San Francisco Black Film Festival celebrates 20th anniversary with best ever lineup June 14-17

by The Minister of Information JR Valrey

SFBFF-Director-Kali-O’Ray-web-225x300, San Francisco Black Film Festival celebrates 20th anniversary with best ever lineup June 14-17, Culture Currents
SFBFF Director Kali O’Ray

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.

M.O.I. JR: What are you doing specifically for this year’s 20th anniversary of the SF Black Film Festival?

Kali O’Ray: For the 20th anniversary, we’re applying the theme 20/20, which is 20 years forward and 20 years back. We are using an eye chart as this year’s image to signify that we are seeing more clearly as the time progresses.

We are going to use many of the same venues we always use but we are going back to our humble beginnings and we are going to really use the AAACC to fullest potential. We usually just use the screening room but this year we want it to be a megaplex and utilize ALL the space within with different events, panels and smaller screenings.

We are toying with the possibility of turning the parking lot into a drive in or throwing a party there. With the little time we have left we will be making a decision any day now so say in touch.

M.O.I. JR: How have you progressed on the vision of your mother, the founder of the SF Black Film Festival?

Kali O’Ray: I have progressed, yes, but to say I have bypassed her would be blasphemy! I am really just getting back to where she was. I often think about where we should be at this juncture and I know, deep in my heart, that I have just been playing catchup.

Every year you learn a little more and I am sure it worked the same way for her. But to be frank, I am comfortable in my skin and beast mode will soon be upon us.

M.O.I. JR: What are some of the great films that will be featured in terms of narratives, documentaries, women directors and HipHop flicks?

Kali O’Ray: We are still doing judging and that will not be done until about a week from now but we definitely have some nuggets in there.

M.O.I. JR: Where do you want to take the SF Black Film Fest in the next 20 years?

Kali O’Ray: The next 20 years we want to be online streaming and bring these great independent films to the masses. This is the logical progression and we plan to be on the forefront. Many are in the works now and it is a daunting task, but one thing we have and will continue to get is content – and as we know, content is king!

M.O.I. JR: Is it too late to submit work? If not, when is the last day?

Kali O’Ray: Call for entries is over but best believe we will take a film that we are interested in. At this point I ask for synopsis and trailer. If there is an interest, from that point, I will ask for the secure online screener. I still love movies, so it is hard to not be curious about something you may have missed.

M.O.I. JR: What have you learned from the process of being the director of the SF Black Film Fest for the last five years?

Kali O’Ray: What I have learned would be a book by itself. There is not enough time nor space to answer that question for you. It is a constant learning process because many things change and you have to keep up or become a part of that which is deemed old and no longer hip.

BUT, one great lesson that covers just about everything is the contacts. As you meet people, you can quickly decide if someone is an asset or a hinderance.

M.O.I. JR: How could people stay up to date with what is going on with the festival this year?

Kali O’Ray: Go to the website and get on the newsletter. We do not spam or troll you, so this is an ideal way to stay in touch.

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