By Deborah Bailey, Special to the AFRO

The Smithsonian is honoring African-American film and filmmaking this weekend at its inaugural African American Film Festival, Oct. 24-27. The festival, includes a celebration Oct. 25, hosted by the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

“Our night at the Museum epitomizes what’s so special about this inaugural film festival,” said Rhea Combs, director for the Center for African American Media Arts.

(Courtesy Image/

Film pioneers, Madeline Anderson and Charles Burnett will be honored with a screening of their iconic  works, Anderson’s “I Am Somebody” (1969) and Burnett’s “Killer of Sheep” (1978) followed by a conversation about their contribution to African-American film.  The hero costume from “The Black Panther” will also be on display.

More than 80 films will be viewed over the four days of the festival with 15 selected to be part of the film festival’s first annual film competition.  Nine nationally renowned judges in the world of cinema will award winners in categories including narrative feature and documentary short

“These  selected films are more than just great entertainment; they are also cultural markers that expand the timeline of African American experiences,” Combs said.

The film festival opens Wednesday evening with a screening of Oscar Winning Director Steve McQueen’s “Widows” (2018) a modern-day thriller co-written by bestselling author Gillian Flynn and starring actors Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki, and Cynthia Erivo. The festival will conclude with the highly anticipated debut of  “If Beale Street Could Talk” (2018), an adaptation of the classic James Baldwin novel and the latest offering from  Oscar-winning director Barry Jenkins.

“The majority of the program takes place at the National Museum of African American Culture and History,” said Kinshasha Holman Conwill, deputy director of the NMAAHC. “No film festival has ever had such a context. There is something for the experienced cinema viewer as well as the novice,” Conwill said.

In addition to film, the festival will also host workshops on the technical aspects of filmmaking as well as opportunities for local college students to connect with filmmakers.  Tickets and additional information about the Smithsonian’s Inaugural African American Film Festival can be obtained  at the NMAAHC website or