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BlackStar Announces 10th Anniversary Festival Lineup

Film Festival’s 10th edition features global selection of films and robust accompanying programming, select in-person screenings.

Poster by Andrea Pippins(Philadelphia, PA — July 6, 2021) — BlackStar Projects, the premier organization celebrating visionary Black, Brown, and Indigenous film and media artists, today announced the films selected for inclusion in this year’s 10th annual BlackStar Film Festival. The festival will take place virtually August 4-8, 2021, with select in-person screenings in Philadelphia, and include narrative features and shorts, documentary features and shorts, and experimental films. Festival attendees will also have access to a range of programs, conversations, and events, which will be presented digitally alongside the festival.

Tickets for the festival are now available for order here. An all-access pass is $125, a virtual festival pass is $100, and an in-person screening pass is $45.

The 2021 BlackStar Film Festival will feature a total of 80 films, representing 27 countries, including 18 world, 2 North American, and 7 US premieres. Twenty-nine additional films will be Philadelphia premieres.

“So much of BlackStar’s magic is in the people, and the opportunity to bring incredible independent filmmakers together. In ten years we have seen so much of that togetherness, of filmmakers finding each other and their audiences, and I can’t wait to see what the next ten bring,” says BlackStar Artistic Director & CEO Maori Karmael Holmes. “And while we remain mostly distanced, with a primarily digital festival again this year, we are excited to share this incredible film slate, which is global in scope, with the global audience the digital format allows.”

“This year’s films speak to a tremendous breadth of experiences, geographies, histories, aesthetics, and visions,” says Festival Director Nehad Khader. “These films address eternal preoccupations and pressing issues alike, and do so with grace, humor, beauty, and intelligence, and we are so excited to celebrate these filmmakers and their work.”

Strength, a feature documentary by Jorge Díaz Sánchez chronicling an indigenous youth basketball team in Oaxaca, Mexico, in its world premiere

Friendzone L.A., a short narrative by Angel Kristi Williams, in which two friends, one of whom is quietly in love with the other, spend a day exploring Los Angeles, in its world premiere

Madame Pipi, a short documentary by Rachelle Salnave following the lives of Haitian bathroom attendants working the nightclubs of Miami amidst the uncertainties of COVID-19 and rising costs of living, in its world premiere

The Inheritance, a feature narrative by Ephraim Asili, which weaves the history of the West Philadelphia-based MOVE Organization, the Black Arts Movement, and a narrative based on the filmmaker’s younger years when he was a member of a Black radical collective

Teeth, an experimental film by Jennifer Martin, in which a couple are forced by UK immigration officials to provide increasingly performative evidence their relationship’s legitimacy, a gruelling audition of acceptability that quickly escalates into surreal horror, in its US premiere

The Silent Protest: 1929 Jerusalem, a short documentary by Mahasen Nasser-Eldin chronicling a 1929 protest launched by a Palestinian women’s movement in Jerusalem who held a silent demonstration in protest of the British colonization, in its US premiere

Their Algeria, a feature documentary by Lina Soualem about her grandparents’ separation after 62 years together, their lives in Algeria and their experiences as immigrants living in a small medieval town in central France, in its US premiere

Eyimofe (This Is My Desire), a feature narrative by Arie and Chuko Esiri that follows the stories of a pair of Lagosians, Mofe, a factory technician, and Rosa, a hairdresser, on their quest for what they believe will be a better life on foreign shores, in its Philadelphia premiere

Bitchin’: The Sound and Fury of Rick James, a feature documentary by Sacha Jenkins that tells the story of the legendary funkster’s extraordinary and tumultuous life, times and musical legacy, in its Philadelphia premiere

Pink Carnations, an experimental film by Nadia Hironaka & Matthew Suib reflecting on a Japanese American family’s history at an internment camp during World War II, in its Philadelphia premiere

Writing with Fire, a feature documentary by Rintu Thomas and Sushmit Ghosh profiling India’s only newspaper run by Dalit women, a group of journalists who break traditions on the frontlines of India’s biggest issues and within the confines of their homes, in its Philadelphia premiere

Beans, a feature narrative by Tracey Deer about a 12-year-old torn between innocent childhood and delinquent adolescence; forced to grow up fast to become the tough Mohawk warrior she needs to be during the Indigenous uprising known as The Oka Crisis, which tore Quebec and Canada apart in the summer of 1990, in its Philadelphia premiere

Waikiki, a feature narrative by Christopher Kahunahana about a hula dancer’s fight for survival and sanity in the shadows of Waikiki, an unflinching glimpse into paradise where there remains hope through human connection and reconnection to ʻaina (nature), in its Philadelphia premiere

Melting Snow, an experimental film by Janah Elise exploring the coloniality of Puerto Rico’s labor force through the symbol water

In addition to the digital screenings, there will be a slate of in-person events in Philadelphia this year. These include opening and closing night parties, which are free and open to the public, and free, nightly film screenings at Eakins Oval, in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, from 8pm to 11pmAugust 4 – 7.

