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11th BlackStar Film Festival Kicks Off August 3rd

Global celebration of Black, Brown, and Indigenous film and media artists runs August 3rd - 7th with screenings, panels, workshops, and more offered online and in Philadelphia

Guests include directors Moses Sumney, Kevin Jerome Everson, and Gabriel Martins; activist Ruby Duncan; authors Marc Lamont Hill and Jason Reynolds; and singer Durand Bernarr, among others

BlackStar Projects, the premier organization celebrating visionary Black, Brown, and Indigenous film and media artists, is pleased to announce the opening tomorrow of the 2022 BlackStar Film Festival, which will run August 3rd through 7th, 2022. Taking place both online and in-person in Philadelphia, this year’s festival will include in-person screenings at Penn Live Arts at Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts; panel discussions, workshops, and parties at sites across Philadelphia; and virtual events accessible to a global audience.

With a lineup spanning narrative features and shorts, documentary features and shorts, and experimental films, the 2022 BlackStar Film Festival will present a total of 76 films representing 27 countries, including 16 world, 8 North America, 12 East Coast, and 8 US premieres. 25 films will be Philadelphia premieres. As an Academy Award-qualifying festival for both short documentary and short narrative films, BlackStar’s Best Narrative Short and Best Documentary Short winners will be eligible for entrance at the Academy Awards.

Many of this year’s in-person screenings will be accompanied by dialogues between filmmakers and special guests, illuminating the timely and impactful narratives on screen. Audiences will hear from documentary subjects, fellow filmmakers, leading academics, and trailblazing activists as they examine and unravel each film and its context. 

Select in-person highlights include:

The August 3rd world premiere of feature documentary Storming Caesars Palace at Penn Live Arts (8:30pm), which will also be offered virtually following its debut. The film uplifts the story of Las Vegas activist Ruby Duncan and a band of ordinary mothers who launched an extraordinary, yet largely forgotten, feminist anti-poverty movement in the 1960s and ‘70s. Hazel Gurland-Pooler, the film’s director, and Duncan, the film’s protagonist, will be in attendance, along with Duncan’s children Sondra and Kenny, who are also featured in the film

The August 5th showing of Moses Sumney’s experimental film Blackalachia at the Barnes Foundation (6:00pm). The film features a live conceptual performance with a 7-piece band atop the Blue Ridge Mountains and its screening will be paired with a conversation between Sumney and independent filmmaker Iyabo Kwayana, known for her innovative use of sensorial and immersive techniques in cinematography, directing and editing.

The August 6th world premiere of feature documentary Wisdom Gone Wild at Penn Live Arts (3:00pm). An immersive meditation on elder consciousness and the act of caring for a parent with dementia, filmmaker Rea Tajiri weaves her mother’s storytelling wisdom into the fabric of this film, which will also be offered virtually following its premiere. Tajiri will be in attendance and participate in a Q&A with Jamila Farwell, director of Netflix documentary series, following the in-person screening. 

The August 6th showing of Hazing at Penn Live Arts (8:30pm), directed by Byron Hurt. Hurt’s feature documentary lifts the veil on a variety of underground hazing rituals that are abusive, and sometimes deadly, and will be followed by a conversation with academic, author, and activist Marc Lamont Hill. Virtual attendees will also be able to screen the film. 

The August 7th showing of Mars One at Penn Live Arts (8:30pm), a film that portrays a working-class Brazilian family pursuing separate dreams of escaping the lives laid out for them by society, and by each other. The screening will include a conversation between Gabriel Martins, the film’s director, and writer and poet Jason Reynolds. Virtual attendees will also be able to screen the film. 

Each evening at 7pm ET, BlackStar will also present The Daily Jawn—a talk show hosted by BlackStar Founder, Artistic Director, and CEO Maori Karmael Holmes. Filmed live in front of a studio audience, the evening program, also available to stream online, will feature Holmes alongside house DJ Rashid Zakat and a house band directed by Luke Carlos O’Reilly. Attendees will have the opportunity to hear directly from guests such as singer/songwriter Durand Bernarr, musical artist Swarvy, actor/writer/comic D’Lo, and filmmaker Suneil Sanzgiri.

