Philadelphia, PA — BlackStar this morning announced the Jury, Audience and other special awards of the 2015 BlackStar Film Festival at the Closing Awards Ceremony, hosted by legendary hip hop artist and radio personality Monie Love, featuring performances by Phonte, Muhsinah, Navasha Daya, Ethel Cee, and Norvis, Jr., at World Café Live in Philadelphia, PA. For the first time Youth films were included in the awards program.
The 2015 Festival presented 72 films, representing 9 countries and 8 first-time filmmakers (not including the 9 films in the youth program). These films were selected from approximately 300 submissions.
The Best Documentary Short was presented by filmmaker Nuala Cabral and poet Greg Corbin to: Of Slaves and Saints, dir. Márcio de Abreu (Brazil) — Within the borders of the outback of Bahia, Brazil every 12th of October, men and women gather to celebrate the Langa of Our Lady Aparecida. To the fervent sounds of prayers and traditional music, they dance and sing throughout the night, expressing their devotion to the Black saint. This visually stunning documentary presents some of the stories underlying this mystical scenario: stories of pain and suffering, of enslaved men and women, told by the people of the region, the way they heard them told by their grandparents and great-grandparents.
The Best Narrative Short was presented by filmmakers Nefertite Nguvu and Terence Nance to: The Bravest, The Boldest, dir. Moon Moldon (USA) — A young mother in a Harlem housing project realizes the arrival of two uniformed soldiers brings news she can’t bring herself to accept.
The Best Experimental Short was presented by media entrepreneur Rakia Reynolds and actor Stephen Hill to: Vow of Silence, director: Be Steadwell (USA) — Jade, a heartbroken composer, takes a vow of silence to win back the heart of Isis, her true love. In her struggle to reconnect with Isis, she meets Jaxson — an outgoing musician. Through music, magic and silence Jade finds her voice in the place she least expects.
The Best Documentary Feature was presented by radio personality Loraine Ballard Morrill and filmmaker Rashid Zakat to: Treasure: From Tragedy to Transjustice, dir. dream hampton (USA) — Treasure tells the story of Shelley “Treasure” Hilliard, a 19-year-old transgender woman of color from Detroit whose brutal murder was not tried as a hate crime. The documentary, as dream hampton describes, is more than just a film created in honor of Shelley Hilliard’s life and her mother Lyniece Nelson’s commitment to justice for the trans community. Treasure is “about projections and perceptions…communities misrepresented and misunderstood.”
The Best Narrative Feature was presented by radio personality/producer Dyana Williams and acclaimed actor Jimmy Jean-Louis to: In The Morning, dir. Nefertite Nguvu (USA) — Charting the emotional bonds between nine young Brooklynites over the course of one day, this tonally complex debut feature from writer-director Nefertite Nguvu weaves together three stories about personal growth and the power of choice and action. Shot by cinematographer Arthur Jafa (Daughters of the Dust, Crooklyn), this moving exploration of relationships grapples with the realities of marriage, infidelity, and heartbreak.
The Best Youth Film was presented by poet Greg Corbin and journalist Laiya St. Clair to: Kadi (The Lantern), dir. Lawrence Agbetsise (Ghana) — A girl has hopes of a successful future as a doctor, but her fear of losing her eye sight to blindness keeps her wondering if her dream will become a reality.
The Favorite Documentary Short Award was presented by filmmaker Nuala Cabral and poet Greg Corbin to: El Naza: The Black Christ of Portobelo, dir. Iyabo Kwayana (Panama/USA) — In a small rural town by the sea, far removed from the hustle and bustle of the big urban city that surrounds it, people gather every year to perform rituals and give offerings to a mesmerizing Black Christ statue. This short documentary follows the journey of one man, Arturo Lindsay, as he reflects on how he came to learn of the festival, his observations, and a miraculous and unexplainable healing that occurred in his life as a result of his full participation in the festival.
The award for Favorite Narrative Short – Comedy was presented by filmmakers Nefertite Nguvu and Terence Nance to: Tap Shoes & Violins, dir. Dax Brooks (USA) — Both Charlie and Scott often feel out of place, but during a brief encounter at their favorite coffee shop they both feel as if they might have just met someone special. But neither asks for the other’s phone number and part ways wishing they could go back in time. When Charlie’s best friend Madison meets Scott in her own pursuit to date a nice guy, Scott and Charlie’s lives intertwine once again. Are they destined to finally meet or will the complexities of love cause each of them to give up all together?
The award for Favorite Narrative Short – Drama was presented by filmmakers Nefertite Nguvu and Terence Nance to: Black and Blue, dir. Ciara Allen (USA) — A compelling, character-driven short film about the effects of the Vietnam War through the eyes of a small town, book-smart blueberry farmer whose plans for college are changed abruptly and radically when her brother is drafted into service. As the family’s new breadwinner, she endures the reality of war and the hardships it causes on her small, rural town.