  • Opening Night Party: Revival! with Rashid Zakat

August 4, 8pm-12am, Bartram’s Garden 

  • A full day of in-person film screenings (ticketed)

August 8, at the Mann Center

  • Closing Night Party: Kiss-n-Grind with Vikter Duplaix 

August 8, 8-11pm, Cira Green

More information about festival programs and in-person screenings will be announced soon.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the BlackStar Film Festival, which has seen considerable and continued growth over the past decade, both in the scope and reach of the festival itself and with new and continuing initiatives for the organization year-round. Among these new initiatives are Seen, a print journal of film and visual culture focused on Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities globally published twice each year; and the podcast Many Lumenswhich finds BlackStar founder Maori Karmael Holmes in dialogue with the most groundbreaking artists, change makers, and cultural workers in the game.

Another new initiative is The William and Louise Greaves Filmmaker Seminar, whose inaugural edition took place virtually from March 19-21, 2021. Based on the success of the day-long filmmakers’ symposium at the annual festival, this three-day gathering for artists of color working in cinematic realms featured a keynote address from Ghanaian filmmaker Nuotama Bodomo, a special work-in-progress screening with Adam Khalil & Zack Khalil, a live Director’s Commentary event with Yance Ford, along with curated programs of short films, panel discussions involving industry professionals, and much more.

In celebration of this year’s major anniversary milestone, BlackStar has also launched a print portfolio fundraiser, through which BlackStar supporters can purchase limited-edition prints—a new print is made available each month. Prints by Cauleen Smith, Damon Davis, Garrett Bradley, Kevin Jerome Everson, Louis Massiah, and Michelle Angela Ortiz are currently available. The organization will continue to release an exclusive, limited edition, 8.5 x 11-inch print on the 15th of each month, featuring artworks by Haile Gerima, Arthur Jafa, Kahlil Joseph, Terence Nance , Fahamu Pecou, and Andrea Pippins. More information on purchasing options and the print series is available on BlackStar’s website here.

This year’s Festival is presented with the support of the following sponsors: Annenberg School for Communication, Facebook, Lionsgate/STARZ, Open Society Foundations, WarnerMedia, Eventive, MediaJustice, Red Bull, Netflix, PECO, Philadelphia Foundation, REI Coop Studios, Urban Affairs Coalition, The Study Hotel, American Documentary/POV, Creative Artists Agency, Firelight Media, Impact Partners, ITVS, The Gotham Film & Media Institute,  Leeway Foundation, Scattergood Foundation, Temple University Department of Theater, Film and Media Arts, Vimeo and WORLD Channel.

BlackStar Projects and its year-round programs are generously supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Ford Foundation/JustFilms, Independence Public Media Foundation, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, Mighty Arrow Family Foundation, Nathan Cummings Foundation, Open Society Foundations, Perspective Fund, Samuel S. Fels Fund, Surdna 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.

Last year’s festival included approximately 90 films, including 24 world premieres, and represented more than 20 countries. In addition to presenting a wide-ranging program of live programs and panels online, the festival also featured three drive-in screenings at Philadelphia’s Mann Center for the Performing Arts in West Fairmount Park.

More information on judging, sponsors, and additional programming and events will be announced soon. For more information on the festival and its programs, visit

About BlackStar Projects

BlackStar Projects, home of the annual BlackStar Film Festival, celebrates and provides platforms for visionary Black, Brown, and Indigenous artists. We do this by producing year-round programs including film screenings, exhibitions, an annual film festival, a filmmaker seminar, a film production lab, and a journal of visual culture. These programs provide artists opportunities for viable strategies for collaborations with other artists, audiences, funders, and distributors.

Press Contact

Ed Winstead
Director, Cultural Counsel
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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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