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The Matatu Film and Concert series is one of many dynamic film festivals that call the Bay their home, but its most unique quality is that it highlights filmmakers from Africa and the diaspora outside of the U.S., as well as covers subjects that are important to how we see ourselves, and how we see the world. Michael Orange, the Matatu curator, has exquisite taste in cinema. Here is our back-n-forth about what Matatu has in store for May.
The San Francisco Black Film Festival has once again proven itself to be one of the most anticipated Black events in the Bay Area. From June 15 to 18, Black independent films were the talk of San Francisco. San Francisco acting legend Danny Glover did a Q&A for the film “93 Days.” “Abina and the Important Men” was one of the highest grossing films in the festival. We sat down with Kali O’Ray, the director of the San Francisco Black Film Festival, to discuss what happened at this phenomenal festival.
“Saltz” is hands down one of my favorite films in the San Francisco Black Film Festival, partly because it is half a Black horror film and half a “this can really happen” film. The film is a futuristic look at the coming drug saltz epidemic, in the midst of today’s opioid epidemic. It is also a look at our own attitudes on race where the story is told twice, once with a Black cast and one with a white cast. Check out first time director Dominique McClellan as he discusses his film, “Saltz.”
One of my favorite feature films in the San Francisco Black Film Festival is a futuristic film called “90 Minutes of the Fever.” The film is about a family who has to deal with a major computer virus, martial law and the ramifications that these catastrophes have on personal relationships within a family. It is a funny story about endurance, patience, acceptance, unconditional love and more. I talked to filmmaker Joan Carlson about her career in film as well as her power work of cinema art. Check her out in her own words.
Patrick Thomas’ short film “Cut My Hair, Barber” is a powerful portrayal of a father and son relationship that is disturbing and extremely dysfunctional, yet familiar. It is a story that many single Black mothers and Black young and old men, especially, could relate to in our communities. I got a chance to interview filmmaker Patrick Thomas about his cinematic creation, “Cut My Hair, Barber.” Check it out.
“Tom Freeman of the North” is a comedic short filled with political satire that examines identity, upward mobility and gentrification. Tom Freeman, the main character, is a Black man who is socially invested in the gentrification of his community, while his brother Desean fights the power. “Tom Freeman of the North” is one of many great films screening at this year’s San Francisco Black Film Festival that looks at identity. Check out filmmaker Mohammed Rabbani in his own words.
Filmmaker Soumyaa Behrens tells the newly discovered story of Abina Mansah, who in 1874 brought a case of illegal enslavement against her African slavemaster before the British courts in the Gold Coast, in what is now Ghana. “Abina and the Important Men” is an animated graphic depiction of what happened in this historic case. Come watch the story and discuss what you think about the controversial cartoon at the San Francisco Black Film Festival.
One of the best indie films with a street edge and a message in the 2017 San Francisco Black Film Festival that deals with human trafficking is called “When Love Kills.” It is definitely a must see. I have watched over 100 films made this year and last year, and this is definitely among the cream of the crop. Check out screenwriter Cas Sigers-Beedles as she gives us some of the ins and outs on making this film.
Identity is a big topic in the Black community, because we live under white supremacist capitalistic domination here in the U.S. and in the so called Western world. In the dramatic short “We Love Moses,” sexual identity among Black people is what is being discussed in a way that is not often talked about. Check out filmmaker Dianne Edwards as she talks about “We Love Moses,” which was selected to screen this year at the San Francisco Black Film Festival.
“Brazilian Wavy” is a comedic short on a political satire tip written by Brooklyn-born filmmaker Kirk Henriques. The subject is the economic relationship between Blacks and Koreans, which has not been very beneficial to the Black community. This is one of my favorite shorts in the San Francisco Black Film Festival this year. Get more info at sfbff.org. Check out filmmaker Kirk Henriques in his own words.
“I Am Still Here” is one of the most disturbing must-see films in the San Francisco Black Film Festival. “I Am Still Here” describes the horrors of child sex trafficking through the eyes of Layla, an American child being trafficked in America. Although it is a work of cinematic fiction, it is based on real events, according to the filmmakers. I interviewed Mischa Marcus and Stephanie Bell about their feature length film, “I am Still Here,” and here is what they had to say.
“The Forever Tree,” a fictional short screening at the SF Black Film Festival this year, is set in Harlem in the year 1919 and utilizes history and magical realism to tell its story. In the film, the main character interacts with Madame CJ Walker, Garvey is talked about, and the Book of Enoch is talked about as well as the Dogon star. I sat down with the co-writer and producer of “The Forever Tree,” Stephen Hintz, so that he could give us a little background into what went into this film.
In an era where the Koreans own the multi-billion-dollar Black haircare industry in the U.S., we need to know about and learn from Black business pioneers like Madame Sara Spencer Washington. Atlantic City’s Madame was a multi-millionaire in the 20’s, running a business empire called Apex Hair and News Co. Her grandson, filmmaker Royston Scott, sat down with me to discuss his documentary called “The Sara Spencer Washington Story,” which will be screening at the SF Black Film Festival.
The monumental documentary created by filmmaker Branson Wright, “Pass Interference: The Davone Bess Story,” chronicles the life of one of Oakland’s most talented athletes, who shot to superstardom in the NFL. Then his life crumbled when he had to come face to face with his own mental illness. I caught up with filmmaker Branson Wright to talk about the motivation for doing the film, mental illness, a hometown hero and more ...
When people mention horror, they may think of Alfred Hitchcock or Stephen King. Now we have Antwon Rollins, a Black man, whose mind is immersed in writing and shooting horror, but who is able to tell stories from a slightly different perspective: a common Black perspective. Check out “#Victim 505” at the San Francisco Black Film Fest, as well as check out the filmmaker Antwon Rollins as he talks to us about filmmaking and “#Victim 505.”
One of the best mystery films in the 2017 SF Black Film Festival this year is “Live a Little” by filmmaker David Jaffe, where the main character gets loaded, a fight spills from the bar, someone gets killed, and everyone is trying to put together the many pieces to figure out what happened. Suspense drives this feature film more than any other emotion. Check out filmmaker David Jaffe in his own words.
Finally, a filmmaker has come to the forefront to confront the identity question in the post-Obama Trump era. Filmmaker Mtume Gant beautifully asks pertinent questions about what it means to be Black in today’s times in his 20-minute short, an official SF Black Film Festival selection called “White Face.” This political satire, an artsy, comedic drama, is a must see for all the politically minded readers out there. Check out the genius of filmmaker Mtume Gant in this exclusive Q&A.
“Oakland in Blue” is a short movie that was made by locally grown, Los Angeles-based filmmaker Robbin Rae and selected to be in both the Oakland International Film Festival, which just passed, and the upcoming San Francisco Black Film Festival. The cinematography, the lighting, the script, the acting and the message were all on point. Robbin Rae is a name we will hear more of, mark my words.
On the second weekend of June this year, the San Francisco Black Film Festival will be celebrating its 19th year by screening over 100 independent Black films in this annual four-day cinema marathon. San Francisco Black Film Festival director Kali O’Ray, son of founder Ave Montague, sits down to discuss how it feels for the festival to celebrate its 19th birthday, the importance of indie films, remaining in a city that was once a lot more chocolate but has been gentrified to 3 percent Black – and more.
Coco Peila is one of Hip Hop musicians in the new class that is creating the new Bay Area sound. After being affiliated with Sandman of the Oakland-based Attik crew back in the day, Coco Peila is standing on her own two feet and spreading her wings. Her summer and fall is filled with an album, a mixtape, a video and multiple collaborations. Check her out in this exclusive interview.