Harlem International Film Festival Announces Film Lineup Celebrating World Cinema and Filmmakers from the HUB

THE 2020 HARLEM INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL
announces line-up for 15th edition
(September 10-13)
 
Lanie Zipoy’s THE SUBJECT is the Opening Night selection,
with Craig Davidson’s ISLAND OF BASEBALL making
the film’s world premiere on Closing Night 
 
Gavin Guerra’s LET THE PEOPLE DECIDE will be the
Friday Night Spotlight and Charles Mudede’s THIN SKIN
Is the Centerpiece selection

The 2020 Harlem International Film Festival (Hi) recently announced official selections for its 15th edition taking place virtually September 10-13The film festival opens with two films aimed squarely at current issues with Lanie Zipoy’s thriller about a documentarian haunted by the Harlem teen’s murder he caught on film in THE SUBJECT, set as the Opening Night selection, followed by Gavin Guerra’s documentary on voter suppression, LET THE PEOPLE DECIDE, selected for the Friday Night Spotlight. Saturday’s Centerpiece Screening selection will be Charles Mudede’s THIN SKIN, the film adaptation of Ahamefule Olue’s Off-Broadway musical hit play, with the film festival wrapping things up by celebrating the Centennial celebration of the Negro Leagues with the Closing Night selection of Craig Davidson’s documentary ISLAND OF BASEBALL. 

Island of Baseball

The four-day film festival which has become an underrated showcase of relatively undiscovered international cinematic gems and local New York filmmaking talent will put the NYC spotlight on 94 film presentations (32 features, 47 shorts, 9 webisodes, 5 music videos, and 2 VR/360 projects) representing over 25 countries. World premieres include Davidson’s ISLAND OF BASEBALL, as well as Rich Gold’s IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF MAD DOG COLL, Daniel Gabriel’s MOSUL, Bahati Best’s THE PATTERSON: ANOTHER BRONX TALE, Sakina Samo’s WAITING, and 5 short films as well.
 
Harlem International Film Festival’s Program Director, Nasri Zacharia, said. “Like many film festivals, we have made the decision to present our slate of essential cinema virtually this year, but that decision has only intensified our desire to cull great world cinema that might have been otherwise overlooked, and deserves a spotlight, as well as to continue our efforts to truly showcase the filmmakers and the setting of our beloved home neighborhoods of Harlem, Upper Manhattan and the Bronx, which we call the HUB”.

Let the People Decide

Zipoy’s THE SUBJECT opens the film festival with its tale of a successful white documentary filmmaker, played by Jason Biggs who is dealing with the aftermath of his last film, in which the filmmaker caught the murder of a black teen on camera. Now he is haunted by the death, and his possible role in the murder. The film also stars Emmy nominee Aunjanue Ellis and Anabelle Acosta. Guerra’s LET THE PEOPLE DECIDE could not be more timely, sharing first person accounts from participants in the Civil Rights Movement and looking at present day activists fighting to preserve the hard fought right to vote and battle the growing efforts to suppress that right.

Mudede’s THIN SKIN takes the Centerpiece slot with an adaptation of Ahamefule Olou’s Off-Broadway hit musical play Now I’m Fine, about a harrowing period in the comedian and musician’s real life. A fever dream of recollections of Oluo’s life’s experiences escaping a go-nowhere office life dominated by a proselytizing boss, a broken marriage and a wacky mother, with his two young daughters in tow, his ultimate challenge becomes an illness that literally causes his skin to dissolve. The Harlem International Film Festival will close with the world premiere of Davidson’s ISLAND OF BASEBALL. The film tells the almost forgotten story of how some of the greatest black U.S. ballplayers of all time became legends in Cuba playing integrated baseball there before Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier in the U.S.

Other films making their world premieres include three documentaries; Gold’s IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF MAD DOG COLL about one of the Bronx’s infamous, most wanted mafia killers; Gabriel’s MOSUL follows several key individuals involved in reclaiming the Iraqi city of Mosul from the Islamic State (ISIS); Best’s THE PATTERSON: ANOTHER BRONX TALE details the history of the Bronx as told through the microcosm of the Patterson projects; and Samo’s Pakistani drama WAITING focuses on a young woman trapped by the progress of her mother’s dementia.

Once again, the Harlem International Film Festival will feature the work of local NYC talent, including a showcase of short films made by filmmakers from Harlem, Upper Manhattan, and the Bronx. Films like: the experimental piece set in the Harlem Housing Projects (Christopher Seda’s COLORS), and with themes of de-gentrifying (Washington Kirk’s FREDERICK DOUGLASS BOULEVARD AKA FOOD & DRINK BOULEVARD AKA FDB), paying homage to Langston Hughes (Kenneth Sousie’s HOLD FAST TO DREAMS: GOODNIGHT, HARLEM), the struggles of being the sole woman of color in an office environment (Monique Lola Berkley’s I HATE THIS FKN’ JOB), and a look at the history of two notable buildings on Harlem’s Sugar Hill that housed influential individuals such as W.E.B. Du Bois, Thurgood Marshall, Louise Thompson-Patterson, Elizabeth Catlett, and Paul Robeson, among many others (Karen D. Taylor’s IN THE FACE OF WHAT WE REMEMBER: ORAL HISTORIES OF 409 AND 555 EDGECOMBE AVENUE) are among some of the films putting forward the work of those film artists, as well as celebrating the hub of the city that the film festival calls home.
 
