Leslie Fields-Cruz
OCTOBER 25, 2022




By Leslie Fields-Cruz

Our Film Festivals Need Us to Show Up

Those of us who have enjoyed frequenting film festivals over the years know that Covid-19 was a seismic event for the festival scene. The pandemic forced most festivals to either cancel seasons altogether, or to modify their programming. In almost all instances, festivals have seen their in-person attendance and their income levels plummet since 2020. But that’s got to change. 

Attending film festivals isn’t just about watching movies. It’s about networking, discovering emerging talent, and observing the impact new technologies are having on our industry. And while virtual festivals are opening up new opportunities, in-person festivals are still vital marketplaces for the film and immersive media industry.

UrbanWorld Film Festival kicks off this Wednesday and runs through Sun., Oct. 30. The festival’s new director, Sharese Bullock-Bailey and new programming director, Karen McMullen, have pulled together an eclectic albeit downsized slate of shorts and features, as well as a 2-day innovation summit. Some of the films on the slate explore the lives of cultural icons such as Louis Armstrong, Willie Mays, and Roy Hargrove. Others illuminate tough social issues such as child abuse, and life inside and after incarceration. Still others, tell inspiring stories about community activists, environmentalists, and even Cuban surfers. This year, the festival offers both in-person and virtual access to its screenings, as well as a variety of nightlife activities. 

If you live in the NYC metro area, I urge you to step out of your comfort zone and check out the festival’s offerings. If you were brave enough, as I was, to watch Gina Price-Blythwood’s Woman King in an actual theater, you’re ready to venture out to UrbanWorld this month and DOC NYC next month (Nov. 9-27). If you live too far to make these festivals in person, I hope you’ll watch some of the offerings online. I also hope you'll attend festivals in your area that feature Black content.

BPM is pleased that one of the films we funded, Silent Beauty, by Jacquie Jones Memorial Scholarship recipient Jasmin Mara Lopez, is competing in the documentary features category. My colleague Carol Bash is leading a Q&A at Urbanworld this Friday with the makers of The Melt Goes on Forever; and I am pitching in by moderating the Future of Short Docs panel this Thursday at the festival’s Innovation Summit. So, if you attend any of these events, please make sure to say hello.  The festival is offering its $250 All Access passes to the BPM community for $195. To redeem this generous discount, select +Cinephile All Access Pass, and enter Promo Code: REMARKABLE at checkout. A 20% off discount is also available to the BPM community for passes to individual screenings. 

Here’s the thing, there are very few festivals that cater so intentionally to diverse audiences and focus on showcasing the work of filmmakers of color. If we want these events to survive and thrive — and we need them to — we’ve got to support them. 

I hope to see you at a festival soon. 

I also hope you will participate in our new audience survey. Your feedback will help us to strengthen our digital distribution work. Thanks, in advance, for your participation.

Black Public Media is supported in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, with further funding from the MacArthur Foundation, the New York State Council on the Arts, and Acton Family Giving.  For more information about underwriting and contributions, please contact Alisa Norris (Alisa@ blackpublicmedia.org). To donate, click here! In addition, you can donate to BPM through your Amazon purchases by going to smile.amazon.com/ch/31-1335950.

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