The BlackStar Film Festival returns for its third year of bringing quality Black cinema to the film and art loving community of Philadelphia and beyond. With four days of narrative, documentary and short films made by and starring established and emerging artists of the African diaspora, this festival also offers numerous interactive panels and workshops, networking opportunities, and parties in full Philly fashion.
A study of this year’s schedule reveals the thematic connection to innovation in Black music under their trailer’s title “Music is the Weapon,” inspired by the documentary on Fela Kuti of the same name, and displayed by their audiotape icon (among others) for year three.
Documentaries like Shomari Smith’s Til’ Infinity: Souls of Mischief, an in-depth look at the titular rap group’s groundbreaking 1993 album, and closing night film Time is Illmatic featuring now legendary Nas (a film we’ve covered on this site this past April), both celebrate the 20th anniversary of two landmark hip-hop albums. The music trend continues with the ‘Planet Rock: Hip-Hop Shorts’ showcase of short film documentaries which features Words by Rakim, a re-introduction and aural celebration of one of hip-hop’s most, if not the most, influential MC in history; Ja’Tovia Gary’s Cakes da Killa: No Homo about the eponymous up and coming rapper who also happens to be an out and proud gay man; and Jamaica House, a chronicle of the Los Angeles’ club known as “the studio 54 of hip-hop.”
A focus on acclaimed director Kahlil Joseph, known for his music-centered films and videos and best described by Hilton Als in The New Yorker as someone that, “doesn’t make music videos so much [as] visual riffs on the music that, in turn, infuses his very real, present, and fantastical images,” starts off the film festival’s music-based emphasis on August 1st. OnAugust 2nd the ‘Crossover,’ panel aims to explore the intersection between the film and music industries from music videos, television programming, advertising, and artists/executives whose careers span both worlds. And August 3rd’s ‘Composing for Film’ panel with Amatus, King Britt, Zakee Kuduro and others, continues the emphasis on sonics.
The festival, which runs from July 31st to August 3rd, still has an ample focus on non-music affiliated narrative films and documentaries including Darius Clark Monroe’s Evolution of a Criminal. Of key interest are:
DREAMS ARE COLDER THAN DEATH
USA, Germany, 2014, 53 min.
Dir. Arthur Jafa
Fifty years have passed since the fabled March on Washington where Dr. Martin Luther King presented his dream. Now, that utopian dream has faded, leaving behind the shadow of diminished expectations and the looming threat of ancient, undying terror. What does it mean to be Black in America today? Director and legendary cinematographer Arthur Jafa tears at the epistemological roots of this question with hypnotic imagery, lyrical grace and an epic narration by a host of artistic visionaries, thought leaders and uncommon folks, including Kara Walker, Hortense Spillers, Fred Moten, Kathleen Cleaver, Charles Burnett, Wangechi Mutu, Saidiya Hartman and Melvin Gibbs.
Q&A w/Arthur Jafa & Greg Tate
Co-presented by Scribe Video Center
July 31 at International House Philadelphia
(Jafa will have a talk about his cinematic vision at noon earlier this day with Arthur Jafa: In Process at the Scribe Video Center – 4212 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia)
TROOP 491: The Adventures of the Muddy Lions
USA, 2013, 105 min.
Tristan, a naïve adolescent boy, attempts to cope with life in the inner city. In an effort to keep him off the streets, his mother enrolls him in the Boy Scouts. But when he witnesses a homicide and the local thugs demand his silence, Tristan has to decide if he’ll follow the code of the streets or follow the code of the Scouts. With the help of his new Scout friends, he learns that doing the right thing isn’t always easy.
8/2 at the Annenberg School for Communication
LITTLE WHITE LIE
USA, 2013, 66 min.
Dir. Lacey Schwartz
Followed by Q&A w/Lacey Schwartz & Mehret Mandefro
Lacey Schwartz’s story of growing up in a typical middle-class Jewish household in Woodstock, NY, with loving parents and a strong sense of her Jewish identity — that is, until she discovers that her biological father is actually a black man with whom her mother had an affair. This personal documentary raises the questions of what defines our identity, our family of origin and the family that raises us. While exploring her parents’ stories, and her own, Schwartz discovers a legacy of family secrets, denial, and ultimately, redemption.
Window Dressing Fail
USA, 2014, 6 min.
Dir. Stacey Larkins
An ambitious woman seeking a job, eliminates her African name in order to increase her chances of being considered.
both on 8/2 at International House Philadelphia
- BlackStar Film Festival 2014
- Kahlil Joseph’s WILDCAT
- Troop 491 website
- musician Amatus’ funky website