínez Sosa; moderated by Dessane Lopez Cassell
On a Move!
August 6, 6-7 pm
Co-presented by Leeway Foundation and Temple University Department of Theater, Film and Media Arts
With Debbie Africa, Mike Africa, Mike Africa Jr., Louis Massiah, Maori Karmael Holmes, and Ephraim Asili; moderated by Krystal Strong
Going Back to Get It: On Cinematic Archival Practice
August 7, 12-1pm
Co-presented by Black Public Media and Impact Partners
With Darius Clark Monroe, Tzutzu Matzin, Mahasen Nasser-Eldin, and Emily Jacir; moderated by Savannah Wood
Agent’s & Manager’s Roundtable
August 7, 2-3pm
Co-presented by CAA
With Adesuwa McCalla, Noel Tedla Mesfin, Talitha Watkins and Rukayat Giwa; moderated by Brandon Pankey
Love + Grit Podcast at BlackStar
August 6, 2-3pm
Coral Messam in Conversation With Jasmine Johnson
August 8, 11am-12pm