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Dedicated to ensuring the historic Fillmore neighborhood has an economic and cultural anchor to call its own, District Five Supervisor Vallie Brown and a group of nonprofit and African American community leaders have initiated a collaborative campaign to reactivate the Fillmore Heritage Center. Beginning Nov. 5, the collaborative is offering live music, community events, and housing and financial empowerment workshops at the former Yoshi’s site.
The San Francisco Black Film Festival is celebrating its 20-year milestone this year with a myriad of magnificent and majestic films from all over the Black world. Kali O’Ray, the SF Black Film Festival director and son of festival founder Ave Montague sat with me as he does every year to explain the happenings and expected high points of this year’s festivities. For the 20th anniversary, we’re applying the theme 20/20, which is 20 years forward and 20 years back.
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.
The opening night film of the San Francisco Black Film Festival this year is “93 Days,” costarring San Francisco legendary actor Danny Glover, about ebola coming to Nigeria. Danny Glover will be in attendance opening night for a Q&A at the old SF Yoshi’s, 1330 Fillmore St., on Thursday, June 15, 6-9 p.m. The film was inspired by the heroic actions of the doctors and nurses who were at the heart of the fight against ebola in Lagos, their bravery and sacrifice and their decision to stay and fight instead of taking flight in the face of danger.
One of the most beautiful stories in the San Francisco Black Film Festival this year is “The Lucky Specials.” The story, set in South Africa, is about a group of musicians who come into contact with the deadly disease tuberculosis, a major killer in Africa and around the developing world. The film is filled with triumph, loss, happiness, disappointment and a whole host of other emotions as well as the viewer gets a glimpse into South Africa’s speech patterns, music, dances and more.
Black fencer Peter Westbrook is not a legend just because of the fact that he has competed and triumphed in the sport at an Olympic level, but because he has trained thousands of mostly Black children in New York in the art and the sport of fencing at the Peter Westbrook Foundation. “A Path to Excellence” is a documentary that speaks to that history.
“Cocoa Butter” is a comedic short film by filmmaker Dominque Gilbert, where the main character, who is white, wants the benefits of being Black in society, but not the headaches, to get the attention of a girl. The main character uses the cream but forgets to read the whole label, which reads, “Once you go Black, you can never go back.” “Why in the world would you wanna be Black?” is the question the white mother asks her endarkened son.
“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.
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.
One of my favorite movies in the San Francisco Black Film Festival is a racially polarizing thriller named the “The Red Effect.” Although the plot is about a fictitious murder of a Black man by a white supremacist, while watching you can feel the real spirits of Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown, Sandra Bland and countless other Black people who made national news because they were murdered by racist vigilantes or police.
“Taking Israel” is a film executive produced by Dr. Eric Winston about a study-abroad program that he oversaw at Wilberforce University that exposed Black students to a semester of Israeli culture, society and politics. It has been selected to screen at the San Francisco Black Film Festival mainly because it deals with Black people trekking past U.S. borders for answers to questions as citizens of the world.
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.
“Cream” is a political and socially conscious short that is set in Oakland in 1968, at the time of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King. The film deals with identity, self-respect and knowledge of self in a Black family setting. Check out filmmaker Alexandra Lebona as she talks about her film, “Cream,” which has been selected to screen at the San Francisco Black Film Festival.
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.”