For Film festival passes, tickets, and more information on the Harlem International Film Festival go to http://HarlemFilmFestival.org

2020 Harlem International Film Festival official selections
Opening Night Selection
THE SUBJECT Manhattan Premiere
Director: Lanie Zipoy
Country: US, Running Time: 119 min
Phil Waterhouse is a successful white documentary filmmaker with a thriving career, brilliant girlfriend, and lovely suburban home. His last film was a rousing critical and commercial hit. But during its making the film’s subject – baby-faced Harlem teenager Malcolm –  was murdered, an act Phil caught on tape. Haunted by Malcolm’s death, journalists who once lauded him, hound him about his responsibility in the death.  Now, someone stalks Phil, recording his every move. The film stars Jason Biggs, Emmy nominee Aunjanue Ellis and Anabelle Acosta.

Friday Night Spotlight
LET THE PEOPLE DECIDE Upper Manhattan Premiere
Director: Gavin Guerra
Country: US, Running Time: 108 min
Since the founding of this country, who gets to vote has been a contested issue. LET THE PEOPLE DECIDE connects the dots across generations to illustrate how events from over 50 years ago are still reverberating in today’s heated political climate. The narrative follows a Then and Now timeline that shares first person accounts from participants in the Civil Rights Movement as well as meeting present day activists that are fighting to preserve the gains of the past and forge a new path forward. The film will also explore the political fallout following the Voting Rights Act, and how the states came to realign politically and race continued to be a common theme in manipulating and exploiting the motivations of politicians as well as those of the electorate.

Centerpiece Selection
THIN SKIN                                                                              East Coast Premiere
Director: Charles Mudede
Country: US, Running Time: 91 min
THIN SKIN is a film adaptation of Olou’s Off-Broadway hit musical play Now I’m Fine, about a harrowing period in the comedian and musician’s real life. A fever dream of recollections of Oluo ’s experiences escaping a go-nowhere office life dominated by a proselytizing boss, a broken marriage and a wacky mother, and all of it falling under the aching shadow of his missing father who one day took leave to Nigeria and never returned. And just as Oluo seems to be turning it all around, with his two young daughters in tow, he is struck by an illness that literally causes his skin to dissolve. It’s challenge enough to hold your family together and keep a grip on everything without literally having your body fall apart at the same time. 

Closing Night Selection
ISLAND OF BASEBALL World Premiere
Director: Craig Davidson
Countries: US/Cuba, Running Time: 66 min
ISLAND OF BASEBALL tells the almost forgotten story of how some of the greatest black U.S. ballplayers of all time became legends in Cuba playing integrated baseball before Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier in the U.S.

NARRATIVE FEATURES

#LIKE Manhattan Premiere
Director: Sarah Pirozek
Country: US, Running Time: 93 min
On the first anniversary of her younger sister’s death, Woodstock teen, Rosie, discovers the mysterious man who sexploited and bullied her sister to commit suicide back on-line trolling for new victims. After the authorities refuse to get involved, she finds a darker side she never knew she had, as she takes justice into her own hands.

BEFORE THE FIRE New York Premiere
Director: Charlie Buhler
Country: US, Running Time: 94 min
This pandemic thriller follows a Hollywood actress whose rising career is cut short when an influenza pandemic sends her back to the small town she fled years before. But she soon finds something more dangerous than any virus waiting for her.

BLACK EMPEROR OF BROADWAY New York Premiere
Director: Arthur Egeli
Country: US, Running Time: 95 min
In 1921, Eugene O’Neill rejects the use of blackface and casts African American actor Charles Gilpin in the lead of his groundbreaking play “Emperor Jones”. But when both men become famous and Gilpin wants more input into his role, O’Neill refuses to compromise on the use of one important word.

THE BLACKOUT East Coast Premiere
Director: Daniela De Carlo
Country: US, Running Time: 78 min
It’s almost Halloween and the airways buzz with worries about Hurricane Sandy, a storm headed up the coast and straight for New York City. Assuming this will be another false alarm like Irene, New Yorker’s go about their lives, including three roommates throwing a hybrid Halloween and Sandy party. As their smart phones die and candles are lit, party-goers connect and reveal themselves below the social (media) mask. The party grows and ebbs with the storm, until it finally seems like the worst of it has passed, and the promise of light after darkness has never been so true in THE BLACKOUT.

BULLET TRIP                                                                         East Coast Premiere
Director: Nozomu Kasagi
Country: Japan, Running Time: 83 min
Former top Shinjuku host, Noboru and his hostess lover Noriko rush 800km nonstop to the port town Mihonoseki. The trip, called a “surprise bullet trip” has a purpose known only to Noburu. Unfortunately, the day is December 3rd and the town has rituals in existence for 200O years, so their unexpected trio will now go in even more unexpected directions.

CABARETE                                                                            East Coast Premiere          
Director: Ivan Bordas
Country: Dominican Republic, Running Time: 112 min
Inspired by true events, CABARETE follows the story of Somalia, a good-hearted teenage kite surfer from the Dominican Republic who convinces his idol to train him for an upcoming tournament in Cabarete. However, once there, the town’s hedonistic nightlife quickly catches Somalia’s attention, and he finds himself having to choose between a life of pleasure and pursuing the athlete ambitions he once had.

