Philadelphia is home to one of the most prominent film festivals celebrating filmmakers of the African Diaspora.
The BlackStar Film Festival returns to West Philadelphia’s University City neighborhood from August 2 to 5 for a seventh year of screening and premiering short films, feature-length films, animated films, documentaries and everything in between.
- BlackStar Film Festival returns for its seventh year from August 2 to 5.
- The fest is the nation’s premier film festival for filmmakers of color.
- More than 80 screenings are held at the Lightbox Film Center and the Pearlstein Gallery.
- Also on tap: an opening reception at Johnny Brenda’s, panels, parties, morning yoga and more.
Launched in 2012 by Maori Karmael Holmes, the BlackStar Film Festival has been hailed by Ebony magazine as the “Black Sundance,” showcasing artistically excellent independent films about the global Black experience and films by people of color. In previous years, Academy Award-nominated directors Ava DuVernay and Spike Lee have shared secrets and works of cinematic art with festival attendees.
For 2018, festival-goers can experience interactive film screenings, lively celebrations, networking opportunities and industry panels over the four-day event.
While this year’s festival doesn’t have a specific theme, the fest does touch on an array of topics, including the state of women, science-fiction cinema, gentrification, romance and family relationships.
The BlackStar Film Festival celebrates filmmakers and visual artists of color, especially those belonging to the African Diaspora.
With more than 80 wide-ranging films, including short projects by youth filmmakers, an exclusive HBO series premiere and feature-length fiction and documentary projects, BlackStar is an independent movie buff’s dream.
Featured films for 2018 include the world premiere of Menelek Patrice Lumumba’s 1 Angry Black Man, which follows a college senior as he navigates the difficult conversations and situations young people face.
Happy Birthday Marsha! by Reina Gossett and Sasha Wortzel is a short documentary (which screens alongside Uprize!) that tells the story of Marsha Johnson, a Black trans activist, and her role in the 1969 Stonewall Inn uprising.
In writer/director Nijla Mu’min’s feature narrative film, Jinn, a black teenage Instagram celebrity, explores her identity and sexuality in the midst of her mother’s conversion to Islam.
And feature documentary Black Mother from Khalik Allah takes viewers on a spiritual journey through Jamaica.
Also screening this year: all five episodes of We Got You: Philly by Tarik, VISIT PHILADELPHIA’s documentary-style travel video series hosted by Philly native Tarik “Black Thought” Trotter of The Roots.
The Venues & Special Events
New this year, each day of the BlackStar film fest kicks off with a free 10 a.m. yoga session centered on people of color — but open to everyone — at the Institute of Contemporary Art.
Following a day of yoga, film and conversation, the BlackStar opening reception brings the party to Johnny Brenda’s in Philadelphia’s Fishtown neighborhood. Philly’s own DJ HVNLEE and others provide the music for this free celebration. RSVP is required by July 31 to attend.
On Friday at 8 p.m., BlackStar hosts the exclusive world premiere of filmmaker Terence Nance’s new late-night HBO series Random Acts of Flyness, a six-episode series of vignettes exploring cultural themes of patriarchy, white supremacy, romance and ancestral trauma. The premiere is only open to festival passholders, with a reception to follow.
On Saturday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. in Innovation Plaza, guests can shop at The ARTisan Cafe, a cultural marketplace featuring vendors selling art, clothing, accessories and decor.
Friends and industry colleagues Bradford Young and Rashid Shabazz grace the stage at the Lightbox Film Center on Saturday evening for a conversation exploring their careers, their friendships, their artistic interests and the importance of storytelling in preserving community. Young is a cinematographer and was the first African-American director of photography to receive an Academy Award nomination for his work on the 2016 film Arrival. Shabazz is the chief marketing and storytelling officer for the nation’s largest online racial justice organization, Color of Change.
Other industry-related panels this year include “Beyond Wakanda: The Resurgence of the Contemporary Black Reality & Future,” a conversation about the role of visual arts in Afrofuturism, a panel celebrating Black women writers and a panel exploring surveillance and film in communities of color.
BlackStar closes with the 2018 BlackStar Awards Show & Closing Night Party at World Cafe Live on Sunday night at 7 p.m. The awards ceremony features performances by artists including Joi, Lady Alma and DJ Oluwafemi and is hosted by Ayesha Jordan and Al Butler. Tickets for this event are $40 online through August 1 and $50 afterward.
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 through Tuesday, July 31.
Don’t miss this great annual event that attracts cinephiles from across the country to enjoy networking and independent cinema in the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection!