Don’t call it the Black Sundance.

Though it was dubbed that by Ebony magazine, the BlackStar Film Festival, now in its 11th year, is a cultural institution all its own. Sharing a similar focus on independent cinema with its Park City counterpart, BlackStar — kicking off on Wednesday in Philadelphia with a slate of 77 features and shorts from all over the world — partly distinguishes itself from other festivals with its emphasis on work made exclusively by “Black, brown and Indigenous artists.” But as a regular of the festival, I’ve always been struck by its ambitious bridging of cultural specificity, social justice and the avant-garde, making it an exciting, expansive and revelatory cinematic experience.

Founded by Maori Karmael Holmes in 2012, it was conceived as a one-off event to showcase Black films that hadn’t been screened in the Philadelphia area. “I had just moved back from Los Angeles and felt like there was a gap in Philly for these particular works,” Holmes told me. “And I started collecting films that hadn’t been shown in the area that had been made in 2011 or 2012, and very quickly had a list of 30 films, so I pivoted to making this a film festival.”

Read more at The New York Times

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