I’m often asked questions (by black filmmakers especially) about black film festivals, which shouldn’t at all be a surprise given what I do for a living here on S&A; some questions I have immediate answers to; others I don’t and may have to research; or I simply point the inquirer in what I think is the right direction. I certainly don’t know about every single black film festival that there is, what each one stands for (their mission, goals, etc), and the kinds of films they typically accept (some favor indie/underground cinema; others lean towards the mainstream; some are short film festivals; others are features and shorts; others specialize in a single genre of film; some a cater to a specific gender, sexual orientation, and even age; others are specific to the region they are based in; still others are all of the above; and much more).
There are those black film festivals that we all know about – the larger festivals that typically have major media sponsors that afford them the ability to raise appropriate awareness and market themselves well enough; then there are those at the opposite end; and there are also those that are somewhere in the middle.
What I want to do, and really should’ve done a long time ago, is create a database of every single black film festival there is in the entire world (not just in the USA), and classify each one according to key data like what I listed above – mission/goals, mainstream/indie/etc, genre-specific, gender-specific, sexual identity-specific, region-specific, shorts or features or both, size of the festival, curatorial style, whether they attract distributors, etc, etc, etc. Over time, I’ll take my classifications even further by attending as many of these festivals as I can (whether myself, or someone else working with me), to get a general sense of what each is like across all key areas, taking notes in the process, and presenting an unbiased concise report on what we think of each one, based on our experiences – information that may help you, the filmmaker, in deciding on which you think is best for your film; as well as the audience, in deciding which is more your taste and style, and thus which ones you choose to attend.
The long-term goal is to give you more than just a series of boxes to check off, and instead what I’d call a more curated experience.
One thing I know is that there are a lot of film festivals out there – black/African diaspora film festivals; and if the questions I often receive from you all is any indication, there are a lot of you out there who don’t always know what’s best for your film, in terms of festivals to send them to, and how to best navigate the festival circuit. And there are fans of cinema who want to know which festivals they should/should not attend, based on their individual cinematic preferences.
So I’d like to see if I can be of any service here with a comprehensive database of black film festivals globally that you all will have access, and use wisely. It’ll obviously take a lot of time to build, but we can get it done.
What I need now is to first create a list of every black film festival that exists on the planet. Obviously there are those I already know about; we write about them annually. But there are those that I don’t even know exist. So, if I’ve written about your festival in the past, you can assume that I probably know about it and it’ll be on my list. But if I’ve never written about your festival, chances are, I don’t know anything about it. So PLEASE send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and introduce yourself, and we’ll go from there. And if you know of any festivals that should be on the list, even if you’re not affiliated with them, send me an email anyway, just in case.
I’ll come up with an initial list based on what I know currently, and I’ll publish in the near future. If you run a black film festival, and yours isn’t listed on it, I hope you’ll let me know when that happens.
In the meantime, feel free to get ahead of me, and send me an email letting me know about your festival. Again, this is a global effort, not just USA-based festivals.
Please share this post widely so that it travels. The more people it reaches the more thorough the databse will be.
Tambay A. Obenson