The Philadelphia-set BlackStar Film Festival — a celebration of Black, Brown and Indigenous film and video artists — has revealed the winners of its ninth annual competition.
The week-long digital event, which ran Aug. 20 to 26, presented more than 90 films, including 24 world premieres representing more than 20 countries.
The fest also spotlighted an array of live panels and special events to bring together filmmakers, producers and thinkers. The festival also featured three live drive-in screenings in the parking lot in front of Philadelphia’s Mann Center for the Performing Arts in West Fairmount Park.
Taking home the award for best feature documentary is Michèle Stephenson for her feature-length film Stateless (Apátrida) (pictured), which explored the grassroots campaign of electoral hopeful Rosa Iris while revealing the racial hatred and institutionalized oppression dividing Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
“Stateless is ambitious and innovative in form, telling an important story of borders and national identity with strong characters. The director’s artistry collapses time for stateless Dominicans with Haitian heritage caught in limbo,” said the jury in a statement.
Special mention was provided to Dario Guerrero’s Rocío, which profiles an undocumented mother of three who must decide whether to seek cancer treatments in her native Mexico or await death in the U.S.
Savanah Leaf and Taylor Russell’s The Heart Still Hums, meanwhile, was feted as the best documentary short. The short follows five women as they fight to keep their children while battling homelessness, drug addiction and parental neglect.
Amir George’s Man of the People, centered around Harold Washington, the first black mayor of Chicago, was provided with a special mention.
The Shine Award, which celebrates Philadelphia-based filmmakers, was handed out to Raishad Hardnett, Lauren M. Schneiderman and Cassie Owens’ Legendary: 30 Years of Philly Ballroom and Shantrelle Patrice Lewis’ Daughters Of.
Legendary: 30 Years of Philly Ballroom provided an in-depth look into efforts to preserve Philadelphia’s ballroom scene that has endured for 30 years, while Daughters Of examined the importance of self-care and healing for Black women through the lens of their foremothers.
Eleven films were eligible for the prize, marking what BlackStar called “a steep increase in Philadelphia-based representation for the festival.”
For the full list of winners and overall information on the festival and its programs, click here.