The San Francisco Black Film Festival strikes gold again

by The People’s Minister of Information JR

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.

SFBFF-co-director-Katera-Crossley-kisses-Danny-Glover-0617-by-Kali-ORay-web-300x175, The San Francisco Black Film Festival strikes gold again, Culture Currents
“An Intimate Night with Danny Glover” kicked off the 2017 San Francisco Black Film Festival on June 15, and later, at the Boom Boom Room, festival co-director Katera Crossley, wife of Kali O’Ray, plants a kiss on the beloved actor and activist. Kali and Katera are carrying on the festival founded by Kali’s mother, impresario Ave Montague, 19 years ago. – Photo: Kali

San Francisco acting legend Danny Glover did a Q&A for the film “93 Days,” which he costars in, and “Abina and the Important Men” – a graphic novel that was animated – took the festival box office this year by surprise, being 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.

M.O.I. JR: How was the turnout at the 2017 San Francisco Black Film Fest?

Kali: The turnout was decent but, of course, I always want better. There were many sold-out shows and great support for independent film. Many of the filmmakers were here as well as directors, which always makes room for some great conversation. Next year, being our Platinum Celebration, the forecast is triple the people we had this year

M.O.I. JR: What movies screened to sold-out audiences? What movies were close?

Kali: Rather than talk about who sold out or who did not, I would rather talk about the hidden giant that got rid of tickets the quickest. The reason I go this route is because selling out a film mainly is the push and PR. We cannot push every film, so it is up to the filmmakers themselves to help build the hype.

Some movies are great but lack a trailer that is as good as the film. Like I tell people every year, “The trailer sells the movie!” And the proof of this is how many times has the trailer fooled you into thinking something was great only to get let down by the actual film? Plenty I am sure.

But that goes to show that you must take time with the whole rollout for success. Moving on, “Abina and the Important Men” plus “The Ben F. Jones Story” at the DeYoung was flying off the shelf. Much of this, I am sure, was the locality of the first film and the anticipation. But at the end of the day, that film was well supported and well worth the watch.

SFBFF-Danny-Glover-0617-by-Kali-ORay-web-300x169, The San Francisco Black Film Festival strikes gold again, Culture Currents
In “93 Days,” Danny Glover plays a Nigerian doctor desperately working to stop the spread of the Ebola virus, and at the San Francisco Black Film Festival, he soaked up the people’s adulation and gratitude for his acting and activism. – Photo: Kali O’Ray

M.O.I. JR: How has the depletion of San Francisco’s Black population affected who attends and how you promote the San Francisco Black Film Fest?

Kali: It has affected it the way it has affected any Black business. The pot you pull from has gotten smaller. The way we make up for this, of course, is being all inclusive and reminding people that these stories are important to all Americans because we are such an intricate thread in this nation. OUR story inevitably becomes America’s. Picture that!

M.O.I. JR: Can you tell us about the theaters that hosted the film fest?

Kali: This year’s theaters were The Heritage Center, The Lush Life Theater, The Koret at DeYoung, SPUR, Marines Memorial on Van Ness and The Boom Boom Room.

M.O.I. JR: What are you bringing to the game next year?

Kali: Next year we hope to go all out! We want to bring the Urban Game suite back, another animation aspect, some older Black Hollywood stars who deserve recognition while they are here with us, best movies from the last 20 years, more days, more parties and some secrets I cannot reveal as of now, but we have a couple of game changers!

M.O.I. JR: When does the submission process start?

Kali: Middle of July.

The People’s Minister of Information JR Valrey, journalist, author and filmmaker, can be reached at or on Facebook. And tune in to