Tickets will also include entry to the opening night celebration after the screening
by Zaire Saunders
The San Francisco Black Film festival opens with a film showcasing the elements of Blackness – excellence, courage and potential. Directed by Jaylen C.A. Williams, “Past, Present, Future Adversity: ‘Arrival,” the story of San Jose State’s track and field team, sets the message straight out of the blocks.
Beginning with a struggle to get back to the former glory of Speed City, new director of San Jose State University track and field and cross country Charles Ryan arrives at San Jose State University as the program’s first African American director. Despite facing a lack of resources and an altogether new team of coaches assembled, the team maximized their potential through intense training and showcased their talents at an indoor meet.
Having watched a few of the festival’s films lined up to play, I understand why they chose this film as the opener. The theme of this year’s San Francisco Black film festival – I believe – is the sense of redemption, camaraderie, joy, strife and potentiality everything found within the experiences of Black folk.
Charles Ryan, the director of the San Jose track team, and his crew understand that skill is something you develop through hard work. Only in your hands is your life worth living. Only you can make yourself free. Since the inception of this country, Black life has been seized by moments of terror.
For clarification, I do not mean the “hard work” the Western world has forced onto us. I speak of hard work that nurtures first the soul and breathes in the air of humanity that has so long been denied to us.
Tenacity and the willingness to give it all is a theme in another film being featured this year: “Paperboy Love Prince Runs for Mayor,” a film in which a Black Queer artist and activist takes on the world of riches and business of New York City in a mayoral bid. Flamboyant, grassroots and passionate, PaperBoy stands apart from the rest of the candidates and builds an image that may last for years to come.
In “Lake Merritt Monster,” we’re given a film that emphasizes instinct and your own narrative. The protagonist finds himself in disbelief when he is whisked away to face the Lake Merritt Monster – proving his fears right. He gains the resolve to fight his fears because of the faith placed by his ancestors.
Unfortunately, the resolve to crush Black intuition is just as fierce. But despite the emotional and physical toil to remove our souls, hope, love and courage, we have always held on and adapted. Black people are alive in the world so we must allow each other to express our misgivings, our joy, our fantasies in whatever means is comfortable for us.
Being yourself and the best one every day you live feeds not only yourself, but the community you are aligned with. So let’s live among the living, rather than among the dead. The San Francisco Black film Festival of 2023 is the reminder to us of stories of overcoming adversity, connecting with cultural roots, love mishaps and comedic sci-fi neighborhood adventures, all for the benefit of us.
Zaire Saunders is the copy editor and reporter for the SF Bay View Community Journalism Program, which is funded by the California State Library.