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A still from Selah and the Spades. A young woman wearing a green and white cheerleading uniform is sitting on a woven peacock chair. There is a forest in the background. She is the middle of the frame looking directly at the camera.
Still from Selah and the Spades (2019), dir. Tayarisha Poe.
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2019 Festival Award Winners Announced

Selah And The Spades Wins Best Narrative Feature
The Infiltrators Wins Best Documentary Feature
Warrior Women and Sprinter Win Audience Awards

The BlackStar Film Festival (BlackStar)  announced the winners of the 2019 Festival awards. The Festival, which took place August 1-4, 2019 in Philadelphia, continued its legacy of discovery and excellence, presenting a stellar slate of black, brown and indigenous films from around the globe.  In addition to packed film screenings, BlackStar 2019 lineup featured a sneak preview of Hip-Hop: The Songs That Shook America, a new documentary  series  from executive producers Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter, Shawn Gee, and Alex Gibney. The fest also featured the highly anticipated artist conversation with award-winning filmmaker Spike Lee and activist Tarana Burke.

“It has been another festival year of warm reunions, new connections and powerful films. It has been an honor to share these stories and perspectives with our festival audience. As we continue to grow BlackStar, I look forward to seeing more work from these artists.” said Maori Holmes, BlackStar Director.

Dr. Yaba Blay and Rashid Zakat hosted the awards ceremony at the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, following the Closing NIght Film presentation of three short films: As Told To G/d Thyself, directed by The Ummah Chroma (Bradford Young, Terence Nance, Jenn Nkiru, Marc Thomas & Kamasi Washington); BLACK TO TECHNO, directed by Jenn Nkiru; and When I Get Home, directed by Solange Knowles.

Best Feature Narrative Award was given to Selah And The Spades, directed by Tayarisha Poe. And the Best Feature Documentary was given to The Infiltrators, directed by Cristina Ibarra & Alex Rivera.

During the ceremony, Program Director Nehad Khader presented the Richard Nichols Luminary Award to Marcia Smith, President of Firelight Media; a non profit production company dedicated to using historical film to advance contemporary social justice causes, and to mentoring, inspiring and training a new generation of diverse young filmmakers committed to advancing underrepresented stories.

This year also marked the launch of the inaugural BlackStar Pitch. 8 filmmakers were selected to pitch their projects in front of a live audience and a panel of esteemed judges to receive feedback and have an opportunity to win a cash prize of $1,000.This first BlackStar Pitch was focused on feature documentary projects and was open to any filmmaker who identifies as a person of color. The 2019 BlackStar Pitch prize went to Higher 15 from filmmaker Ameha Molla.

Full list of nominated films and winners are as follows:

Best Feature Documentary Nominees

Always in Season (Director: Jacqueline Olive)

The Infiltrators (Directors: Cristina Ibarra & Alex Rivera) ** winner

Titixe (Directors: Tania Hernández Velasco)

Best Feature Narrative Nominees

Jezebel (Director: Numa Perrier)

Selah and the Spades (Director: Tayarisha Poe) ** winner

Temporada (Long Way Home) (Director: André Novais Oliveira)

Best Experimental Nominees

Bereka (Director: Nesanet Teshager Abegaze) ** winner

The Cancer Journals Revisited (Director: Lana Lin)

Fainting Spells (Director: Sky Hopinka)

Only When It’s Dark Enough Can You See The Stars (Director: Charlotte Brathwaite)

Best Short Documentary Nominees

America (Director: Garrett Bradley)

BLACK TO TECHNO (Director:Jenn Nkiru)

A Love Song For Latasha (Director: Sophia Nahli Allison) ** winner

Oklahoma is Black (Directors: Melinda James, Tatyana Fazlalizadeh (Co-Director))

Practice (Director: Iyabo Kwayana)

Best Short Narrative Nominees

CAP (Director: Marshall Tyler)

Liberty (Director: Faren Humes)

Me Time (Director: Iyabo Boyd)

Sega (Director: Idil Ibrahim) ** winner

Suicide By Sunlight (Director: Nikyatu Jusu)

Best Youth (11-17) Nominees

Code Red (Directors: Eva Bassel, Rickeyna Fields, Estrella Lopez, Erika Martinez and Celeste Vaca)

The Next Stop (Director: Jalyssa Jimenez) ** winner

We Are Black: A Cinematic Experience (Directors: Darien Woodard and Aneesah Parker)

Best Youth (18-22) Nominees

The Last Day (Director: Zsaknor R. Powe)

Wash Day (Director: Jaida Salmon) ** winner

Where the Dahlias Grow (Director: Jayden Gillespie)

2019 Special Recognition Award: Narrative

Presented by HBO

Feathers (Director: A.V. Rockwell)

2019 Special Recognition Award: Documentary

Presented by HBO

Respect and LOVE (Director: Angelique Webster)

2019 Lionsgate/STARZ Producer Award

Test Pattern (Producers: Pin-Chun Liu & Shatara Michelle Ford)

2019 Richard Nichols Luminary Award

Marcia Smith

Audience Awards:

2019 Favorite Documentary Feature: Warrior Women (Directors: Elizabeth A. Castle and Christina D. King)

2019 Favorite Narrative Feature: Sprinter (Director: Storm Saulter)

2019 Favorite Experimental Film: The Cancer Journals Revisited (Director: Lana Lin)

2019 Favorite Documentary Short: Finding Elijah (Director: Yolonda Johnson-Young)

2019 Favorite Narrative Short: T (Director: Keisha Rae Witherspoon)

2019 Favorite Youth Film (11-17):  Closeted (Directors: George Hollyer and Danielle Ridgeway)

2019 Favorite Youth Film (18-22):  PETAL (Director: Derek Yancey Jr.)

2019 BlackStar Pitch Lineup:

Armenina: This Too (Director: Artina Nimpson)

Ave Maria (Director: Tristan Seyek)

Black Zombie (Director: Maya Annik Bedward)

The Department of Space and Land Reclamation (Directors: Darren Wallace, Shani Akilah, and Domonique London)

A Good Man (Director: Michael Fequiere)

Higher 15 (Director: Ameha Molla) ** winner

Murders That Matter (Director: Marco Williams)

Traces of Home (Director: Colette Ghunim)

Feature Documentary Jury:

Asad Muhammad (Vice President of Impact and Engagement Strategy – AmDoc)

Gessica Geneus (Actress, Cousines)

Lyric Cabral  (Director, (T)ERROR)

Feature Narrative Jury:

Dana Gills (Director of Production and Development – Lionsgate)

Michael Gillespie (Scholar & Professor – City College of New York)

Opeyemi Olukemi (Vice President of Digital Production and Innovation – AmDoc)

Experimental Jury:

Deana Haggag (President & CEO – United States Artists)

Kamil Oshundara (Cultural Executive – Monkeypaw Productions)

Rea Tajiri (Artist & Professor – Temple University)

Youth Jury:

Bryan Oliver Green (Director, The Philadelphia Bicycle Vignette Story)

Chloe Walters-Wallace (Documentary Lab Manager – Firelight Media)

Marie Alarcón (Director, Witness)

Short Documentary Jury:

Amer Shomali (Artist & Filmmaker)

Jamila Farwell (Manager, Original Nonfiction Series – Netflix)

John L. Jackson (Walter H. Annenberg Dean – Annenberg School for Communication

Richard Perry University Professor – University of Pennsylvania)

Short Narrative Jury:

D’Lo (Actor & Writer, TV series Mr. Robot, Bruising For Besos)

Racquel Gates (Scholar & Professor – College of Staten Island)

Rhea Combs (Curator of Film & Photography)

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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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