Firelight Media is proud to support the BlackStar Film Festival, an annual celebration of the visual and storytelling traditions of the African diaspora and of global communities of color, showcasing films by Black, Brown, and Indigenous people from around the world. The 2020 Festival begins this Tuesday, August 19, and will run through Wednesday, August 26.
Firelight is partnering with BlackStar to present live panel discussions that will feature Firelight’s own Marcia Smith and Loira Limbal. Firelight’s Chloe Walters-Wallace will join the panel at the BlackStar Pitch Session, and Monika Navarro is serving as a Pitch Coach. Monika Navarro is also serving on the jury for the Best Feature Documentary competition. The festival program includes screenings of several feature documentaries and shorts by Firelight Media Documentary Lab alumni, as well as a screening of the new documentary feature Through the Night directed by Loira Limbal.
Read on for the schedule of BlackStar Film Festival programming featuring Firelight Media staff and Documentary Lab alumni.
Wednesday, August 19, 12–2pm ET | BlackStar Pitch Session
Chloe Walters-Wallace, Firelight’s Artists Program Manager, will join a panel of representatives from influential foundations, distribution platforms, and production houses to hear pitches by 8 filmmakers who will pitch their short documentary projects. Additionally, Monika Navarro, Firelight’s Senior Director of Artist Programs, is serving as a Pitch Coach for the Pitch Session.
Thursday, August 20, 7:30pm ET | World Premiere of Unapologetic
Firelight Documentary Lab alum Ashley O’Shay will have her feature documentary Unapologetic make its world premiere at BlackStar.
Told through the lens of Janaé and Bella, two fierce abolitionist leaders, Unapologetic is a deep look into the Movement for Black Lives, from the police murder of Rekia Boyd to the election of Mayor Lori Lightfoot.
Friday, August 21, 1:30pm ET | Screening of Coded Bias
Documentary Lab alum Shalini Kantayya will screen her feature documentary Coded Bias, which explores the fallout of MIT Media Lab researcher Joy Buolamwini’s startling discovery that facial recognition does not see dark-skinned faces accurately, and her journey to push for the first-ever legislation in the U.S. to govern against bias in the algorithms that impact us all.
Friday, August 21, 4pm ET | Panel Discussion: Beyond the Status: Working with and Investing in Undocumented Creatives
Firelight Impact Producer’s Lab alum Set Hernandez Rongkilyo, via the The Undocumented Filmmakers Collective, is hosting a panel at the BlackStar Film Festival moderated by Undocumented Filmmakers Collective member Nicole-Solis Sison and in collaboration with Peace Is Loud and Immigrants Rising to discuss ways to work with all artists, regardless of their immigration status. Following the recent DACA decision from the Supreme Court, this panel invites Undocumented filmmakers and allies to share ideas regarding invested creativity and partnership with Undocumented artists, entrepreneurial and contract-based collaboration, and concrete steps on how the industry can be more equitable towards migrant filmmakers, among other salient concerns.
Friday, August 21, 7pm ET | Screening of Through the Night
Loira Limbal, Firelight’s senior vice president for programs, will screen her feature documentary Through the Night, which is nominated for Best Feature Documentary at the festival.
To make ends meet, Americans are working longer hours across multiple jobs. Through the Night is a verité documentary that explores the personal cost of our modern economy through the stories of two working mothers and a child care provider — whose lives intersect at a 24-hour daycare center.
Friday, August 21, 9pm ET | Screening of Be Water
Documentary Lab alum Bao Nguyen will be screening his documentary feature Be Water at a special in-person event in conjunction with the Philadelphia Parks and Recreation Department’s Philly Drive-In Series.
Be Water is a gripping, fascinating, intimate look at not just those final, defining years of Bruce Lee’s life, but the complex, often difficult, and seismic journey that led to Lee’s ultimate emergence as a singular icon in the histories of film and martial arts.
Saturday, August 22, 12pm ET | Panel Discussion: Solidarity is Not A Trend, Nor a Market Exchange
Firelight Media is partnering with BlackStar to present a panel discussion featuring Firelight President Marcia Smith, and including Firelight Media Impact Producers Lab fellow Ben-Alix Dupris, that centers the ongoing work and history of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color solidarity in film and media to underscore viable strategies and channels for creating radical and transformative change rooted in deep relational work, as opposed to neoliberal tokens of inclusion. Calling upon Robin D.G. Kelly’s invocation that “solidarity is not a market exchange,” this conversation asks filmmakers and funders to interrogate the recent market-driven impulses circling around “anti-racism” and “equity,” and asks to what heights our collective power could reach, if we were to use cultural work from a place of getting free rather than from a place of getting capital.
Saturday, August 22, 1:30pm ET | Screening of Landfall
Documentary Lab alum Cecilia Aldarondo’s feature documentary Landfall will make its east coast premiere at BlackStar.
Through shard-like glimpses of everyday life in post-Hurricane María Puerto Rico, Landfall is a cautionary tale for our times.
Saturday, August 22, 4pm ET | Panel Discussion: Mothering and Laboring the Cinematic Revolution
Firelight Media is partnering with BlackStar to present a panel discussion featuring Firelight’s own Loira Limbal about how, as working artists, Black mothers labor in ways that are both immediately life sustaining and also visionary. By centering the particular concerns of radical, mothering filmmakers, this conversation explores how care work is intricately connected to cultural work and asks how we continue to claim art as revolutionary for and from the masses while addressing the material concerns and conditions of working class people. The fight to raise free Black children is ever present. These panelists offer insights and dreams from their personal, political, and artistic experiences nurturing, protecting and freeing their kin.
Tuesday, August 25, 1:30pm ET | Screening of Down a Dark Stairwell
Firelight Documentary Lab alum Ursula Liang will screen her feature documentary Down a Dark Stairwell.
A Chinese-American police officer kills an unarmed, innocent black man in a dark stairwell of a NYC public housing project, igniting a complicated fight for accountability and justice.
Tuesday, August 25, 5:30pm ET | Shorts Program: The Giverny Document (Single Channel)
Firelight Media Documentary Lab alum Ja’Tovia Gary will screen The Giverny Document (Single Channel), which is nominated for Best Experimental Film at the festival, as part of the Shorts Program: Process. Filmed on location in Harlem, USA and in Claude Monet’s historic gardens in Giverny, France, The Giverny Document (Single Channel) is a multi-textured cinematic poem that meditates on the safety, bodily autonomy, and creative virtuosity of Black women.
Firelight is a premier destination for non-fiction cinema by and about communities of color. Firelight produces documentary films, supports emerging filmmakers of color, and cultivates audiences for their work. Firelight films have garnered multiple Primetime Emmys, Peabodys, and Sundance awards. Among them, Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool, The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution, and Freedom Riders. Firelight’s programs include the Documentary Lab, an 18-month fellowship that supports emerging filmmakers of color; and Groundwork, which supports early stage filmmakers in the American south, midwest, and U.S. Territories. In addition to a focus on excellence in filmmaking, Firelight develops strategies, partnerships and materials to reach and engage diverse audiences and maximize the impact of documentary films.