2016’s San Francisco Black Film Festival will be a classic – June 16-19

by The People’s Minister of Information JR

The San Francisco Black Film Festival is back, this year June 16-19. This is definitely one of the biggest annual events that I look forward to in San Francisco. Director of the San Francisco Black Film Festival Kali O’Ray has already shown me a number of potential films that are in the running to be selected to be for this year’s festival; great films like “Codigo Color” about colorism in Cuba, “Hustler’s Convention” about some of the greatest protest poets of the last 50 years, the legendary Last Poets, “Tear the Roof Off,” the untold story of Parliament Funkadelic, and “Blackboard,” a movie about Black professional skateboarders, featuring the legendary East Oakland bred pro skater Karl Watson.

As we approach the second decade of the festival in a couple of years, I wanted to sit down with director Kali O’Ray about this year’s San Francisco Black Film Festival.

M.O.I. JR: What are some of the feature length flicks and documentaries that you are excited about that will be highlighted at the SF Black Film Festival?

Kali: As you know, we are still picking the official selections – to be released May 1 – and that is a job by itself. We have so much good film it hurts to have to tell some of the filmmakers that their “good movie” will not be able to play, but the quality is that good.

I am amazed that every year we get such great films to play at the festival, from so many countries, and it gives you a pulse of the Black experience around the world. I do mean that literally. I feel blessed to be able to spread these different stories and give filmmakers a voice.

I think everybody should experience the SFBFF and see what I am talking about and call me out if I am wrong. It does not matter your nationality, because these films pull on all strings and this is your only way to see these movies unless you want to wait a couple of years or possibly catch them at a film festival across the states.

I am amazed that every year we get such great films to play at the festival, from so many countries, and it gives you a pulse of the Black experience around the world.

Here is a short list of where our movies are coming from: Africa, Cuba, United States, France, United Kingdom, Portugal, Haiti, Mexico, Canada, Italy, Belgium, Burkina Faso, Bahamas, Ghana, Jamaica, Martinique, Netherlands, Trinidad and Tobago and more.

M.O.I. JR: What do you have planned for opening night, because it will be hard to top last year’s when “America’s Still the Place” opened?

Kali: I will give you that. That was a great film, and it was local! It feels great to have been a part of that film and to premiere it for last year’s opening night. I – we all – had a great time and it quickly sold out.

As for this year, we are toying with a plethora of films for opening night but have not made the final decision as of yet. It is a tough choice because the films we are considering are all great and we will need to take some time making that decision.

Our schedule will be out May 15, so that gives us a couple more weeks to figure out what film it will be. I am in love with so many films, so choosing the film will take some serious thought.

M.O.I. JR: What theaters around the city will be hosting the SF Black Film Fest?

Kali: We will be using the Buriel Clay Theater located at the African American Art and Culture Center. We are glad to be returning to what used to be the Jazz Heritage Center’s Screening Room, located at the old Yoshi’s on Fillmore.

We will also be returning to the BooM BooM RooM to shut it down with Hip-Hop films, which is always BIG FUN! We have yet to make a decision on the last two theaters we will use, but we have a couple of weeks to make that choice. We will most likely know by the time this is printed and you can check sfbff.org for more info.

M.O.I. JR: Do you have any Hip Hop or music flicks in general this year?

Kali: We always do! We have about four bangers that are very good. I always make sure this element is included, and this year will be no different.

So, as I am saying this, not knowing what will actually play, I am in love with this film called “Scratch.” Not to be confused with the documentary that was released years ago, this one is called “Scratch, a Hip-Opera” (93 minutes, Canada) directed by Sébastien Godron. The film is in French with subtitles, but there is something about this film that sticks in my mind.

It was shot well and the writing was pretty good. The actors were good enough that you forget they are actually acting and fall right into the film, as it should be. It was a great ride and I am leaning heavily on this film, but anything can happen in the last days. It will definitely play, but I am not sure, as of yet, if it will be THAT film.

M.O.I. JR: Can you give folks the history of how the festival started?

Kali: This film festival was started over 18 years ago by my mother, Ave Montague. She wanted a place for independent filmmakers, actors and directors to have a space to showcase their work. She started a great thing! All movies are not made for Hollywood and many have been made to viewed just like we present them.

With independent film, you have much more control over your product. You have the flexibility to create without worrying about someone looking over your shoulder and making changes. The bottom line is not always the key factor to these films but rather a place that independents can make what they want, and how they want. This makes for some great subject matter!

My mother, Ave Montague, wanted a place for independent filmmakers, actors and directors to have a space to showcase their work. She started a great thing!

This is key to my mother’s vision, and I have always understood this importance. She was a BOSS and left behind a legacy that I could not ignore. I think it is more important than ever to keep these films in San Francisco as the Black population dwindles to 3 percent. But we are here to stay to always offer that place and find those gems.

M.O.I. JR: Where can people go to get more information about the festival?

Kali: For more information, go to sfbff.org. Official selections will be announced May 1, and the schedule will be released May 15. This year’s festival will be from June 16-19, so please come out and support these hard working, independent filmmakers and have a great time and enjoy the experience.

This is a great way to see what is going on in the world today, as it deals with the diaspora, and be a part of the Black experience – without getting shot (lol).

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 blockreportradio@gmail.com.