The Favorite Experimental Short Award was presented by media entrepreneur Rakia Reynolds and actor Stephen Hill to: Vocabulary of the Mysteries, dir. Jacob Shanks Kindlon (USA) — Hephaestus, a young god, is cast from Mount Olympus after losing a dance battle to his father Zeus – the king of the universe. Before his exile, Hephaestus managed to steal a record from the king – a mysterious vinyl with unimaginable powers. Vowing never to return to the heavens, Hephaestus constructs the beautiful, badass Ladybot. He gives the record to his magical iron bride and they build a home to rival Olympus in the broken slums of Earth. The wrath of Zeus ensues.
The Favorite Documentary Feature Award was presented by radio personality Loraine Ballard Morrill and filmmaker Rashid Zakat to: BaddDDD Sonia Sanchez, dirs. Barbara Attie, Janet Goldwater and Sabrina Schmidt Gordon (USA) — For 80-year-old poet Sonia Sanchez, writing is both a personal and political act. An early champion of the spoken word and a mentor to generations, Sanchez was deemed “a lion in literature’s forest” by Maya Angelou. BaddDDD Sonia Sanchez, a performance-packed documentary, reveals Sanchez’s singular place in the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s. It explores her central role in African American culture over the last half century, including her leadership in the battle to include African American literature in the university curricula. Appearances from Questlove, Talib Kweli, Ursula Rucker, Amiri Baraka, Ruby Dee, Haki Madhubuti, Ayana Matthis, John Bracey, Jr. and Bryonn Bain.
The Favorite Narrative Feature Award was presented by radio personality/producer Dyana Williams and actor Jimmy Jean-Louis to: Christmas Wedding Baby, dir. Kiara Jones (USA) — In this deft cross between romantic comedy and family drama, three sisters gather in their North Florida hometown for the youngest’s Christmastime wedding. The trio struggle with the expectations they face as women—in marriage, motherhood, romance, and their relationships to their opinionated mother—which is to say nothing of the real wrench in the plot: the bride-to-be’s first love has been hired as her wedding photographer.
The Favorite Youth Film was presented by poet Greg Corbin and journalist Laiya St. Clair to: Lost and Found, dirs. Big Picture Alliance (USA) — An obsessive-compulsive and socially awkward girl is given a routine of challenges by her father in order to teach her to become independent. When he disappears she must face these challenges on her own, confronting strangers and uncovering buried memories.
Special Recognition in Directing, Documentary was presented by BlackStar’s Associate Director Lauren Jane Holland and Film Manager Eugene Haynes to Rachelle Salnave, director of La Belle Vie: The Good Life (USA/Haiti) — La Belle Vie: The Good Life is a story about a Haitian American filmmaker’s journey to discover her Haitian roots by examining the complexities of Haitian society in light of the prevailing political and economic dichotomy in that country. Interconnecting personal family stories with the voices of other Haitians, this film examines the rational behind its social class system and how it has affected the Haitian American migration experience. This film questions whether or not the recent earthquake will motivate Haitians (living in Haiti and abroad) to unite to build a new Haiti.
Special Recognition in Directing, Narrative was presented by BlackStar’s Associate Director Lauren Jane Holland and Film Manager Eugene Haynes to Evita Castine, director of Only Light (USA) — When a young girl is kidnapped from the Congo and sold as a sex worker to the U.S., she escapes from reality by watching a teenage girl next door.
The Richard Nichols Luminary Award, recognizing artistic excellence in independent film was presented by media entrepreneur Tayyib Smith (and BlackStar Board Member) to writer, award-winning filmmaker, and organizer dream hampton. A 2014 Film/Theatre Kresge Fellow, hampton’s film credits as director include: Treasure: From Tragedy to Transjustice, Mapping a Detroit Story (2015), Black August (2010), and I AM ALI (2003). She also has credits as a producer for An Oversimplification of Her Beauty, BET Black Girls Rock (2010-2013), The Russian Winter, and Behind the Music: Notorious B.I.G. She directed the music video QueenS for TheeSatisfaction, which NPR named one of the most stylish music videos of 2012. hampton has written about music, culture and politics since 1990. She was a contributor to Vibe Magazine for its first 15 years. Her articles have been published in The Village Voice, Spin, The Detroit News, Harper’s Bazaar, NPR, The Source, Essence, and Ebony. hampton’s essays have also been included in more than a dozen anthologies, including Born To Use Mics: Reading Nas’s Illmatic (ed. Michael Eric Dyson, 2009) and Black Cool: One Thousand Streams of Blackness (ed. Rebecca Walker, 2012). hampton collaborated with rapper Jay-Z on the New York Times bestselling memoir, Decoded. She is a consultant at MomsRising and a board member for the National Civil Rights Organization Color of Change. hampton also serves on the boards of Young Nation, Detroit Summer and Write A House, all in her hometown, Detroit, MI. hampton is currently the 2015 Visiting Artist at Stanford University’s Institute for Diversity in the Arts where she teaches “From Moments to Movements” a course on 21st century activism, new media and new narratives.
About BlackStar Film Festival
The BlackStar Film Festival is a celebration of cinema focused on work by and about people of African descent in a global context. BlackStar highlights films that are often overlooked from emerging, established, and mid-career directors, writers and producers working in narrative, documentary, experimental and music video filmmaking. For more information visit blackstarfest.org and explore @blackstarfest or #blackstar15.