Film Festivals

BlackStar Film Festival

…celebrates filmmakers of color

Six years after filmmaker and curator Maori Holmes started the BlackStar Film Festival as an ad hoc film club for a few friends, the annual event has grown into one of Philly’s most significant showcases of indie films.

Dubbed “the Black Sundance” by Ebony magazine, the four-day celebration of films by men and women of color includes screenings of 12 features and more than 40 shorts — including half a dozen films by local directors — at International House in University City from Thursday, Aug. 3, through Sunday, Aug. 6.

Most screenings include a Q&A session with the filmmakers, who also will be on hand for a panel discussion, several receptions, and even a dance party at various venues in or near University City.

“I’m especially happy that this year we have so many world premieres,” said Holmes, who is director of public engagement at the Institute of Contemporary Art and has curated film programs at Painted Bride Art Center, Scribe Video Center, and Swarthmore College.

Six of the 12 features and more than a dozen shorts will be screened for the first time ever.

“And I’m proud that [Selma director] Ava DuVernay has found time to be with us this year.”

DuVernay, whose film 13th was nominated for an Oscar for best documentary feature, will appear Saturday night to receive the fest’s BlackStar Award.

‘It’s gratifying to see that we have a growing reputation in the industry,” Holmes said.

“I don’t want to sound corny but we got here because we led by intention and not because we’ve been chasing things simply because they are glittery or high profile.”

This year, the festival also includes a comprehensive youth program, a series of screenings of films by directors between the ages of 11 and 23.

Revisiting a revolutionary film

Among this year’s highlights will be a repertory screening of Wilmington 10 — USA 10,000, a 1979 documentary by Haitian-born activist-artist Haile Gerima.

Shot guerilla-style on a shoestring budget, Gerima’s controversial film reexamines the case of the Wilmington Ten, a group of nine men and one woman convicted of arson and conspiracy in 1971 in Wilmington, N.C.

“It will be the first time we will show an actual film print” as opposed to a digital file, Holmes said.

Gerima, 71, who will be unable to attend the screening, said in a phone interview he’s excited that his film, which has never been distributed for the home-entertainment market, has piqued renewed interest.

“It was shown recently in Paris at a retrospective of my work,” said the director, who is best known for his 1993 feature Sankofa, a drama about a narcissistic model who is transported back in time to a plantation in the West Indies, where she has to live the life of an African slave.

“[Wilmington 10] was shown recently at a retrospective of my work in Paris,” he said. “And I think more than anything, people were impressed that the people who speak up in the film about the struggle African Americans have had in America weren’t professors or officials but ordinary people.”

Gerima’s film will screen at 1:15 p.m. Thursday.

Dramatic politics and sexy comedies

Other notable entries this year include Hello Cupid: Farrah, a feature-length spin-off of the popular web series Hello Cupid from Black & Sexy TV cofounders Dennis Dortch, Tina Cerin and Numa Perrier.

“Black & Sexy TV started out as a YouTube channel,” said Perrier, 36, who will attend the screening at 9:45 p.m. Friday.

“Now we’re a full subscription service with original programming, a a black-owned and black-operated network that tells black stories.”

The film stars Gabrielle Maiden (Sexless) as “a very passive, but eccentric virgin,” Perrier said, “who hasn’t learned really to stand up for herself and who doesn’t know what she wants from life.”

Nor, it seems, does the twentysomething heroine know if she wants to have sex with men or women.

Her life is turned upside down when she joins an online dating site.

“It’s a coming-of-age story,” Perrier said. “We follow her story as she goes from being a virgin to dating a variety of men and women, and as she gets a crash course on dating in the modern world.”

Philadelphia voices

Philly filmmakers represented at BlackStar this year include M. Asli Dukan, writer-director of the short Resistance, the Battle of Philadelphia (Prologue), the first part of a web series set in West Philly starring local stage actor Jennifer Kidwell.

