When the Detroit Black Film Festival launched in 2020, it consisted of 30 short and feature films that were presented virtually in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
It wasn’t easy then, but now it’s a holiday. The fourth annual event, which runs from Wednesday to Sunday, features 74 independent films, as well as special events designed to bring together current and emerging filmmakers.
This year’s theme, Cinema + Cuisine + Cocktails, sounds optimistic because, according to its co-founder, it is.
“It really does feel like a celebration, especially when we not only get tougher in theater, but we get to talk to each other, celebrate films, celebrate filmmakers in a space and place where we can have a dialogue about community and culture and very specific problems within the African American community. It’s really cool,” says Marshall Favors, who opened the festival with her husband, Lazar Favors.
The couple (who are also the organizing team for the Trinity International Film Festival in Detroit) say the inaugural Detroit Black Film Festival was a success in highlighting black filmmakers, even though it was held online.
“Because we had the opportunity to meet filmmakers, hear their stories and connect with those stories, people became more interested in the festival. We are so grateful for that,” says Marshall Favors.
The current edition of the festival will celebrate Black narratives through a variety of documentaries, dramas, comedies and animated stories, as well as short and feature films.
This year’s busy schedule features three key venues, all in Detroit. Screenings will take place at the Carr Center, 15 E. Kirby, and the Marlene Ball Theater at the Ball Family YMCA at 1401 Broadway, with some events at the DoubleTree Hotel, 525 W. Lafayette Ave.
Among the festival’s most notable short films is “Unexpected,” a documentary directed by Zeberia Newman and produced by Sheryl Lee Ralph, an Emmy Award winner for the ABC hit “Abbott Elementary.” It tells the story of women of color living with newly diagnosed HIV and the two activists, Masonia Traylor and Chichi Covin, who help support them.
“I am honored to tell the story of Masonia and Chichi and raise awareness of HIV in the South. What’s going on out there needs our attention, and it needs it now,” Ralph, a longtime advocate for HIV/AIDS awareness and education, told Variety. October.
Another highlight is the feature-length psychological thriller Reunion, which follows a newlywed who meets an older stranger who may have information about her husband’s secret past, an encounter that will force her to confront unimaginable horror. It is written, directed and co-star Gregory Alan Williams, who played a cop in Baywatch and most recently appeared in OWN’s Greenleaf and HBO’s The Righteous Gemstones. Williams is expected to attend the festival.
Sunday night’s Six Triple Eight is a documentary about the only all-black, all-female battalion of World War II, a group tasked with dealing with the massive amount of undelivered mail involving soldiers on the European front.
Favors said his director, James William Teres, and someone who was part of the original battalion would be present at the screening. He notes that the same battalion will be the subject of Tyler Perry’s upcoming Netflix drama starring Kerry Washington and Oprah Winfrey.
In addition to the film events, Saturday morning will also feature a roundtable discussion with producer Brian Smiley, president and chief content officer of Kevin Hart’s production company Hartbeat. In his position, he oversees the company’s television and film projects. Smiley will talk about his journey in the entertainment industry.
Friday night’s Taste of Black Spirits: Cocktail Concierge event will feature 80 Black-owned liquor brands and 10 Detroit-based mobile bar entrepreneurs. Ronald Isley, co-founder of the Isley Brothers, will be at the event to promote Contagious, his new Liquid Gold XO brandy. So will Vanessa Braxton, the pioneering black woman master distiller and CEO of Gravesande Braxton Distillers, the company that created brandy.
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The festival is part of an effort to bring back an updated version of government-backed incentives for film and video production that ended in 2015. But even the lack of incentives for film production in Michigan hasn’t stopped the flow, Favors said. cinematic creativity in Detroit.
Favors says, “Independent filmmaking has exploded, and there’s really an independent film movement going on in Detroit right now, which is very exciting. And stimulating cinema would just be the icing on the cake.”
Tickets to the Detroit Black Film Festival range from $15 for a feature film to $200 for an all-access festival ticket. To purchase tickets and see the full schedule, visit Eventbrite.