Philadelphia’s Brilliant BlackStar Film Festival Returns For Its Sixth Year August 3-6

Check out 60-plus films, panels, parties, an awards ceremony and more...

The BlackStar Film Festival — often called “The Black Sundance” — is back for its sixth year of celebrating black and independent film in Philadelphia from August 3 to 6.

Attracting movie-lovers, filmmakers, directors and actors from around the country, BlackStar shines a light on the full range of contemporary black films that are currently being produced around the world.


  • BlackStar Film Festival runs August 3-6, with most events taking place in University City.
  • The festival features 60+ films as well as panels, an awards ceremony and a performance exhibition.
  • Highlights include a conversation with Ava DuVernay, a short film from actress Gabourey Sidibe and more.
  • Tickets are on sale now and range from $6 for BlackStar members to $150 for an all-festival pass.

The theme for this year’s festival is “Resistance,” highlighting films that look at political and social uprisings, including the civil rights events of the 1960s, the Los Angeles race riots of the 1990s and more.

Most screenings and festival events take place at three locations in Philadelphia’s University City — Lightbox Film Center at International House Philadelphia, the Institute of Contemporary Art and Drexel University’s Pearlstein Gallery.

Festival Overview And Highlights

Created in 2012, BlackStar shines a light on black filmmakers, artists and traditions from the African diaspora.

Each day of the festival kicks off in the morning with a film screening, starting on Thursday, August 3 with Tourments D’Amour by French woman of color Caroline Jules. The 54-minute film follows siblings at lunch with their estranged father.

Friday night’s world-premiere feature film is the romantic-comedy Hello Cupid, a spin-off from the popular Black & Sexy TV series of the same title that follows a shy, awkward woman who jumps into the world of online dating.

(Photo by M. Fischetti for Visit Philadelphia)
Now in its sixth year, the dynamic BlackStar Film Festival takes on the theme of Resistance through films, panel discussions and other events.

Saturday at 2 p.m., BlackStar will screen the Philadelphia premiere of actress Gabourey Sidibe’s short film The Tale of Four, which was inspired by Nina Simone’s song Four Women.

Saturday also brings special youth programming and short films made for and by young people like Ms. Moore’s Class Documentary, a 19-minute film featuring West Philadelphia sixth graders talking about how to make their community better.

Other exciting films include Wilmington 10 – USA 10,000, a film about political prisoners in Wilmington, DE, that explores international human rights issues, the criminal justice system and racism. Film fans should also look for the Philadelphia premiere of Whose Streets?, which looks at incidents in Ferguson, MO, after unarmed teenager Michael Brown was killed by police.

The above films just represent a snapshot of the more than 60 feature-length and short films that will be screened at the festival.

For the complete schedule of events, click right here.

To download the complete festival program guide, check here.

(Photo courtesy BlackStar Film Festival)
This year, BlackStar will host the world premieres of dozens of films, including rom-com Hello Cupid (shown).

Special Events

The free opening night reception at Pearlstein Gallery on Thursday, August 3 allows attendees to meet filmmakers, artists and special guests while enjoying music provided by DJ Lush Life and a special performance by Terence Nance and Norvis Junior.

On Friday, August 4, enjoy a dance party at Johnny Brenda’s in Philadelphia’s Fishtown neighborhood from 8 p.m. to midnight featuring music from DJ Lean Wit It, DJ Foxx Boogie and DJ Laylo. Admission is free but an RSVP is required by August 2 here.

Saturday brings the festival’s biggest event: a conversation with Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Ava DuVernay (!!!) at Lightbox Film Center.

DuVernay is known for her Golden Globe- and Academy Award-nominated film Selma, her documentary on mass incarceration called 13th and her directorial work on the award-winning T.V. series Queen Sugar. The conversation will be moderated by Philadelphia’s own Maori Karmael Holmes, Director of Public Engagement for the Institute of Contemporary Art Philadelphia and a driving force behind the BlackStar Film Festival.

Later Saturday, DuVernay will be honored at the BlackStar Awards Ceremony at World Café Live. The star-studded event will be hosted by scholar and producer Yaba Blay and entrepreneur Ike Ewell. Rapper Pharoahe Monch will be one of the several performances.

Tickets & More

Tickets for individual films are on sale now $12 for general admission and $8 for students and seniors. For those looking to catch all of the action, full-festival passes, which run $150, are available online (and going quickly).

Individual tickets and festival passes are available online and can also be purchased at the International House box office.

For more information on film screenings and other events, visit

Getting Around & Staying Over

BlackStar has partnered with two University City hotels, Sheraton Philadelphia and The Inn at Penn, to offer discounts on hotel rooms during the 2017 festival. Both festival hotels are within walking distance from the main festival venues.

You can also explore overnight lodging options with the Visit Philly Overnight Hotel Package. This two-night package includes free hotel parking so you can drive into town and not have to worry about finding and paying for parking.

BlackStar Film Festival

When:August 3-6
Where:Various locations including the Institute of Contemporary Art, 118 S. 36th Street



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