GOTTA GET DOWN TO IT East Coast Premiere
Director:  Jonathan Tazewell      
Country: US, Running Time: 84 min
This drama is about Valerie Martin, a young professor of African-American descent, who teaches at Sedalia College, a small Midwestern liberal arts school. When the college’s invitation to a controversial speaker threatens to divide the campus, Val is pressured into introducing him and serving as the public face of the event. Val is pitted against her student, Trey Martin, who becomes the voice of the campus in objection to the speaker. When Val discovers that trying to keep everyone happy may cost her more than she is willing to lose, she chooses a side.

HAINGOSOA New York Premiere
Director: Edouard Joubeaud
Country: Madagascar, Running Time: 72 min
Haingo, a young female dancer from Southern Madagascar, is determined to raise her daughter with dignity. She tries her luck by joining a dance company in Tana, the capital city located at the other end of the country, a whole new world for her.

ISKA North American Premiere
Director: Theodore Boborol
Country: Philippines, Running Time: 100 min
Iska’s world is confined within the state university where she lives in a shanty and works multiple jobs. She’s been married for 30 years to an alcoholic womanizer. And now her only daughter has left to her care her 10-year old grandson with autism. Despite dealing with life’s curveballs one after the other, Iska never loses her tenacity and will to survive.

OMAR AND US New York Premiere
Directors: Maryna Er Gorbach, Mehmet Bahadir Er
Country: Turkey, Running Time: 104 min
Ismet is a recently retired Turkish soldier whose last post was as a Commander of the Coast Guard at the Turkish maritime border. New to civilian life, he struggles to communicate with his family and the people around him. His only son abandoned him and left for the U.S., and now his wife wants to join her son, too. In an unexpected turn of events, he suddenly becomes neighbors with two refugees, Omar and Mariye. Through this encounter and firsthand experience of what refugees have to go through, he is finally able to face his prejudices and reexamine his worldview.

SEVEN SHORT FILMS ABOUT (OUR) MARRIAGE New York Premiere
Director: Chris Hansen
Country: US, Running Time: 99 min
A tempestuous romantic drama in seven vignettes that chronicles an interracial marriage, telling a story of turmoil and tenderness as two people try to make their relationship last as they reckon with racism, career challenges, medical issues, and more.

WAITING World Premiere
Director: Sakina Samo
Country: Pakistan, Running Time: 95 min
A family waits. A father waiting for his family to leave him, a mother waiting for her son to come home and a daughter taking care of her ageing parents, waiting for them to pass on. The loneliness, the indifference of children and the fear of death, ever approaching. However, under this gloom, they find reasons to live. A love renewed, a chance to fix old mistakes for the father, the opportunity of a new life for the daughter. Even amongst the despairing, hopeless lives they as a family lead, even amongst the sudden death in the family that would happen to them, they find reasons to celebrate life, to live on. To continue waiting for what’s yet to come.

ZULU WEDDING New York Premiere
Director: Lineo Sekeleoane
Country: South Africa, Running Time:123 min
Lu left South Africa and her Zulu-Sotho heritage behind to become a dancer in America, and when she falls in love with Tex, she knows he’s the man to marry. But when she brings Tex home to meet her family, she discovers she’s been promised since birth to a Zulu king. Caught between two men, two families, and two countries, she has to come to terms with who she is so she can fight for what she wants.

DOCUMENTARY FEATURES
BAMBOO AND BARBED WIRE                                           New York Premiere
Director: Karen Day
Country: US, Running Time: 85 min
At age 15, Lubna Al Aboud immigrated to the US as Syria crumbled in civil war. Her family settled in Boise, Idaho the year President Trump ordered the Muslim Travel Ban and Japanese American citizens commemorated the 75th anniversary of Executive Order 9066, incarcerating 120,000 Japanese American citizens after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Lubna and former incarcerees of the Idaho concentration camp prove the human spirit prevails against racism with resilience, forgiveness and determination even in America’s darkest times. Interviewees include George Takei and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

EL SUSTO (THE SHOCK)                                                     New York Premiere
Director: Karen Akins
Country: Mexico/US, Running Time: 76 min
Mexico’s Number One Killer is not cartels. It’s Type 2 Diabetes. How courageous public health activists in Mexico stirred a giant, the powerful beverage industry (aka “Big Soda”) when they took action to curb sugary drink consumption, with sobering and inspiring lessons for the rest of the world.

ERASING FAMILY Harlem Premiere
Director: Ginger Gentile
Country: Canada, US, Running Time: 93 min
The documentary follows young adults fighting to reunite with their broken families. Part emotional roller coaster, part investigative exposé, we follow the money to exposé why loving moms and dads are erased from their kid’s lives by divorce courts. A wide range of families are covered including the murder of Walter Scott by a police officer.

FOR FEAR OF KOFI East Coast Premiere
Director: Marina Petrovskaia
Countries: US/Ghana, Running Time: 78 min
FOR FEAR OF KOFI investigates the circumstances of a police shooting that took place inside a University of Florida graduate housing complex on March 2, 2010. University police responded to a 911 call from a graduate student who was concerned about her neighbor, Kofi, a fellow PhD student from Ghana. According to her report, Kofi was having a mental breakdown and she could hear him yelling. Ninety minutes later, police forced their way into his apartment and shot him repeatedly, nearly killing him. The university tried to contain the story using non-disclosure agreements and financial settlements. However, not everyone agreed to remain silent. Those involved in the shooting, including the commanding police officer, recount their roles. The film invites the viewer to examine how this shooting could have been avoided.