“Alongside the festival’s screenings, panels, workshops, and parties, we are thrilled to bring The Daily Jawn to a live studio audience for the first time in its history,” said Holmes. “Many of the films in this year’s festival depict the joy and beauty inherent in Black, Brown, and Indigenous lives, and with an evening talk show that features music, artists, filmmakers, comedians, and actors, we hope to create spontaneous moments of joy and beauty beyond those that will appear on screen.” 

In addition to The Daily Jawn, various events will highlight BlackStar’s year-round initiatives, including a recording of BlackStar’s signature podcast Many Lumens, featuring BlackStar Founder, Artistic Director, and CEO Maori Karmael Holmes in conversation with 2022 Richard Nichols Luminary Award recipient Mira Nair. Another highlight: a conversation between Dessane Lopez Cassell—Editor-In-Chief of Seen, BlackStar’s journal of film and visual culture—and visual artist Dindga McCannon, extending Zoé Samudzi’s profile of the artist in the journal’s recently released fourth issue. This edition of the BlackStar Film Festival will also mark the world premiere of short films created through BlackStar’s Philadelphia Filmmaker Lab, presented by Black Experience on Xfinity.

“We could not be more excited to debut four films created by the inaugural cohort of fellows in BlackStar’s Philadelphia Filmmaker Lab. Following a year of mentorship and feedback, we are proud to support these emerging filmmakers. Their creativity has been impressive to witness, and their bold contributions to the festival will surely expand audiences’ understanding of the Black, Brown and Indigenous experience,” remarked Festival Director Nehad Khader

In addition to film screenings, conversations, and panels—the full list of which is available here—in-person festival-goers will be invited to attend morning group yoga sessions at Drexel Square and opening and closing night parties. The parties and yoga sessions will be free and open to the public, and registration is available for both the opening and closing night parties.

Passes for the festival are still available for purchase here. Offerings include an all-access pass ($250) and a virtual festival pass ($125). Individual tickets for virtual and in-person screenings are $5 and $15, respectively. 

Press passes remain available upon request. To inquire about a press pass, please complete the form here or reach out to one of the press representatives listed below.

All venues will be wheelchair accessible, and most in-person events will have American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters. Select films will also feature Audio Description (AD) for blind & low-vision audiences.

This year’s festival is presented with the support of the following sponsors: AmDoc/POV, Annenberg School For Communication, Black Public Media, Catapult Film Fund, Center For Cultural Power, Drexel Westphal College of Media Arts, Expressway Grip, Eventive, Firelight Media, Gotham Film & Media Institute, Impact Partners, Indego, ITVS, Leeway Foundation, Lionsgate/STARZ, MediaJustice, Meta, NEON, Open Society Foundations, PBS, PECO, Philadelphia Foundation, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Red Bull, Scattergood Foundation, The Study Hotels, Temple University Film and Media Arts Department, Unique Photo, Urban Affairs Coalition, Urban Outfitters, Warner Bros./Discovery, Wyncote Foundation and Xfinity.

BlackStar Projects and its year-round programs are generously supported by Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Critical Minded, Ford Foundation/JustFilms, Gucci Changemakers Fund, Independence Public Media Foundation, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Mellon Foundation, Mighty Arrow Family Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, Nathan Cummings Foundation, Perspective Fund, Pew Center for Arts and Heritage, Philadelphia Cultural Treasurers, Philadelphia Foundation, Ruth Foundation for the Arts, Samuel S. Fels Fund, Surdna Foundation, Wallace Foundation, William Penn Foundation, and Wyncote Foundation, in addition to its board of directors, community partners, and a host of generous individual donors and organizations.

About BlackStar Projects

BlackStar Projects is the producer of the BlackStar Film Festival, an annual celebration of the visual and storytelling traditions of the African diaspora and global communities of color — showcasing films by Black, Brown, and Indigenous people from around the world. In addition to the acclaimed festival, BlackStar presents an array of programming across film and visual culture year-round, including the twice-annual journal Seen, the podcast Many Lumens, the William and Louise Greaves Filmmaker Seminar, and the Philadelphia Filmmaker Lab, among other initiatives. 

Press Contacts

Ed Winstead

Senior Director, Cultural Counsel

[email protected]

Sam Riehl 

Senior Account Executive, Cultural Counsel

[email protected] 

Emma Frohardt

Account Executive, Cultural Counsel

[email protected]

Devon Ma

Account Coordinator, Cultural Counsel

[email protected]

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Seen is BlackStar’s journal of film and visual culture, published twice each calendar year. Issue 006 is now available.

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