Ann Arbor Black Film Festival to debut in June

This story is part of a series about arts and culture in Washtenaw County. It is made possible by the Ann Arbor Art Center, the Ann Arbor Summer Festival, Destination Ann Arbor, Larry and Lucie Nisson, and the University Musical Society.

The inaugural Ann Arbor Black Film Festival will debut on June 1, with films screening at the State Theatre, 233 S. State St. in Ann Arbor, from noon to 9:00 p.m.

Festival Executive Director Chris Anderson says the festival will present audiences with "an Ann Arbor flavor of what it means to be Black and to tell Black stories."

The schedule will include "Class of Her Own," a documentary about a Gainesville, Fla.-based teacher who uses hip-hop and dance to inform her teaching methods; "The Knee Touch," a short romantic comedy; and "Mental," a short drama in which a young man commits to sobriety after his friend’s premature death.

The festival will run alongside the Ann Arbor African American Festival, which takes place June 1 in Ann Arbor's historically Black business district and aims to "help remember the contributions of … black business leaders," according to its website. 

According to Anderson, the film festival’s organizers received 42 submissions, comprising over 1,000 minutes of footage. 

"We’re going to show some quality work, but we’re going to have to say ‘I’m sorry’ to a lot of people, and that’s sad," Anderson says.

Of the 42 submissions, Anderson says four came from Michigan-based filmmakers, including from Detroit and Battle Creek.

"We not only want to support our filmmaking community locally. We also want to have some … fun for our film audience as well," Anderson says.

Films will be eligible for seven different awards, including Audience Select, Best in Show, Best Documentary, and Best Performance.

Awards will be judged by TV producer Carole Gibson, film editor Alex Luna, documentary filmmaker Fred Culpepper, and University of Michigan Department of Afroamerican and African Studies Program Manager Elizabeth James.

Anderson promises more to come from the festival. 

"Next year is going to be [a] much bigger and greater show," he says.

Natalia Holtzman is a freelance writer based in Ann Arbor. Her work has appeared in publications such as the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the Los Angeles Review of Books, Literary Hub, The Millions, and others.

Image courtesy of Ann Arbor Black Film Festival.
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