HIGHER LOVE                                                                       Manhattan Premiere
Director: Hasan Oswald
Country: US, Running Time: 80 min
Daryl Gant is a Camden father of eight. His girlfriend, Nani, is the love of his life, but struggles to cope with a crippling addiction and the nefarious lifestyle to support it. More troubling is that Nani is pregnant with their new baby boy, Darnez. It becomes Daryl’s new-found purpose to forge a better future for the both of them. Nani’s drug dealer, Iman, was once a drug dealing kingpin in Camden in the 1990’s. He was also a father and factory man, until he caught a dealer’s habit selling dope. He embodies the spirit of many disaffected residents of Camden, taking the viewer on a tour of post-industrial American decay. His own quest to sobriety will eventually force the hand of Nani to make a change, as they forge parallel paths to recovery.

HOPE VILLAGE                                                                     New York Premiere                 
Director: Ri-Karlo Handy
Country: US, Running Time: 71 min
In the documentary, Lucy Hall, the founder of one of the nation’s most successful women’s treatment facilities, shares her story of generational addiction to help Georgia families. Mary Hall’s death launches her daughter Lucy into a journey of self-discovery. Lucy drops to the depths of self-destruction with drugs and alcohol only to rise from the ashes and use what she learned to help other women in their own recovery.

IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF MAD DOG COLL World Premiere
Director: Rich Gold
Country: US, Running Time: 59 min
In 1931 Vincent Mad Dog Coll turned the streets of New York City into a shooting gallery. Immigrating from Ireland as an infant, Coll grew up in the Bronx into a life of crime. The film documents this cold-blooded killer from his rise to becoming the Most Wanted criminal in the country to his tragic ending.

MOSUL World Premiere
Director: Daniel Gabriel
Country: Iraq, Running Time: 86 min
MOSUL​ is built around several characters from contrasting backgrounds and ideologies who we come to know over a period of time (Oct 2016-July 2017), as they play their respective roles in the battle to reclaim the Iraqi city of Mosul from the Islamic State (ISIS). The story is told as a journey into the heart of darkness, through the eyes of a small band of Iraqi filmmakers who navigate up the Tigris River, from Baghdad to Mosul, and ultimately come face to face with evil itself.

OPEKA Manhattan Premiere
Director: Cam Cowan
Country: Madagascar/US, Running Time: 89 min
An iron-willed Argentine priest inspires hope for an entire nation by teaching people living in Madagascar’s largest landfill to build a highly functional city in the capital of their failing African country.

THE PATTERSON: ANOTHER BRONX TALE World Premiere
Director: Bahati Best
Country: US, Running Time: 86 min
In the 1940’s and 50’s, all races lived and learned together in harmony in the Patterson projects. In 2018, it was the sight of the biggest gang takedown in the history of the Bronx. The people who lived it tell the story of what has happened in one project over seven decades, mirroring the stories in all 341 NYCHA housing projects throughout New York City, not unlike housing developments throughout the nation. “Lack of funding, neglect, drugs, despair all stem from the inequity of resources in this society.” Many great people have come out of the Patterson including NBA legend Nate ‘Tiny’ Archibald.

THE PRISON WITHIN New York Premiere
Director: Katherin Hervey
Country: US, Running Time: 86 min
Prisoners incarcerated for murder transcend the barriers of the punitive prison system by working with victims of violent crime to unearth the root cause of their violence. Each character undergoes a radical transformation, revealing how every human being, on both sides of the wall, can break free from their own personal prisons to stop the cycle of violence.

REVIVAL Upper Manhattan Premiere
Director: Josefina Rotman Lyons
Country: US, Running Time: 65 min
In the spring of 2017, four older choreographers, once seminal participants in the modern dance world and Broadway, started the monumental task of creating dances with a diverse group of New York seniors, most of whom had never danced on stage before. Over a few intense months, these choreographers, including the first black artist to have won a Tony award for choreography and a 92-year old former dance partner of pioneer Martha Graham, brought to life their ideas and sparked delight in the senior dancers.

THE RIGHT GIRLS Harlem Premiere
Director: Timothy Wolfer
Countries: Mexico/US, Running Time: 85 min
On a quest to find acceptance and happiness, three young, transgender women – Valentyna, Joanne, and Chantal – meet at the southern tip of Mexico and decide to join the migrant caravan and embark on a 2400-mile journey to the US border together. Fleeing extortion, discrimination, and abusive relationships in their home countries, the women endure hardship after hardship as they slowly make their way to the US – never losing sight of their dream of acceptance and opportunity.

SONGS THAT NEVER END East Coast Premiere
Director: Yehuda Sharim
Country: US, Running Time: 114 min
Having fled their home in Iran, the Dayan family is greeted in Houston with hurricanes and perilous politics. Nine-year-old Hana is bold and brilliant and struggles to be heard while her family comes to grips with life in the sprawling Texan metropolis, constantly reaching out to all that is gone but is still here: a hunger for the future, and songs about a kind world.

THUMBS UP FOR MOTHER UNIVERSE       New York Premiere
Director: George King
Country: US, Running Time: 85 min
This feature-length television documentary traces the dramatic life of Lonnie Holley from the basest poverty and education to his becoming a revered visual artist and musician. The film reveals Holley’s creative process—his insights into conservation, ecology and the environment, and his sources of deep inspiration rooted in southern life and African American history and culture.

