The 11th annual BlackStar Film Festival kicks off this week

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Philly’s “Black Sundance” continues this year as a dynamic hybrid event, with programming online as well as in theaters, museums and outdoor venues across the city from August 3-7.


The BlackStar Film Festival kicks off on Wednesday August 3 and ends on August 7. / Photograph by Daniel Jackson, courtesy of BlackStar

Moviegoers rejoice: The BlackStar Film Festival, an annual celebration showcasing the work of filmmakers of color, kicks off Wednesday with more than 70 films, previews, panels, parties, workshops and even yoga sessions.

Recent Best of Philly Award Winner, Many Lumens Podcast Host, Founding Editor of Film Diary Seen, and festival founder Maori Karamael Holmes started BlackStar a decade ago out of a desire to see films from the African diaspora that weren’t screened in Philadelphia. The festival’s first year was largely due to Holmes scouring other festivals and asking friends and peers for recommendations for work to showcase in the city. Ten years and two mostly virtual iterations of the festival later, its efforts have morphed into a five-day hybrid marathon showcasing the work of filmmakers not only from the African diaspora, but also black, brown and indigenous directors working in independent fields. .

The love of multiplicity does not stop there. The multitude of films presented at BlackStar will not only cover relevant and diverse subjects, such as the feature documentary by Paula Eiselt and Tonya Lewis Lee on the crisis of maternal health in the United States or the world premiere of an experimental film . Another story, featuring singer-songwriter Esperanza Spalding – the lineup will also appear in a variety of formats, appealing to younger, older, virtual and in-person crowds. Program highlights include panels accompanying the scheduled films (including one featuring Oscar-nominated director Mira Nair), a live talk show hosted each evening by Holmes, and three different parties scheduled throughout the festival.

Photograph by Daniel Jackson, courtesy of BlackStar

Planning for the next BlackStar is a complex and ongoing process, says festival director Nehad Khader. “We are always looking at the works that are coming out and the ones that are in production. From January to early May, we monitor everything submitted. Our submissions are constantly increasing, which is truly amazing. That means a lot of people are learning about BlackStar and a lot of people are making movies, which is something we really like to see.

On average, the program committee receives over 1,200 submissions each year, making the decision-making process deeply intentional and complex.

“It’s important to highlight filmmakers of color, as they aren’t usually presented in the American context, and to make sure that the media and films that everyone has access to really reflect their own communities,” says Holmes. “We see a lot of films from filmmakers of color that are not only different thematically, they are also different in terms of experimentation and aesthetics. It’s good to see how cinema evolves and changes, and what filmmakers of color bring to the world of visual culture.

You can purchase a BlackStar Film Festival all-access pass for $250 and a virtual pass for $125; individual tickets for the virtual and in-person screenings are $5 and $15, respectively. See the full schedule here.


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