4th Annual BlackStar Film Festival Announces Official Lineup & Jurors

June 23, 2015News


4th Annual BlackStar Film Festival Announces Official Lineup & Jurors

June 23, 2015


Jennifer Cooper
(215) 625-7988


Philadelphia, PA – June 23, 2015 – The BlackStar Film Festival, presented by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation (, announced its official film line-up for the 4th annual festival to be held July 30 ­August 2, 2015 at locations throughout the city, including The International House, Institute of Contemporary Art, and World Café Live. The festival opens with Muata’Ali Muhammad’s critically acclaimed film, Life’s Essentials with Ruby Dee (2014, 90 min) and will close with dream hampton’s new documentary, Treasure: From Tragedy to Trans Justice, Mapping a Detroit Story (2015, 63 min). In addition, hampton will receive the Richard Nichols Luminary Award for her contributions to film and culture of the African Diaspora.


The 60 plus films featured in the BlackStar Festival hail from over four continents around the globe, and each are conceptualized and produced by independent filmmakers of African descent. The works are those that are often overlooked, in narrative, documentary, experimental and music video filmmaking. This year’s themes pay homage to the role of costume and production design in films as well as social justice.


“BlackStar is a festival intended to highlight and celebrate work by filmmakers of African descent who are creating cutting-edge, genre-defying work that often gets overlooked by mainstream platforms,” said Maori Karmael Holmes, founder and artistic director of the festival. “In this time where we are fighting to show the world that Black Lives Matter, we also want to be a festival which champions and creates space for Black Stories.”


Films like Muta’Ali’s Life’s Essentials with Ruby Dee are a prime example of how African American filmmakers are driving the narrative. The ninety-minute documentary about the grandson of iconic civil rights activists Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis, documents his coming of age story and fears he may dishonor the lives of his iconic grandparents, who represented a strong family unit and positive artistic expression of “their people,” with his contrasting take on their values.


In addition to the film screenings, the BlackStar Film Festival will support the dreams of young filmmakers via workshops and all-youth screening on Saturday, August 1, supported by PECO. The closing awards ceremony will be hosted by internationally recognized entertainer and radio personality Monie Love at World Café Live.


Other special film presentations include premieres of BaddDDD Sonia Sanchez (2015, 90 min), which tells the story of writer, educator and activist, Sonia Sanchez through readings and jazz-accompanied performances of her work, and Kiara Jones’ Christmas Wedding Baby (2014, 72 min), a story of love, sisterhood and the struggle for happiness.


Treasure is a captivating documentary that tells the story of Shelley “Treasure” Hillard, a 19-year-old transgender woman of color from Detroit whose brutal murder was not tried as a hate crime. Filmmaker dream hampton, well known as a writer and social justice organizer, is also an award-winning filmmaker and Detroit native, who was drawn to help tell Shelley’s story to a broad audience. hampton will be recognized as the festival’s Richard Nichols honoree, an award given in tribute of the late Richard Nichols, Philadelphia-based film score producer and manager of the Grammy® award-winning artists, The Roots. The trailer for Treasure, can be viewed here.



Jurors for 4th Annual BlackStar Film Festival


This year’s jurors include film and television professionals with a wide range or experience in film production. Among the longer list of this year’s jurors are:


James E. Bartlett is the Executive Director of the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts (MoCADA), in Brooklyn, New York. Additionally, Bartlett launched Media MVMT, a film production company based in Brooklyn, whose film An Oversimplification of Her Beauty premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival.


adrienne maree brown is the co-editor of the anthology Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction from Social Justice Movements with Walidah Imarish. She helped to launch the Octavia Butler and Emergent Strategy Reading Network for people interested in reading Octavia’s work from a political and strategic framework, and is working on other ways of extending Butler’s work.


Naima Lowe is currently a Media Arts faculty member at the Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA. Her films, videos, performances and writings have been debuted around the world. Her 40 page, limited edition, looseleaf book Thirty-Nine (39) Questions for WHITE PEOPLE was shown at the Wing Luke Museum in Seattle from May-November 2013.




