by Vivian Hua 華婷婷
Now in its second year rebranded as Seattle Black Film Festival (SBFF), LANGSTON’s 18th annual event returns from April 16–26, 2021. Once again held in virtual space, SBFF will showcase 70 short and feature films — more than double last year — that demonstrate the diversity of stories from across the African diaspora.
“I feel the depth and breadth of storytelling that found us, that was submitted to the festival this year is extraordinary,” explains SBFF Director Andrea Stuart-Lehalle, who hints that both COVID-19 and recent racial reckonings have played a key role in shaping those narratives. “I feel like filmmakers are in this very raw and visceral space where their stories and experiences were close to the surface and for many, flowed directly into some powerful storytelling they put on-screen.”
Themes for this year’s programs include A Diaspora in Displacement, Decolonizing the Narrative in Our #OwnVoices, The Future of Our Identity (youth-focused films), and Black Love, Self Love. They send a powerful message that SBFF is here to hold and support Black communities.
“I describe our festival as a safe space for Black people to tell their stories and see themselves represented through authentic storytelling …” Stuart-Lehalle explains. “The times have made spaces like this where we can amplify each others’ craft and journey even more critical to our survival as Black creators and as a people.”
Six local filmmakers — most of whom are also artists of other kinds — are featured in SBFF.
AJE IJO Series (4th Installment Finale): IMMORTAL by Kiana Davis
With the last installment in her AJE IJO series, dancer and filmmaker Kiana Harris uses movement to center humanity and explore gender fluidity. Though the piece is set in nature, Harris describes her work as “futuristic.”
“I’m not afraid to take initiative; to self-learn new ways of enhancing my artistry,” she says. “Films created by Black filmmakers telling their stories is crucial for Black mental health. The amount of death we experience in masses is indefinable. It is important we are processing, whether it’s through film, music, or a therapist.”
BAZZOOKA by Danny Denial
Musician and filmmaker Danny Denial’s highly stylized “afropunk apocalyptic” webseries BAZZOOKA was filmed in 2020 with strict adherence to COVID-19 protocols and involves a notable list of BIPOC queer and trans performers, musicians, and filmmakers.
“I would say I offer a more ‘alternative’ take on the Black experience — one that often feels misrepresented as niched, invisible or invalid,” Denial explains. “But the response to my work I think is evidence of just how many Black and BIPOC people connect to the alternative depictions of the monolith and experience their own dysphoria navigating traditionally ‘white’ spaces … I think my work is very much about marginalized people who find themselves on the fringes and struggle even harder than most to find community.”
DEPRESSION:ANTIDOTE by Catherine Harris-White
An abstract music video for director Catherine Harris-White’s musical project, SassyBlack, DEPRESSION:ANTIDOTE places her in the healing embrace of nature, set against spacy beats.
“Right now, at this time, I consider all my work to be in the vain of hologram funk and psychedelic soul. Meaning trippy, feely, spacious creative experimentation in my Black experience,” says Harris-White. “I think Black stories are powerful and impactful and various varieties of films sharing these stories should be distributed intergalactically, but for now, global will do just fine.”
SUCH AN HONOR by Nicole Pouchet
In the narrative short film SUCH AN HONOR, writer and director Nicole Pouchet uses humor and sci-fi to explore commentaries around aging and autonomy of women’s bodies.
“I am a queer, Black, female filmmaker. I guess I check off a lot of diversity boxes, but those aren’t the only factors that make my perspective unique,” explains Pouchet. “My voice is present in speculative fiction that strives to illuminate or explore social injustice and to provoke discourse.”
Resonance by Adam Jabari
Resonance, directed by interdisciplinary artist Adam Jabari, is an atmospheric piece featuring movement, spoken word, and ambient music. Its experimental approach is representative of Jabari’s still-developing filmmaking style.
“Presently, meditation is my medium,” he says. “Regardless of the tools I might use — be they photographic, poetic, sonic, or environmental — I want the experience of my creative work, both for me and audiences, to facilitate spaciousness to breathe and embody oneself.”
A Whole New World in Focus by Robert Erniso
With A Whole New World in Focus, director Robert Erniso presents a dynamic story of magic and life-changing circumstances as seen through the perspective of a deaf woman who is suddenly granted three wishes.
Erniso believes that film can uplift the spirit and change toxic culture. He wields his unique perspective “to celebrate our existence and to cause the most interesting conversations that will inspire us to know more of our true purpose in life and not to be ignorant.”
A number of local filmmakers will be participating in the special multidisciplinary event on Friday, April 23 at 7 p.m. All-access passes to the 18th annual Seattle Black Film Festival are $65; general admission tickets for films and events are $15. Proceeds will support LANGSTON’s nonprofit mission of Cultivating Black Brilliance. See the full festival lineup here.
Vee Hua 華婷婷 (they/she) is a writer, filmmaker, and organizer with semi-nomadic tendencies. Much of their work unifies their metaphysical interests with their belief that art can positively transform the self and society. They are the interim managing editor of the South Seattle Emerald, editor-in-chief of REDEFINE, and co-chair of the Seattle Arts Commission. They also previously served as the executive director of the interdisciplinary community hub, Northwest Film Forum, where they played a key role in making the space more welcoming and accessible for diverse audiences. Their latest short film, Reckless Spirits, is a metaphysical, multilingual POC buddy comedy, and will be released in late 2022. Follow them at @hellomynameisvee or over at veehua.com
📸 Featured image: Film still from AJE IJO SERIES (4th INSTALLMENT FINALE): IMMORTAL by Seattle filmmaker Kiana Davis.
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