The DC Black Film Festival returns on Thursday, August 15th, 2019 when it kicks-off with a screening of Solace at The Miracle Theatre. Over the course of its three-day run, the DC BFF will host viewings of features and documentaries short and long, workshops, and group chats intended to provoke thoughtful discussion. Events will be taking place at The Miracle Theatre and The Mayflower Hotel in Southeast and Northwest Washington, D.C. respectively for the duration of the festival, so make sure to check the listings carefully.
Of the myriad of choices available, there are six films to keep an eye out for during the festival. These are provided in non-chronological order.
East of the River
Hannah Peterson’s directorial debut short film East of the River is a beautiful piece of “slice of life” cinema. Tracking one day’s worth of activities as Teonna (Ayiana T. Davis) discovers she’s suspended for the day and ends up wandering around Washington, D.C., with two of her friends, Malik (Malachi Mack) and Sara (Stelani Mason). The story Peterson and co-writer Stacey Eunnae present is one of halted potential, budding romance, and youthful resilience. Rather than wasting time over-explaining relationships, Peterson and Euanne craft precise dialogue to communicate the interpersonal relationships of the characters and rely on the physical performances of the cast to convey the unspoken —all of which Davis, Mack, and Mason deliver beautifully. Wonderfully shot, Peterson evokes an intimacy between the audience and the characters that’s difficult to achieve with in such a scant runtime. If this is what Peterson can do in 13 minutes, it’ll be astounding what she can do in a feature.
Screening Saturday, August 17th during Film Screenings Block 1: Portraits from 9:00a-11:00a at The Mayflower Hotel – District Ballroom.
We Want To Make It (Documentary)
Making it in any industry is tough, but the music industry might be one of the toughest. These days, anyone can write, record, and broadcast their tunes with a few simple clicks, but to become a local sensation, that’s something else entirely. In the documentary short We Want to Make It, Albert Tong follows Washington, D.C., siblings and metro train musicians Tarron Stewart and Jourdan Jones over the course of several months. It’s less a chronicle of meteoric stardom or cataclysmic failure so much as it is a glimpse at incredible promise. Clearly gifted, the duo have been on television programs, played at festivals, and recorded at least one song, “My Side,” but they are still just kids, kids with big dreams and the talent to match. At once charming and bittersweet, We Want to Make It will have audiences rooting for Tarron and Jourdan long past the end of the film.
Screening Friday, August 16th during Film Screenings Block 3: Smiles & Tears: 2:00p-5:00p at The Miracle Theatre.
Actor Diêm Camille G.’s directorial debut Doll is an absolute gut-punch. In a scant 5+ minutes, she manages to capture an entire lifetime of pain and hurt. Taking place largely in a car, G.’s Lina is riding with her relative Kenneth (Hervé Toure) who begins asking her personal questions to go along with his stories of parenthood. As silence gives way to biting sarcasm to rage, the nagging truth of their history becomes plain as day as Lina confronts her past. Through aching performances and tight camerawork, the audience feels like they’re right in the car, forced to silently observe a long-coming confrontation. Beyond the obvious pain, what G. wonderfully captures is that horrible feeling that the worst moments are elongated somehow and she refuses to let you get out of that moment until the absolute last. With her first run behind the camera, Diêm Camille G. shows that she possesses an aptitude which should serve her well when she expands into features.
Screening Friday, August 16th during Film Screenings Block 3: Smiles & Tears 2:00p-5:00p at The Miracle Theatre.
Oklahoma is Black
Though Oklahoma is Black lacks a narrative in the traditional sense, this documentary presents a portrait of a Midwestern state often thought of for its Whiter aspects. With beautiful musical accompaniment from Emily McLean, director Melinda James presents a series of seemingly disconnected images which tell the collective story of the Black community in Oklahoma. Created as one of three video installations for Tatyana Fazlalizadeh’s solo exhibition ‘Oklahoma is Black’ at the Oklahoma Contemporary, it’s not just the snippets of the elderly or older areas in which the Black community congregate, but shots of the young which evoke the sense of rootedness within the Black community to the state. While James does make sure to highlight gathering centers like Adam & Sons Hair Styling Center or Geronimo’s Bakery & Burgers, she also provides shots of various trees with objects hanging from them. As plainly as Melinda James presents the vibrancy of the present, with a few fleeting images, she reminds of a stark past.
Screening Friday, August 16th during 3rd Annual Making Black Lives Matter Through Film Panel: 7:30p-10p at The Miracle Theatre.
McKenzie Walker’s (Kharmyn Aanesah) been preparing for her school’s spelling bee contest for a long time in hopes of earning a seat at the district competition, however, after hearing her mother Tameron (Chontel Willis) discuss eyebrow maintenance with Tameron’s eyebrow threader (Daniele Barnett), her prepubescent insecurities creep in, undermining her confidence. A fairly straight-forward story of youthful concerns is but one of many things audiences will unpack within writer/director Alexandria Ashley’s narrative short The Bee. There’re aspects of racial disparity, peer conflict, and parental connection which ebb and flow throughout the film, inducing various feelings of anger, sympathy, and hilarity, especially in parents. Produced in part to fulfill an MFA requirement for Columbia University School of the Arts, The Bee excellently captures both sides of the parental-child dynamic in which the little things seem huge and vice versa, depending on a person’s experience level. In short, we don’t thank our parents enough for the things they helped us get through as children.
Screening Saturday, August 17th during Film Screenings Block 2: Black Love: 4:15p-6:15p at The Mayflower Hotel – District Ballroom.
Owned: A Tale of Two Americas (Documentary)
For a first-time feature director, Giorgio Angelini’s Owned: A Tale of Two Americas is an incredible achievement. The focus is a deep look at the housing economy of the United States going back to post-World War II, examining the socio-political aspects which influenced the consumer market, or, more specifically, how the market was designed to restrict access from the Black community. Using the same kind of kinetic energy of Adam McKay’s 2015 The Big Short, Angelini uses copious amounts of real advertisements and pop culture content to highlight just how far capitalism went to sell Americans on the dream of homeownership with a healthy mix of interviews from real estate professionals, market experts, reporters, old news reels, and more. Where a film like The Big Short uses the veneer of Hollywood to create separation between the audience and the truth, Angelini’s Owned breaks that wall down to puts the audience right in the middle of it all.
Screening Saturday, August 17th during Feature Film Screening: 2:00p-3:45p at The Mayflower Hotel – District Ballroom.
For more information on other films, tickets, and location, be sure to head to the official DC Black Film Festival website.
DC Black Film Festival Mission:
The DC Black Film Festival (DCBFF) is dedicated to exhibiting quality film, web series and television content by and about people of African descent. We support emerging artists striving to add diversity to the images, tastemakers and storytellers working in the entertainment industry. The DCBFF is committed to playing an integral role in discovering, celebrating and helping films and filmmakers by bringing them to the attention of the industry, media and public.