SHORT FILMS
Harlem, Upper Manhattan & The Bronx (HUB)
Films produced in, about or by residents of the uptown neighborhoods

COLORS                                   
Director: Christopher Seda
Country: US, Running Time: 17 min
A troubled girl’s psychedelic high takes you through the social issues and injustices of residents who live in the Harlem Housing Projects. A tired mother, distant brothers and a desperate father all have different battles with drug abuse, law enforcement, gun violence but all face a similar fate.

FREDERICK DOUGLASS BOULEVARD AKA FOOD       Harlem Premiere
& DRINK BOULEVARD AKA FDB
Director: Washington Kirk
Country: US, Running Time: 15 min
Malcolm Jamal Turner, a struggling music-writer-cum-attorney living in Harlem, concocts a ludicrous scheme to de-gentrify the neighborhood.

HOLD FAST TO DREAMS: GOODNIGHT, HARLEM World Premiere
Director: Kenneth Sousie
Country: US, Running Time: 15 min
Operating in the home of Langston Hughes, one of the most important figures of The Harlem Renaissance, the I, Too Arts Collective served as a home for underrepresented writers, poets and musicians. After losing their lease, they gathered to give a bittersweet goodbye to their space and to pay homage to Langston’s memory.

I HATE THIS FKN’ JOB Harlem Premiere
Director: Monique Lola Berkley
Country: US, Running Time: 17 min
Young, driven, and professional, Naima Ali is seeking the opportunity to make her mark as a substantial employee with Winning Magazine. As the only woman of color in her office Naima is met with much difficulty and challenges.

IN THE FACE OF WHAT WE REMEMBER:
ORAL HISTORIES OF 409 AND 555 EDGECOMBE AVENUE                                      
Director: Karen D. Taylor 
Country: US, Running Time: 45 min
The definitive documentary of two buildings on Harlem’s Sugar Hill that were home to many influential individuals such as W.E.B. Du Bois, James Weldon Johnson, Thurgood Marshall, Louise Thompson-Patterson, Elizabeth Catlett, Joe Louis, Paul Robeson, and Cassandra Wilson, as well as many, many others.

RAISING NIA New York Premiere
Director: Kevin Starks
Country: US, Running Time: 17 min
In Harlem, New York, Angelo is an ex-stick up kid that turned his life around after the birth of his daughter, Nia. But due to the loss of his construction job, Angelo is forced to make a decision that could affect the lives of him and his daughter forever.

REST OF US
Director: Jaylin T. Pressley
Country: US, Running Time: 14 min
A teenage boy seeks a day to escape from his reality, which proves harder than he thought.

STEVEUpper Manhattan Premiere
Director: Jason Hightower
Country: US, Running Time: 18 min
If grinding in the bustling streets of NYC isn’t enough for a Broadway actress, an uninvited ‘guest’ in her apartment might be just the thing to put her over the edge.

SUNDAYS AT THE TRIPLE NICKEL                       
Director: Jessica Colquhoun 
Country: US, Running Time: 13 min
On Edgecombe Avenue in Sugar Hill, Harlem, Marjorie Eliot is making sure her apartment building’s iconic jazz legacy lives on. Marjorie and her son have been hosting jazz concerts in her apartment every Sunday for the past 26 years, in pursuit of overcoming grief through music. This film tells the story of the women behind the piano, and how Marjorie’s generous vision came to be and the life it has taken on since, as she leaves behind her own legacy.

Narrative Shorts

CUANDO LA RUMOROSA CALLA Harlem Premiere
(WHEN LA RUMOROSA QUIETS)   
Director: Patricia Montoya
Country: Mexico, Running Time: 16 min
Lucia Octavio is forced to confront, with outspoken determination, aggressors who threaten her at the end of an all-night bus ride along a rocky border highway. Through a fusion of genres, the short is a stirring and tense meditation on the retributions women face when they experience sexual violence and dare to speak out about it.

FINDING ELIJAH       
Director: Yolonda Johnson-Young
Country: US, Running Time: 25 min
Told from a mother’s perspective, Finding Elijah follows a young man’s journey from home, into mental illness, to homelessness, and ultimately to suicide. See how a mother’s search for answers leads her to action.

FREE Harlem Premiere
Director: Ben Hartley
Country: US, Running Time: 12 min
Inspired by true events, a young Frederick Douglass is secretly taught to read and write by the wife of his so-called “master.”  Using only the air as their blackboard, this random act of kindness provided an education that paved the way from slavery to freedom.

THE FUCKS OF LIFE New York Premiere
Director: Jack Ireland
Country: US, Running Time: 5 min
One man’s journey through life using just that one infamous four-letter word.

HENET WARD                                                                       New York Premiere
Director: Morad Mostafa 
Country: Egypt, Running Time: 23 min
Halima, a Sudanese henna painter goes to the home of Basma, a young Egyptian bride, to prepare her for her wedding: under the eyes of her daughter Ward, the encounter between the two women grows from complicity to suddenly unveiled tensions.

LP (LOSS & PREVENTION)      
Director: Alexander Etseyatse
Country: US, Running Time: 12 min
A loss and prevention officer has a sense of real regret after facing a moral decision.

LITTLE BROTHER New York Premiere
Director: Dikega Hadnot
Country: US, Running Time: 14 min
Keith, a white elementary school teacher, journeys to South Los Angeles to investigate the home life of his gifted student Lamont. When he meets the boy’s grandmother, they begin a polite dialogue about Lamont’s frequent absences from school, but the conversation grows increasingly hostile.

