For the organizers of the BlackStar Film Festival, honoring director Ava Duvernay was the obvious choice.
“Ava is somebody who exemplifies getting into the industry, knowing the industry and then doing everything she can to lift up other filmmakers of color around her,” said Nehad Khader, the festival’s program director.
Duvernay broke into the public consciousness in 2014, when she became the first black female director to have a film (“Selma”) nominated for Best Picture Oscar. Soon after, she signed a deal with OWN, Oprah Winfrey’s network, to develop the hit series “Queen Sugar,” and made sure each of the 29 episodes were directed by women, especially directors of of color.
Duvernay’s work, which includes the documentary “13th,” focusing on the history of mass incarceration in America, falls right in with the festival’s theme of resistance. More than 65 films from 17 countries will be screened — stories that range from freedom fighting in South Africa to police abuse of black men at home. Duvernay, who will direct the film adaptation of Madeline L’Engle’s $100 million-budgeted “A Wrinkle in Time,” will talk about her work Saturday at 3:45 p.m.
Now in its sixth year, BlackStar allows a space for black, independent filmmakers to celebrate stories not seen on commercial movie screens, and have frank conversations about their art, Khader said. For instance, one of the topics addressed during Thursday’s panel discussion was who gets to tell black stories?
“It’s a deeper and more complex question than just a black and white issue,” Khader said. “I’m thinking about issues of class, issues of geography. How can a filmmaker from Philadelphia tell a story about folks in Chicago?”
Screenings will be held at the Lightbox Theater at International House, 3701 Chestnut in University City. Most panel sessions will be held across the street at the Institute of Contemporary Art.