Our Guide To The BlackStar Film Festival, August 4-7

60+ film screenings, industry conversations, interactive exhibitions and parties...

Migration — specifically, stories about peoples of the African diaspora traveling throughout the world and throughout life — is the theme for this year’s BlackStar Film Festival, deemed the “Black Sundance” by Ebony magazine.

Celebrating its fifth year, BlackStar will bring more than 60 films from across the globe to Philadelphia, along with industry conversations and even some partying. Between August 4 and August 7, the city will be abuzz with both filmmakers of color and fans enjoying Philadelphia’s unique celebration of black cinema.

BlackStar Film Festival Fast Facts

  • The film festival runs from August 4-7.
  • The festival will feature 64 films from five continents.
  • Most screenings and events will be held in University City’s International House Philadelphia.
(Photo Courtesy BlackStar Film Festival)
This year’s BlackStar Film Festival maintains its dedication to independent filmmaking and investigates the theme of migration.

Festival Overview: The Films

The theme of migration comes with an accompanying panel discussion and explores the African diaspora — the spread of people from Africa to the Americas and the Caribbean — through the cinematic lens, though not necessarily in the way you might expect. One feature film called Dreamstates follows two bandmates through dreams and reality, as they tour the United States. The film, directed by Anisia Uzeyman, was shot entirely on an iPhone.

Another Thursday feature called Tell Me Sweet Something, is a romantic comedy that takes place in Johannesburg, South Africa, known as “the City of Gold,” and transforms it into “the City of Love” — Philly, we can relate.

Diasporic Encounters is a collection of short films that follows blackness through Mexico, China and other unexpected countries. The film series kicks off Philly’s nationally acclaimed celebration of black film on Thursday, August 4 at 11 a.m. at International House Philadelphia.

The Venues

Like previous years, BlackStar will inhabit University City for most of its duration, with the majority of film screenings taking place at International House Philadelphia. While at International House for the festival, be sure to keep an eye out for a mobile XOXO photo spot in the courtyard. Be sure to snap a photo with the structure and hashtag #visitphilly on any social media posts.

At Drexel University’s Leonard Pearlstein Gallery, festival-goers can catch Friday’s Youth Screening, a series of socially engaged short films produced by and about young people. Also on Friday, the Pearlstein Gallery will host a free Brownbag Lunch, featuring a chat with BaddDDD Sonia Sanchez filmmaker Sabrina Schmidt Gordon and How to Tell You’re a Douchebag’s Tahir Jetter. Filmmakers 22-years-old and younger are invited to attend.

Explore social issues like race and gender from the perspective of America’s most marginalized communities during the free #BlackExcellenceTour, a 90-minute interactive workshop at the University of Pennsylvania’s Institute of Contemporary Art. The civil-rights inspired workshop will be led by CeCe McDonald, a prominent trans woman activist, and Joshua Allen, a black, gender nonconforming activist.

Black Star Film Festival
(Photo by M. Fischetti for Visit Philadelphia)
The BlackStar Film Festival includes…

  • 60+ film screenings
  • Panels
  • Parties
  • And more…

Special Events

The opening reception takes place Thursday, August 4 at Johnny Brenda’s and features coast-to-coast music from NYC’s DJ Laylo, Los Angeles’ DJ Tailwind Turner and Philly’s own Lil’ Dave.

One of the most anticipated occasions during the Blackstar Film Festival is the BlackStar Awards Gala. This year’s event goes down on Saturday, August 6 at the Kimmel Center and will be hosted by actors Dorian Missick of the BET series Zoe Ever After and Annie, and Simone Missick of Luke Cage and Ray Donovan.

Held at the Kimmel Center’s Perelman Theater, the 5th Annual Awards Gala will honor Julie Dash, the filmmaker behind Daughters of the Dust. Her pioneering film recently returned to prominence 25 years after its original 1991 release when it was referenced as an inspiration behind Beyonce’s visual album Lemonade. It was the first feature film directed by an African-American woman and shown in United States theaters.

Philadelphia’s BlackStar Film Festival concludes with another uniquely produced feature film called 9 Rides. The ultra-techy piece follows an Uber driver in Los Angeles and was the first feature film shot using an iPhone 6s in 4K.

Take advantage of this Philly-exclusive opportunity to view film premieres from around the world, gain insight on blackness in the film industry and just have fun at BlackStar, being brought to you “By Indie Means Necessary.”

For the full schedule lineup, event times and locations, visit the BlackStar Film Festival website here, and follow them on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

BlackStar Film Festival 2016

When:August 4-7
Where:International House, 3701 Chestnut Street; Pearlstein Gallery, 3401 Filbert Street; Kimmel Center, 300 S. Broad Street; Slought Foundation, 4017 Walnut Street; ICA,118 S. 36th Street; Johnny Brenda’s, 1201 N. Frankford Avenue



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