BlackStar Film Festival sets lineup for digital festival

BlackStar Film Festival — a celebration of Black, Brown and Indigenous film and video artists — has revealed the full lineup for its 2020 program, slating the world premieres of Ashley ...
July 17, 2020

BlackStar Film Festival — a celebration of Black, Brown and Indigenous film and video artists — has revealed the full lineup for its 2020 program, slating the world premieres of Ashley O’Shay’s feature documentary Unapologetic and Shantrelle Patrice Lewis’s debut feature Daughters Of.

The Philadelphia-set festival, taking place Aug. 20 to 26, is moving online for its ninth edition in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This year’s digital line-up comprises more than 80 films, including 24 world premieres representing more than 20 countries.

O’Shay’s Unapologetic (pictured) takes a look into the Movement for Black Lives in Chicago; while Lewis’s Daughters Of examines the “immediate and critical importance of self-care and healing for Black women.”

The Ancestors Live: 50 Years of Kùlú Mèlé African Dance & Drum Ensemble, a documentary from Aidan Un, will also have its world premiere.

Additional feature documentaries screening at the festival include Shalini Kantayya’s Coded Bias, which follows MIT Media Lab researcher Joy Buolamwini and the fallout from her discovery that facial recognition “does not see dark-skinned faces accurately”; and William Greaves’ Nationtime – Gary, about the National Black Political Convention of 1972 in Gary, Indiana.

Loira Limbal’s feature documentary Through The Night tells the stories of two working mothers and a child care provider, whose lives intersect at a 24-hour daycare center; while Michèle Stephenson’s Stateless follows the campaign of electoral hopeful Rosa Iris, revealing a “divide” between Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

The festival’s lineup of feature documentaries also includes Sky Hopinka’s maɬni – towards the ocean, towards the shore, which follows two characters, speaking mostly in the American Indigenous language of chinuk wawa, as they contemplate the “afterlife, rebirth, and the place in-between”; and Down a Dark Stairwell, a documentary from Chinese-American filmmaker Ursula Liang that explores the “complicated fight for accountability and justice” after a Chinese-American police officer kills an unarmed Black man in a dark stairwell of a NYC public housing project.

Elsewhere, Zeshawn Ali’s Two Gods tells the story of a Muslim casket maker and ritual body washer in Newark who takes two young men under his wing and teaches them how to “live better lives”; and ROCÍO, a feature documentary from Mexican-American filmmaker Dario Guerrero, profiles an undocumented mother of three who, after a sudden cancer diagnosis, must choose between seeking treatment in her native Mexico or awaiting “certain death” in the U.S.

Other feature documentaries screening include Sifiso Khanyile’s A New Country; Elegance Bratton’s Pier Kids; TT The Artist’s Dark City Beneath The Beat; Cecilia Aldarondo’s Landfall; John L. Jackson, Jr. and Nora Gross’ Making Sweet Tea; and Sam Soko’s Softie.

ROCÍO, Stateless and Through The Night are in contention for Best Feature Documentary.

To see the full lineup, visit BlackStar Film Festival’s website.

About The Author
Barry Walsh is editor and content director for realscreen, and has served as editor of the publication since 2009. With a career in entertainment media that spans two decades, prior to realscreen, he held the associate editor post for now defunct sister publication Boards, which focused on the advertising and commercial production industries. Before Boards, he served as editor of Canadian Music Network, a weekly music industry trade, and as music editor for As content director, he also oversees the development of content for the brand's market-leading events, the Realscreen Summit and Realscreen West, as well as new content initiatives.