LOOK AT LUCAS Upper Manhattan Premiere
Director: Agustin McCarthy
Country: US, Running Time: 10 min
A young boy wants to play with his mom at the beach, but first he has to get her off her phone.

NUMBER 10                         New York Premiere
Director: Florence Bamba 
Country: France, Running Time: 14 min
Awa is a young French girl originally from Senegal. She’s a law student who practices soccer regularly with her neighborhood friends, but her passion gets her in hot water.

PARENTHOOD New York Premiere
Director: Mariah Marasco
Country: US, Running Time: 6 min
PARENTHOOD tells the story of two young parents separated unexpectedly by distance and the challenges they face while trying to give their child a 1st birthday party to remember. This light-hearted comedy takes us away from the negativity surrounding 2020 and into the quirky world of Chelsea, Brandon, and their son Charlie.

SIGNS New York Premiere
Director: Jason Satterlund
Country: US, Running Time: 15 min
Two disillusioned sign spinners find love and friendship on the streets of West Los Angeles.

THOUSAND LIGHTS OF SUN                                             Harlem Premiere                                        
Director: Mike L. Brown
Country: US, Running Time: 15 min
Feet on the ground and head in the sky, a young father struggles to provide for his family. However, on the night of his son’s 10th birthday, Jeremy’s attempts land him in a predicament that will change him forever.

UNGUBANI (WHO ARE YOU?)                                           New York Premiere
Director: Booker T. Mattison
Country: US, Running Time: 16 min
The story of a young black man who puts himself at risk to save a young white woman in distress. A powerful tale of identity, perception, and race with a literary leitmotif.

W New York Premiere
Director: Stelios Koupetoria
Country:  Greece, Running Time: 6 min
A teacher is set to do his daily routine classroom at the school where he teaches, during a particularly difficult day.


Documentary Shorts

1000 SONGS World Premiere
Director: Marin Sander Holzman
Country: US, Running Time: 10 min
83-year-old journey-man musician and R&B singer Ricky Rose of Brooklyn, New York has been playing music for 70 years and despite “never making it to the big time” his passion for playing live has never dimmed.

ACTIVIZED                                                                             New York Premiere        
Director: Eric Stange 
Country: US, Running Time: 36 min
ACTIVIZED profiles a handful of ordinary Americans who — for the first time in their lives — have left their comfort zones and thrown themselves into a political cause. We follow their motivations, their goals, successes and failures, and how and why such activists are the embodiment of positive citizen participation in the best American tradition.

CHASING ECHOESEast Coast Premiere
Director: Jason Hanna
Country: US, Running Time: 25 min
Born and raised in the melting pot of all melting pots, New York City, an African-American filmmaker tries to understand exactly why a Black person, nearly a thousand miles south would raise the Confederate Flag instead of tearing it down.

FIRST CHANCESNew York Premiere
Director: Alex Luchsinger
Country: US, Running Time: 25 min
This is the story of Timothy Jackson, a man from Oceanside, CA who never had a first chance in life and ended up serving a long-term prison sentence after coming of age as a gang member. Jackson participated in an entrepreneurship program in prison, sparking change in his life and ultimately leading him on a path of success, love, and new meaning.

FROM BEACON TO THE BORDER                                    Upper Manhattan Premiere
Director: Andrea Garbarini
Country: US, Running Time: 29 min
This film documents a national movement started by a group mostly made up of Grandmothers who journeyed to McAllen, Texas in protest of Trump’s policy of separating migrant children from their parents.

HBCU STORYTELLERS: CONFEDERATE MONUMENTS            New York Premiere
-HERITAGE OR HATRED?
Directors: Chadwick Gobar, Brian Favors, James Hadgis
Country: US, Running Time: 22 min
HBCU Storytellers confront Confederate Monuments in Virginia, exploring whether these monuments are heritage or hatred. HBCU Storytellers is a project aimed at training historically black college and university (HBCU) students in documentary film production.

RECLAMATION: THE RISE AT STANDING ROCK  Manhattan Premiere
Director: Michele Noble 
Country: US, Running Time: 23 min
In 2016 from the summer through the harsh winter at Standing Rock, North Dakota, the youth of many tribes unite the Native Nations for the first time in 150 years and rise up in spiritual solidarity to non-violently fight for Unci Maka (Mother Earth) against the 3.8 billion dollar Dakota Access Oil Pipeline (DAPL). These young Native leaders known as water protectors join together to honor their destiny as they pray and protect Mother Earth by leading a peaceful movement of resistance, which awakens the world.

THREE LESSONS (HOW TO SHOOT A GUN) World Premiere
Director: Stephen Sewell (in collaboration with Youree Choi)
Country: US, Running Time: 36 min
An essay film that examines the reproduction and naturalization of gun culture while deconstructing the notion of gun culture as monolith. It follows a young woman as she travels across the United States to learn how to operate a firearm from three men of different backgrounds and ideological points of view. Incorporating instructional, interview and found footage the film presents a complex consideration of the multiple attitudes and approaches toward gun ownership in America.