“I have been part taking part in activities for social justice and resistance to police violence for years and I’ve been thinking about who to make a film about” the topic, said Dukan, who grew up in Harlem. “I usually work in speculative fiction, horror, fantasy, and science-fiction. I came up with this story set in the future that asks what would police brutality might look like in the future.”

The short is one of six episodes that will follow the experiences of different characters in West Philly as they have confrontations with authority, Dukan said.

The film will screen as part of a shorts program at noon Saturday.

Not everything at BlackStar will be so heavy or so political.

On the comic side, there’s Tales From Shaolin: Pt 1 “Shakey Dog”, which will be shown as part of the same shorts program.

The first part of a planned series of shorts inspired by hip-hop superstars the Wu Tang Clan, the story is the brainchild of director Louis Moore, a Philly native, and writer J. Michael Neal, who grew up in Camden.

“All the films will pay homage to the Wu Tang Clan, and each will be based on different members” of the group, said Moore.

The first part is inspired by Wu Tang’s Ghostface Killah.

“We take the lyrics to their songs and reinterpret them through little stories,” said Moore, who learned the craft at Los Angeles Film School.

The film, he said, “is a comedy about a drug heist gone horribly wrong. … Ghostface takes along a young accomplice and things take a comic turn a that will be totally unexpected to both Ghostface and the audience.”

The BlackStar Film Festival

Thursday, Aug. 3 through Sunday Aug. 6 in University City. Most screenings will be at International House, 38th and Chestnut Streets.
Tickets: All-access pass: $150. Single tickets: $12; $8 students and seniors.
Information:

267-603-2755, blackstarfest.org.

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Celebrating Women Filmmakers

Urusaro International Women Film Festival

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Actress Antoinette Uwamahoro, best known as Intare y’Ingore, receiving the award. / Eddie Nsabimana

Poupoun Sesonga Kamikazi is the brains behind the Urusaro International Women Film Festival (UWIFF) that was held at the Umubano Hotel in Kigali recently.

In its second edition now, the festival celebrates the gains made by female filmmakers from Rwanda and Africa, although this year’s edition also saw movies from a few Asian nations screened.

This year organizers received a total of forty movie submissions, of which twenty three films were selected. Of these, eleven were from Rwanda, making the event a predominantly Rwandan affair.

Other movie submissions came from East and West Africa. One filmmaker from Gabon and another from Ivory Coast also flew down to Kigali for the festival.

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Poupoune Kamikazi Sesonga (left, in red dress), the festival director and John Kwezi (1st left) posing for a photo with the winners. / Eddie Nsabimana

The now annual festival was founded in 2015, but funding glitches left organizers with no option but to cancel last year’s event at the last moment.

New partnerships with Tele 10, 4GLTE and other sponsors ensured the festival bounces back bigger and better this year.

More support and goodwill also came from government through the Ministry of Sports and Culture, and the Rwanda Academy of Language and Culture (RALC).

“Urusaro International Women Film Festival is about movies made by women, be it local or foreign. I myself am a movie maker and an artist. I have made five movies, so why not inspire other women to make movies too?”, remarked Kamikazi, at a pre-event press conference at the 4G Square in Downtown Kigali.

“We have many workshops where upcoming filmmakers will be helped to know how to pitch for funding because making movies requires a lot of money. Filmmakers will also have a chance to network because we have invited people from government and embassies and filmmakers from abroad,” she added.

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Awards reserved for winners. / Eddie Nsabimana

“This is the first film festival to approach us for partnership and for us as Tele 10 we have a lot of movie content so we decided to come out and familiarize our brand in the society. We need more local filmmakers. People have been watching movies from Hollywood and Europe but it’s now time for Rwandan movies to taken center stage,” explained Emmanuel Niyonshuti, the head of Sales and Marketing at Tele 10.

The festival closed on March 11th, with a special award ceremony for best movie makers.

Some of the local filmmakers who walked away with awards include; Antoinnette Uwamahoro for Best Actress, Ahadi Beni for Best Actor, while the Best Short Film Accolade went to Apolline Uwimana for her film, Bugingo. The Most Popular Film was Isaha, by Zaninka Joselyn.

