6 Best Shorts from BlackStar Film Festival
Philadelphia’s BlackStar Film festival returned this year for its 10th year anniversary, and will be ending this week on August 8th, 2021. BlackStar Film Festival celebrates the voices of black, brown, and Indigenous filmmakers, earning itself the reputation of being the “Black Sundance Festival,” a term coined by IndieWire and members of the black community.
It has boasted a remarkable rise from a small, indie festival to one of the largest festivals for black voices and black stories. Even the festival’s current director, Nehad Khader, climbed a steep path to success, beginning as an early BlackStar volunteer who rose to become festival director.
Their mission of collaboration, inclusion and ‘liberation’ has led BlackStar to international success: films that premiered at the festival have qualified for narrative and documentary Oscars; attendance has grown to up to 20,000; and, world-class films are now part of their programming (Terence Nance’s HBO series Random Acts of Flyness in 2018 and the new Eyes On The Prize film will premiere before it goes on to HBO Max this year). BlackStar has risen forward in exponential growth, with the appearance of prestigious filmmakers like Spike Lee and cinematographer Bradford Young taking center stage at the festival. In. 2019, BlackStar festival attendees got an exclusive sneak peek for the Solange Knowles cut of her fourth studio album, When I Get Home, with a visual component.
BlackStar is not just a festival, but a resource for filmmakers, distributors, and exhibitors to collaborate and accrue financial and industry-wide support. Blackstar has secured honorary financial backers from across the country including media conglomerates such as HBO, CAA, and Comcast/Xfinity, and Lionsgate/Starz. There is no doubt that the festival is providing immense value, not only to the city of Philadelphia, but for filmmakers of color around the world.
For more information on the BlackStar Film Festival and screenings for this week please visit https://www.blackstarfest.org/
In honor of the BlackStar Festival, we have gathered 6 BEST SHORTS that have come out of the festival – ranging from experimental, documentary, and drama:
1. WE CAN’T STOP CARS WITHOUT SEEING COP CARS
Dir. Fahamu Pecou
4 mins, United States, 2020
The project explores the notion of Black leisure by highlighting spaces where Black men can experience freedom, autonomy, and joy. The film uses cars as an allegorical as well as a literal suggestion of movement and escapism.
2. BRAIDING & SINGING (A POINT)
Dir. Rashida Bumbray
6 mins, United States, 2020
The film is based on the residents of Gee’s Bend, Alabama who are direct descendants of generations of slaves who worked the cotton plantation established in 1816 by Joseph Gee. This settlement developed a unique patchwork quilting tradition, hailed by the New York Times as “some of the most miraculous works of modern art America has produced.” Gee’s Bend quilts constitute a crucial chapter in the history of American art and today are in the permanent collections of over 20 leading art museums.This film considers the subversive modes of transmission that Black women have engaged in, braiding rice and seeds into the hair of loved ones before separation, ensuring the promise of future sustenance tethered to a past. In line with these magical realist practices, the film takes as a point of departure the architecture in the quilts of Gees Bend.
3. DVD & CHILL
Dir. Johnny Ray Gill
19 mins, United States, 2020
In the City of Angels, a groupie craves nothing more than to rub shoulders with Hollywood hunk Shemar Moor. So she arranges to spend the evening watching a DVD with Moor’s slick tongued half-brother, in a ploy to use him as a stepping stone to her celebrity obsession.
4. MIDNIGHT OIL
Dir. Bilal Motley
30 mins, United States, 2020
MIDNIGHT OIL is the story of the massive explosion at Philadelphia’s 150 year old oil refinery, and the aftermath that followed. Created by refinery worker Bilal Motley, it depicts his struggles to reconcile his love for his distressed co-workers and his growing awareness of environmental justice.
5. A SONG ABOUT LOVE
Dir. Rikkí Wright
14 mins, United States, 2019
A SONG ABOUT LOVE explores the complex relationship between sexuality and religion and my personal experience with finding myself within that paradigm. Navigating redemptive love versus real love.
6. BY WAY OF CANARSIE
Dir. Emily Packer & Lesley Steele
14 mins, United States, 2019
After years of neglect by the City of New York and the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, the coastal community of Canarsie wants more. This series of vignettes explores Canarsie’s unique relationship to the water through recreation, resiliency, and the community’s imagination for the future.