TRUE SEE                                                                             Harlem Premiere
Directors: Jamal Joseph, Mike De Caro
Country: US, Running Time: 15 min
The inspiring story of True-See Allah, born as Troy Christopher Watson. In the 80s, during the crack epidemic, Troy was a member of the dangerous Castlegate Road gang in the notorious neighborhood of Roxbury, Boston. He liked the flashy street life, but soon he understood that crime doesn’t pay. Troy ended up incarcerated at nineteen years old. Facing a long sentence, he decided to turn his life around. He joined Islam, changed his name from Troy to True-See, went back to school and completed his studies with a college degree in Liberal Arts and Social Work. Once he left his prison cell, he promised himself to never look back.

WAITING PATIENT US Premiere
Director: Kelly Amis
Country:  Haiti, US, Running Time: 6 min
A hospital in rural Haiti shows that access to top-quality surgical care can be provided in the most remote corners of the planet, leading the way to the next frontier of global health equity.


Animation

GHOSTS OF LOVE World Premiere
Director: Lisa Thomas
Country: US, Running Time: 5 min
GHOSTS OF LOVE is an animated short to commemorate some of the first lives lost to the novel coronavirus.

THE JOURNEY OF SOUBA Harlem Premiere
Director: Bakary Diarrasouba
Country: US/Côte d’Ivoire, Running Time: 5 min
The film focuses on Bakary’s beloved grandfather, a master storyteller in the city of Abidjan whose sudden illness stripped him of his ability to orate, prompting Bakary to find his own storytelling voice. This spark has since become a flame.

MALAKOUT
Director: Farnoosh Abedi
Country: Iran, Running Time: 10 min
Music was his passion. Love was his masterpiece…

MONSTERS IN THE DARK
Director: Apollonia Thomaier
Country: US, Running Time: 6 min
A 3D/2D animated short film about a young boy haunted by his abused past, who fears the love of his new family. He runs away into a dark forest where he meets a monster that will change his life forever.

RUN LITTLE BOYHarlem Premiere
Director: Dominick A. Bedasse
Country: US, Running Time: 4 min
A 2D animated short film following a young boy who must survive a nightmarish world systematically designed to kill him. As elements threaten the boy’s life, he quickly learns that he must be courageous in order to survive. The film references current social issues in America relating to police brutality and judicial misconduct. This film explores human responses to being mistreated and the distinctions between victim and aggressor.

Experimental

BUBBLE                                  
Director: Haonan Wang
Country: China, Running Time: 14 min
This is an urban tale of love and sacrifice set in a mysterious restaurant hidden in an alleyway. On an ordinary night, a man eats a lot of herbal plants in front of a woman, transforming himself into the woman’s food.

TWISTED GIFTEast Coast Premiere
Directors: Melissa Michaels, Henna T aylor
Country: US, Running Time: 11 min
Melissa Michaels dances through her healing journey from late stage ovarian cancer to no evidence of disease. Weaving together images from her surgery, chemotherapy, and unique creative process, her story of liberation is transparently shared. Vulnerable, raw, and inspiring, a picture of what is possible when movement becomes medicine and faith becomes the focus.

UMBRELLA DANCE FOR HONG KONG
Director: Wong King Fai,
Country: Hong Kong, Running Time: 15 min
Hong Kong’s modern dance master Mui Cheuk-yin’s Umbrella Dance (1995) through today’s lens. Produced in the colonial days, what new meanings can the Umbrella Dance create?

WAVE FORMNorth American Premiere
Director: Tiz
Country:  Canada, Running Time: 8 min
WAVE FORM explores movie making, viewing and sharing as a means of confronting the experience of mental illness. It illuminates the sustaining, transformative powers of film by transforming a variety of “waves” from cinematic history—ocean waves, waving hands, waves of soldiers—through the luma waveform scope, a technical feature of movie editing software. These transformations combine with the narrator’s lyrical meditation to make WAVE FORM a testament to the curative power of film, and creativity itself.

Music Videos

JUST US
Directors: Thomas Jarrett, J. C. Hall
Countries: US/UK, Running Time: 6 min
A true story of two brothers struggling to overcome mental health issues, from childhood through adulthood, with their mother serving as a saving grace throughout.

LEVEL UP           
Director: Benini Stephane
Country: France, Running Time: 12 min
Stephane follows Litefeet dancers from New York to Tokyo and Paris from 2015 to 2019, trying to catch the mood of that dance community who have created a vibrant, positive and evolving world around impossibly wavy moves.

LIFT EVERY VOICE AND SING 2020
Director: CB Murray
Country: US, Running Time: 5 min
An updated version of the Black National Anthem featuring Broadway stars Kecia Lewis, Jennie Harney-Fleming and DeWitt Fleming.

ON MY MIND East Coast Premiere
Directors: Petra Richterová, Jennifer Galvin
Country: US, Running Time: 7 min
An abstract, Afro-cosmic film, aesthetically and symbolically grounded in African culture and New York history. Based on vanguard saxophonist and composer Marcus Strickland’s latest track “On My Mind remix,” urbanscapes and spiritual objects bring these artists into a rare, contemporary dialogue, reflecting the song’s timeless contemplation and resounding with mystical reverberation. Featuring Marcus Strickland, Bilal, Pharoahe Monch, Greg Tate, Ben Williams, EJ Strickland and Storyboard P.

TROUBLE IN MY MINDNew York Premiere
Director: Allison Flom
Country: US, Running Time: 4 min
Official Music Video for Hero the Band’s latest single. Hero the Band is an Atlanta-based rock alternative group comprised of 4 biological brothers. They are signed to Lava Records/Universal Music Group and are committed to spreading a positive message through their music and story.