George Alexander is the principal and founder of Galex Media Group. A former Editor-at-Large at Black Enterprise, George has also written for The Huffington Post,, ESSENCE, and more. His first book, Why We Make Movies: Black Filmmakers Talk about the Magic of Cinema, is a collection of interviews with thirty-three outstanding African-American directors and producers.


Kathryn Bowser is currently an Art Director at the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc. Bowser spent 7 years as a partner at KJM3 Entertainment Group and was the Northeast distribution manager for Haile Gerima’s film Sankofa as well as the administrative director and festival bureau director at the Foundation for Independent Video and Film/Association of Independent Video and Filmmakers.


Angela Gibbs has more than three decades of experience in the entertainment industry, in the roles of producer, actor, writer and director. Most recently, Gibbs joined the cast of Black Jesus. An acting coach and teacher, Gibbs coached Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu on both the Oscar-winning best picture Birdman and The Revenant.





Dorian Missick has most recently seen on the big screen in the Jerry Bruckheimer-produced Deliver Us From Evil and the Christmas season hit Annie. Other film roles include the AFFRM Films independent feature, Big Words (in the title role), Premium, Lucky Number Slevin, Things Never Said, The Manchurian Candidate, The Bounty Hunter, Freedomland and Rachel Getting Married.


Beverly Poitier-Henderson, is a freelance writer, video editor, and producer. She is principal and founder of Cat Island Productions. She is former producer at WSB-TV (Atlanta), and has written and produced for the Turner Broadcasting Trumpet Awards, How Sweet the Sound, and A+ Awards. She is the author of several screenplays and the novel, Nana.


Nevaina Rhodes is an actress best known for Identity Thief (2013), Good Deeds (2012) and The New Daughter (2009). She has been featured in many national ad campaigns, and appeared with Kevin Costner in the film The New Daughter. Nevaina’s past appearances include the Lifetime movie The Wronged Man, episodes of Tyler Perry’s House of Payne, Army Wives, and One Tree Hill.





Christene Browne is the first black woman to direct and write a feature film in Canada with her first dramatic feature, Another Planet, in 1999. She won the Women’s International Film & Television Showcase Foundation Best Documentary Award for her work on The History of Language in 2011. In addition to working as a filmmaker, Browne has also worked as a curator, media arts instructor, and novelist.


Dr. Sheril Antonio is Associate Dean of Film and Television at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts as well as an associate professor. Dr. Antonio is the author of Contemporary African American Cinema and was a contributing writer for “Matriarchs, Rebels, Adventurers, and Survivors: Renditions of Black Womanhood in Contemporary African American Cinema”. She is a contributor to the Huffington Post.


Russell Vandenbroucke is a Professor of Theatre Arts, and Director of the Peace, Justice & Conflict Transformation program of the University of Louisville. He has worked as a director, dramaturg, playwright, and producer at regional theatres across the country. In 1987, he won an Emmy for a segment of the PBS series American Playhouse.





Lana Garland is an Executive Producer with Insibah Media USA and previously served as Senior Creative Director for BET. Currently, Garland operates as the New Media consultant for a team of educators who are collaborating to create a distance-learning course between several US, Europe, and Africa-based universities. This project is funded by the SUNY Collaborative Online International Learning program.


Lee Davis was named as one of Variety Magazine’s Top Ten Screenwriters To Watch in 2000. That year he wrote and directed the Sundance Institute-developed Showtime Original film, 3AM, executive produced by Spike Lee and starring Danny Glover, Pam Grier, Michelle Rodriguez. Davis is also the author of the 2009 documentary hoop reality.


Narcel Reedus is an award-winning writer and independent filmmaker and a musician. He has won national awards for his films and documentaries and a Peabody for his writing on the NPR radio documentary Will the Circle Be Unbroken. Narcel earned his MFA in film from Temple University and is currently novelizing his feature script For Colored Boys Who’ve Considered Homicide.


To request interviews or press credentials, please contact Jennifer Cooper at or 215-625-7988.


The 2015 BlackStar Film Festival is generously supported by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, PECO, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Visit Philadelphia, Mayor’s Fund of Philadelphia, Comcast, University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy and Practice, Hess Foundation, SugarHouse Casino, RLJ Urban Media Channel, Community Council Health Systems, Bryn Mawr Community Trust, and individual donors.


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