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Joselyne Zaninka posing with the ‘most popular film’ award. / Eddie Nsabimana
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Apolline Uwimana won three awards in the International Women Film festival. / Eddie Nsabimana

Started as a joke

In July 2012, Kamikazi won her maiden movie award, courtesy of the short film, Kivuto at the then Rwanda International Film Festival, now Rwanda Film Festival. And she has never looked back since.

She was born in Bujumbura, the capital of Burundi but is Rwandan. She attended Kicukiro Primary school in Rwanda, then left for Burundi for her secondary studies. It’s in Burundi that the inspiration for her first film manifested, although at the time she didn’t consider a career in film.

Kivuto is a film borne out of her childhood memories about children with disabilities arising from complicated birth.

“There’s a province called Kirundo on the Burundian side, and Bugesera district on the Rwandan side. Kivuto is the name that was given to a child who had a complicated delivery. Usually the infant would be pushed out of the mother and in most cases that infant would die and if they survived they would come with some disabilities. Growing up, I saw many such children and even adults. Some would not control their biological functions,” she explains.

Following her award, a TV crew from Tele 10 interviewed her family on her success. She was shocked to learn from their interviews that the movie maker in her had started to manifest while she was a little girl of five.

At that age, she started narrating films to her family, films that were merely figments of her fertile imagination.

“I would tell them I had watched the film and start to narrate it yet I had not watched it. My siblings would sit around me and listen. The next day I would do the same and narrate a film I had never seen or heard about. When it was bed time my siblings would come to me to narrate them a film before they would go to sleep. Sometimes they would cry and other times they would be overtaken by fear.

“My mum was so strict and tough, but I was so stubborn and would always break her rules. Every time I would return home I knew that she would beat me up. Because I always knew I was going to be beaten up, I would always come up with a story to calm down her temper as a way of covering my stubbornness. Instead of beating me, she would say welcome, sit next to me and tell me the story,” she explains.

“My mum was a staunch Catholic and she adored the Virgin Mary. To be sure that I had convinced her and her temper had cooled down, I would always add a story about the Virgin Mary. I would tell her that some people had had a vision from the Virgin Mary. That was always the final touch in convincing her.”

It took them about five years to realize she had been creating fictional films she had never watched.

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Beauty for Ashes on stage. / Eddie Nsabimana

In 2008 she returned to Rwanda to continue with school at Mudende Adventist University where she studied Computer Science and Networking.

Towards the end of 2009 she met an American film crew making a movie in Rwanda.

“I was assisting the casting director to cast the characters. I noticed he was so tired and stressed and offered to help him during the pre production of the film. When I did it, the director of film started taking pictures of me and asking me many questions.”

They thought her to be an experienced local movie director, which she was not.

“The casting director asked me to return the next day yet he had his own assistant. I returned for the next couple of days and he kept asking me many questions about movies but I did not know the answers. I had not even read the script of the movie we were casting.

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The audience. / Eddie Nsabimana

He asked how many times I had done casting in movies but I could not tell him I had never done it before because I knew they would not believe me. So I kept quiet, smiled and went away, hoping he would never ask me again.”

After the shoot she picked her allowances and headed back to school, the money having been her only motivation.

But even the Rwandan team from Almond Tree Films that had worked as extras in the film mistook her for an experienced American movie maker. Realizing she was Rwandan, the decided to engage her.

“They requested me to join Almond Tree Films and work with them but I told them I’m not a filmmaker but had just gone to make money.

One day they asked me to write them a script. I told them I had many stories but I didn’t have a computer and didn’t know anything to do with writing scripts. I just used to write my stories in a notebook.

When I gave them the story they said it’s a perfect script and they asked to shoot a movie out of it.”

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Queer Women of Color Film Festival 2016

QWOCMAP’s 12th annual Queer Women of Color Film Festival conjures up a spellbinding combination of 38 films, with a Festival Focus “Wages of Injustice: Queer & Trans Dollars and Sense” that reveals the sleight of hand we use to make a living, as well as a remarkable international program of queer & trans films from Latin America.

