By Nyame-Kye Kondo, Special to the AFRO
The D.C. Black Film industry is on a steady incline. In the last two years, big advancements have been made to enrich African-American cinematic culture in the nation’s capitol; 2017 was especially important because it was the inaugural year of the DC Black Film Festival. A groundbreaking media platform, the DC Black Film festival is helping to reshape Black cinema along with the African-American film festival that will be taking place at various Smithsonian locations this fall.
The first of its kind in the District, the DC Black Film Festival’s mission is to provide people of the African diaspora with a new resource to express themselves, and to ultimately get their work recognized on larger media platforms. The DC Black Film Festival is important because it gives D.C.’s own filmmakers a chance to interact and engage with other Black filmmakers from all over the country, while also setting a new standard for Black film in the District of Columbia.
When interviewed for DCist, DC Black Film Festival founder Kevin Sampson said, “We only get a certain amount of films each year led by an African American. I realized there are a lot of screenwriters and directors out there trying to do the work—but they don’t have the accessibility.”
Initially attempting to raise funds for an independent film on the lack of diversity in 2014, Sampson switched gears and decided to provide an answer to the problem. Three years later the DC Black Film Festival had its first event. With this year’s festival featuring films like “United Skates,” which documents the resurgence of skate culture in different Black communities, as well as the festival’s local pick “Odyssey: A Web Series,” the festival is paving its own way.
In its inaugural year is the Smithsonian African American Film Festival, which will be taking place this fall at a slew of Smithsonian locations throughout the District. An international platform, the launch of the Smithsonian African American Film Festival is a welcomed surprise to many because it provides filmmakers and film enthusiasts with a second experience of cinematic excellence to look forward to in one year.
Juxtaposing themes within the museum with those featured in the films, the focus is on these three themes; 1) Making a way out of no way, 2) Power of place and 3) cultural expressions. Featuring films like the highly acclaimed “Boom for Real” which documents the teenage years of the art legend Jean-Michel Basquiat, as well “Copper,” which explores death from a gender perspective, the Smithsonian African American Festival is giving Black filmmakers the opportunity to both curate and abstract the Black experience.
While different in presentation and packaging, both festivals are important in making strides in the film industry as they both seek to create new opportunities for the Black voice to be recognized and properly represented moving forward.