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The 16th annual festival, formerly known as Cine Noir, screens more than 70 films March 21-24 at three Wilmington venues.
Last fall, the North Carolina Black Film Festival became one of Wilmington’s many cultural casualties of Hurricane Florence.
As with many other impacted events, however, festival organizers postponed instead of canceled. From March 21-24, the 16th annual N.C. Black Festival will be back and bigger than ever, screening more than six dozen films over four days at a trio of venues.
The festival has added a few a films that weren’t initially on the schedule, said festival director Charlon Turner, including Ricky Kelly’s feature documentary “Black Beach/White Beach,” which plays 3:45 p.m. Saturday at CFCC Union Station. It screened previously at the Cucalorus Festival and centers on the racial conflict at two Myrtle Beach bike weeks and how law enforcement seems to target African-American bikers.
“It has been challenging,” Turner said, speaking of the festival’s six-month delay. “A lot of things were set,” however, and most of the films are the same, though some have been moved around on the schedule. “Back Burner Dreams,” a short doc from Brenda Hayes about three black women who put their dreams on hold for various reasons, was going to be a premiere. Now it will screen 2 p.m. Saturday, March 23, at CFCC Union Station with a post-screening workshop and panel.
Also returning is the documentary “Black N Black,” directed by Zadi Zokou, which screens 5:40 p.m. March 23 at Union Station. It looks into the relationships between African-Americans and African immigrants to the U.S.
The success of black filmmakers at the Academy Awards last month was heartening, Turner said, and provided some energy to get Black Film Fest organizers to the finish line.
“We saw some great things at the Oscars,” Turner said, adding that she was glad to see Regina King and Spike Lee win awards. “It was long overdue.”
All of the films in the N.C. Black Film Festival either have an African-American director, Turner said, or a black filmmaker in a leadership position, like producer.
“It’s so important that we tell our stories from our perspective,” Turner said. “The stories are different when they are about you and when they come from you.”
The films are a mix. Some are student shorts. “For many (filmmakers) this year is their first film festival,” Brandon Hickman, lead programmer, said in a news release.
Others have played numerous festivals and won awards, like “The Issue of Mr. O’Dell,” which screens 5 p.m. Friday at Jengo’s Playhouse. Director Rami Katz’s short documentary is about Jack O’Dell, now in his 90s, a leader in the civil rights movement whose legacy remains complicated because of his support for the Communist Party in the 1950s.
The festival opens on Thursday evening with a “Cinemixer” and film screening at Union Station on the campus of Cape Fear Community College. Family films will be screened Saturday morning, and the festival will wrap up starting 3 p.m. Sunday with festival awards (categories are documentaries, features, shorts and student films, winners get $500 each) and a “Music in Film” event at Kenan Auditorium on the campus of the University of North Carolina Wilmington with New Hanover High School’s marching band.
At 4:45 p.m. Sunday at Kenan, the festival will screen the documentary “Tell Them We are Rising: The Story of Historically Black Colleges and Universities.” Turner said she’d love to see area graduates of HBCUs at that screening.
Each year, the N.C. Black Film Festival honors a black filmmaker or film professional. Past recipients have included Wilmington native and director Anthony Hemingway (“Red Tails,” TV’s “Treme”) and Oscar nominee Ava DuVernay, director of “Selma,” “A Wrinkle In Time” and the documentary “13th.”
This year’s honoree is Matthew Head, who has composed the scores for various films, including “The Preacher’s Son” and the acclaimed local documentary “Wilmington on Fire,” as well as for the Oprah Winfrey Network show “Greenleaf.” On Sunday during the awards ceremony, Head will receive the Grenoldo Frazier Trailblazer Award in Music Production, named for the late Wilmington musician.
Contact John Staton at 910-343-2343 or John.Staton@StarNewsOnline.com.