Schedule

Opening Screening

Magical Fantastical

Friday, June 10, 7:30pm

Opening Night “Magical Fantastical” bestows the night with sparkling delight, from the sorcery of stereotypes that threaten a bisexual Chicana and the loving allure of femme friends to the rites of queer community through Cumbia, these charming films summon the fanstastic.
filmmaker roundtable

Filmmaker Roundtable

Exponential Hustle

Satuday, June 11, 3pm

Film builds power. It can either reinforce bias, or amplify the voices of the unheard and the forcibly silenced. It is also the most expensive art form in the world. Costs for Hollywood films are at $1 million per finished minute, and rising. The high costs of filmmaking equate to de facto censorship. Join independent queer women of color and transgender people of color filmmakers as they talk about the impact of money and the magic they invoke to create authentic images of our vulnerable communities.
featured screening

Featured Screening

Wages of Injustice

Saturday, June 11, 7pm

“Wages of Injustice” reveals the sleight of hand it takes to live and love amidst poverty and income inequality. From a young man without money to honor his imprisoned father’s death, to the toxic harbingers of maqulidoras, from the sparkle of nail salons to queer & trans sex workers, these films reveal the smoke and mirrors of work, and wages.
Sunday centerpiece screening

Centerpiece Screening

Encuentros Con Amor

Sunday, June 12, 2pm

“Encuentros Con Amor” is a remarkable international program of queer & trans films from Latin America that includes QWOCMAP Films from Tijuana, Mexico. From a Trans Latina’s promising dream to a chance encounter with an inner child, from the summoning of liberation from gender roles, to powerful incantations of self, these films manifest encounters with love.
closing night screening

Closing Night Screening

Haven Bound

Sunday, June 12, 6pm

“Haven Bound,” summons the blessings of family from an Asian mother and daughter facing loss to safe havens for Black women, from the grace of Lebanese-Palestinian families to the adoption of all kinds of kids, these films invoke the blessing of wholeness.
Source Qwocmap

SXSW Keynote 2016

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama Announced as SXSW Keynotes

Written by Hugh Forrest |
President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama Announced as SXSW Keynotes | Photos courtesy of The White House

SXSW is honored to announce President Barack Obama will appear as part of a Keynote Conversation at SXSW Interactive on Friday, March 11 and First Lady Michelle Obama will be the opening Keynote at SXSW Music on Wednesday, March 16. This marks the first time in the 30-year history of SXSW that a sitting President and the First Lady have participated in the event.

On Friday, March 11, President Obama will sit down with Evan Smith, CEO / Editor in Chief of The Texas Tribune, for a conversation about civic engagement in the 21st Century before an audience of creators, early adopters and entrepreneurs who are defining the future of our connected lives. The President will call on the audience to apply their ideas and talents to make technology work for us – especially when it comes to tackling big challenges like increasing participation in the political process and fighting climate change. President Obama’s appearance is open to all SXSW Interactive, Gold, and Platinum registrants.

On Wednesday, March 16, First Lady Michelle Obama comes to SXSW Music to discuss the Let Girls Learn initiative, which aims to break barriers for the 62 million girls around the world who are not in school today, more than half of whom are adolescent. The SXSW Music Conference brings the global music industry together and offers the perfect platform to celebrate Women’s History Month, as the First Lady provides her call to action to support girls’ education. First Lady Michelle Obama’s event is open to all SXSW Music, Film, Gold, and Platinum registrants.

“I can’t imagine a better way to celebrate our event’s 30th year than to welcome both the President and First Lady to SXSW,” said Co-founder Roland Swenson. “As each new generation comes up at SXSW they look for ways they can be of service, and it’s important to reflect and support that message. President and Mrs. Obama’s visit here will inspire attendees to that purpose.”

More details regarding location, time, streaming, and access to both events will be announced via the SXSW website in the coming days.

Discover more 2016 SXSW Keynotes for Interactive and Music, and browse our full slate of online programming.

Article Source SXSW