This article originally appeared on The Philadelphia Tribune.
The 2019 BlackStar Film Festival, held in various venues throughout the city, recently concluded, and award winners at the prestigious cinema showcase have been announced.
“All of the films truly captivated the audience, but I’d like to highlight the film that won the BlackStar Documentary Audience Award,” said Nahad Khader, BlackStar Program Director. “Find Elijah,” which had its world premiere at our festival. It’s by Philly filmmaker Yolonda Johnson-Young, and both Leeway and Scribe Video Center have supported the making of this film, and she’s also a member of the Philly-based collective Sisters in Film and Television. It’s her first film and it’s incredibly powerful and sensitive: it’s a love letter to her son who commited suicide, healing process for her, as well as an investigation into his death. So honest in her Q&A, so generous with her heart.”
The list of award winners for 2019 includes:
Best Feature Narrative Award: “Selah and the Spades” (directed by Tayarisha Poe)
Best Feature Documentary: “The Infiltrators” (directed by Christina Ibarra and Alex Rivera)
Richard Nichols Luminary Award: Presented to Marcia Smith, President of Firelight Media, a non-profit production company “dedicated to using historical film to advance contemporary social justice causes, and to mentoring, inspiring, and training a new generation of diverse young filmmakers committed to advancing underrepresented stories.”
Best Experimental Film: “Bereka” (Director: Nesanet Teshager Abegaze)
Best Short Documentary: “A Love Song for Latasha” (Director: Sophia Nahli Allison)
Best Short Narrative: “Sega” (Director: Idil Ibrahim)
Best Youth (11-17): “The Next Stop” (Director: Jalyssa Jimenez)
Best Youth (18-22): “Wash Day” (Director: Jaida Salmon)
2019 Special Recognition Award: Narrative — Presented by HBO
“Feathers” (Director: A.V. Rockwell)
2019 Special Recognition Award: Documentary — Presented by HBO
“Respect and LOVE” (Director: Angelique Webster)
2019 Lionsgate/STARZ Producer Award
“Test Pattern” (Producers: Pin-Chun Liu and Shitara Michelle Ford)
2019 Audience Awards:
Favorite Documentary Feature: “Warrior Women” (Directors: Elizabeth A. Castle and Christina D. King)
Favorite Narrative Feature: “Sprinter” (Director: Storm Saulter)
Favorite Experimental Film: “The Cancer Journals Revisited” (Director: Lana Lin)
Favorite Documentary Short: “Finding Elijah” (Director: Yolonda Johnson-Young)
Favorite Narrative Short: “T” (Director: Keisha Rae Witherspoon)
Favorite Youth Film (11-17) “Closeted” (Director: George Hollyer and Danielle Ridgeway)
Favorite Youth Film (18-22) PETAL (Director: Derek Yancey Jr.)
Ameha Molla was the winner of the inaugural “BlackStar Pitch,” open to any filmmaker who identifies as a person of color. In this challenging new competition, eight filmmakers were selected to pitch their projects in front of a live audience and a panel of judges to receive valuable feedback and have an opportunity to win a cash prize of $1,000. The first BlackStar Pitch focused on feature documentary projects.
The BlackStar Film Festival is a “highly visible platform for independent Black filmmakers and films about Black people from around the world,” providing genre-defying and beautifully crafted works to a diverse audience thirsty for fresh perspectives.”
Festival organizers state that films must be directed by a person of African descent or who otherwise identifies as Black, feature persons of African descent, or tell a story of the Black experience.
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