by The People’s Minister of Information JR Valrey
Every June, we celebrate the upcoming San Francisco Black Film Festival that was founded by Ave Montague and is now run by her son, Kali O’Ray, and his wife, Katera Crossley. On the same weekend as Juneteenth, the film festival features the very best in independent films by and about Black people.
This year the roster features a phenomenal lineup of films from every walk of life. (See the full schedule and many trailers at sfbff.org.) Headlining this year’s film fest is “America Is Still the Place,” a film about the life and exploits of Hunters Point Legend Charlie Walker. Another masterpiece screening this year is “Njinga: Queen of Angola,” a biopic about the 17th century African warrior queen from southern West Africa.
“In an Ideal World” is about the feelings of prisoners and prison staff having to deal with a court order ending segregated housing in prison. Another great film is “Knucklehead,” the touching story of a young man who is mentally delayed and becomes obsessed with meeting a particular doctor who could prescribe drugs to make him “mentally excellent” – a commentary on a society that is always telling people they are not enough.
“Hagareseb” is another of my favorites in this festival because it is about an Eritrean community in Seattle and the youngsters’ struggle with old world vs. new. “Shortage of Children” and “Moses” are two great films that deal with the human trafficking of Black young people from Africa and surrounding islands.
“Driving While Black” uses satire and comedy to look at how Black young people are terrorized by the police on a regular basis. It’s an important film because it uses comedy to bring attention to an issue that literally has had the country on fire this year from Ferguson to NYC to Baltimore to Oakland.
I have to encourage people to go see “Mac Dre: Legend of the Bay,” a documentary about one of the pioneers of Bay Area Hip Hop who had a monumental career before he was gunned down in 2004 in Kansas City. And lastly people may want to check out Lee Scratch Perry’s “Vision of Paradise,” a biopic about one of the eccentric architects of Reggae and Dub music.
If you don’t make it, you will be pissed off, because this is one of the best events for Black people in the Bay Area every summer. And this year, the selections are exceptional. I hope to see all of you reading this there. It runs June 11-14 in theaters all over San Francisco. For more information, go to sfbff.org.
The People’s Minister of Information JR Valrey is associate editor of the Bay View, author of “Block Reportin’” and “Unfinished Business: Block Reportin’ 2” and filmmaker of “Operation Small Axe” and “Block Reportin’ 101,” available, along with many more interviews, at www.blockreportradio.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.