Virtual Reality (Harlem 360)

A FIRE AT CHERNOBYLUS Premiere
Director: Ash Khatibi
Countries: Denmark/Ukraine, Running Time: 14 min
Irina, Yuri, and their daughter are a family hoping for a stable life in Pripyat, but when a fire breaks out at the nuclear power plant and Yuri is called in to fulfill his firefighter duties, the life of the family is turned upside down.

RECONSTRUCT: FIVE CONFEDERATES AND A TENNIS PLAYER      
Director: Chuck Cummings
Country: US, Running Time: 12 min
Confederate statues share a street with tennis great Arthur Ashe, on Richmond, Virginia’s Monument Avenue – and are finally coming down, as the country struggles to come to grips with its racist origins.

Webisodes

BEFORE WE WRAP                                  
Director: Elizabeth Charles
Country: US, Running Time: 23 min
A late-night talk series with focused discourse on race, gender and culture, in the vibe of 90s nighttime urban radio. It also features Neosoul and RnB musical guests.

BONG ZOMBIES                                           
Director: Mick Napier
Country: US, Running Time: 40 min
A 5-part streaming series. Ringo and Stash are two freegan artisanal paraphernalia crafters. When they obtain a cursed evil relic, they unwittingly create a series of bongs that turn the smokers into flesh-eating zombies. Upon learning this, they are in a race against time to track down the zombies and turn them back to human before they wreak havoc on the city. They do all of this while catching up on their favorite 80’s action TV show “Johnny Patel: Private Eye”. Presented by Fox on a Hill Productions in association with The Annoyance Theatre in Chicago.

THE CLOSET B.I.T.C.H. Upper Manhattan Premiere
Director: William Alexander Runnels
Country: US, Running Time: 20 min
The Closet B.I.T.C.H is a one-woman show and coming of age story about Shana, a girl from the South Bronx who just can’t say ‘NO’ to the people she loves while trying to outgrow the hood she came from, even if it’s just an act.

DIFFERENCES Harlem Premiere
Director: Antjuan Ward
Country: US, Running Time: 20 min
Derrick Peters and his friends struggle to tackle various issues within themselves, those around them, and who they choose to be with. Through it, their dating partners expose their flaws for them to see the errors of their ways.

DOMINICANYORK    Upper Manhattan Premiere
Director: Michelle Ramirez
Country: US, Running Time: 10 min
Mia has returned to the neighborhood after being away at college. As she attempts to reconstruct her life back home in Washington Heights, she is forced to deal with challenges she wasn’t prepared for.

EXTRA ROOM                                                                       New York Premiere
Director: Gabriel Shanks 
Country: US, Running Time: 26 min
Two queer roommates — an aspiring novelist and an immigrant photographer — struggle to keep their sweet but cozy Inwood apartment. When the landlord doubles the rent, however, there’s only one thing to do: turn the couch into a bed, advertise for a third roommate, and squeeze the square footage to fit everyone! But who will join the increasingly-crowded abode? The genderfluid chef? The newly-divorced, just-out dad? The nonbinary kid from Kansas? Or…the sexiest guy on the block? Extra Room is a six-episode comedy series exploring an uncommonly diverse group of strangers as they become a family, staying one step ahead of the gig economy with charm, hustle, sex, and love.

LEA THE LATE BLOOMER                 
Directors: Kadia Blagrove, Remy Fink
Country: US, Running Time: 9 min
After a failed attempt at “making it” in LA, a 28-year-old underachieving filmmaker returns to The Bronx to live with her parents, and is forced to face her old demons and self-sabotaging behavior. In this episode, Lea attends a “Black Girl Magic” brunch — only problem is, she ain’t that magical.

ONE CUCKOO New York Premiere
Director: Jess Coles
Country: US, Running Time: 9 min
One Cuckoo is a web series pilot which introduces us to Alix, a fiercely opinionated yet sensitive African-American artist, who attempts to navigate life in New York while engaged in active battle with a trio of bickering inner voices whose antics drive her to search inward after a series of failed friendships leave her alone and confused in the big city.

SO BRIGHT     
Director: Kok Man Hon
Country: Singapore, Malaysia, Running Time: 30 min
An aspiring musician juggles relationships and career as he navigates obstacles on his journey to success.

Youth Film

DIAMOND GAME Manhattan Premiere
Director: Nolan Hieu Trifunovic
Country: US, Running Time: 10 min
Three high school teens have gathered to write a script about a 70s cop show but the fictional characters they have created live in a digital world that requires them to act out the story. As the script takes an unexpected turn, one of the fictional characters begins to question his masters.

GENERATION LOCKDOWN East Coast Premiere
Director: Sirad Balducci
Country: US, Running Time: 17 min
GENERATION LOCKDOWN is a narrative short seen through the eyes of an eleven-year-old boy as he tries to save his friend’s life during an active shooter attack in his school. This film is based on a short story by Caleb, a 6th grader from a middle school in Teaneck, NJ. This film examines the PTSD of repeated lockdown drills and the fallout from our country’s gun epidemic.

SWEATBOX   
Director: Nate O’Mahoney                 
Country: US, Running Time: 11 min
Two children are trapped inside during a lethal heatwave when a criminal arrives, begging for shelter.

TRASH
Director: Dusan Brown          
Country: US, Running Time: 8 min
When a girl finds out the truth about her background, she goes on a search to discover the essence of her being.

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