Parents struggling to raise a child with autism, a husband and father dedicated to ending multigenerational trauma and a newlywed couple’s unexpected visitor are among the film plot offerings at this year’s Detroit Black Film Festival.
The showcase, now in its fourth year, features independent movies from Black filmmakers in an array of categories–documentaries, dramas, comedies, animated shorts and full-length movies. In total, 74 films will be shown over the five-day festival, which continues through Sunday.
Films will be shown at two venues–the Carr Center inside the Park Shelton,15 E. Kirby St., and the Marlene Boll Theater at the Downtown Detroit YMCA,1401 Broadway St. Tickets are available on Eventbrite and start at $15.
While a majority of the films are national and international–this year’s lineup includes movies from six countries as well as the continent of Africa–seven are from Detroiters, said Marshalle Favors, who co-founded the festival with husband Lazar Favors.
“You can’t have a Detroit Black Film Festival without featuring Detroit filmmakers,” she said, laughing.
One is “Fractured Hope,” a short film about parents with an autistic child, co-directed by Highland Park native James C. Turner. “Intimate Betrayals,” is a drama about a couple dealing with infidelity directed by Detroiters Mike Jeffers and the late Melissa Talbot. Both premiered at the festival Wednesday but “Intimate Betrayals” is also available to watch on Tubi.
And, there’s “Die Willie Die,” a documentary that follows Detroit director Ron Elliot, Jr. and his journey to stop the doctrine of slave owner Willie Lynch from being passed down to his children. The film is co-directed by Detroiter Timashion Jones. “Die Willie Die” premieres at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at the Carr Center.
Other films on the roster include the documentary short, “Unexpected,” produced by Emmy-winning actress Sheryl Lee Ralph of “Abbott Elementary.” Director Zeberiah Newman chronicles Masonia Traylor and Cici Covin as they create a safe network of support and services for pregnant women newly diagnosed with HIV.
Another Emmy-winner featured in the festival is Gregory Allen Williams, an actor and director known for roles in OWN’s “Greenleaf” and HBO’s “The Righteous Gemstones.” Williams directed and wrote “Reunion,” a drama about the unexpected visitor at a woman’s house.
The festival will close Sunday with the movie, “The SixTripleEight,” a documentary about the only all-Black, all-women World War II battalion.
More than just movies
In addition to film screenings, the Detroit Black Film Festival will also feature a cocktail event and a roundtable discussion for content creators.
“Taste of Black Spirits: The Cocktail Concierge” takes place 6 p.m. Friday at the DoubleTree Hotel, 525 W. Lafayette Boulevard. The event will feature 80 Black-owned spirit brands and 10 mobile bar entrepreneurs from Detroit. Ronald Isley from the R&B group The Isley Brothers will be in attendance to promote his new Liquid Gold XO Brandy, “Contagious,” crafted by Black woman distiller Vanessa Braxton, the CEO of Gravesande Braxton Distillery. Tickets begin at $35.
At 10 a.m. Saturday, Bryan Smiley, president and COO of Kevin Hart’s production company Hartbeat Productions, will host a talk about his career in the entertainment industry.
“We think it’s a great opportunity for our filmmakers and creatives who are independent to connect with folks in the industry,” Favors said.
The Inkster resident said the film festival had to launch virtually in 2020 due to the pandemic and she is glad that this year and last have been hosted in person. Favors believes with platforms like Tubi and other streaming services, Black filmmakers have more opportunities than ever to show their content. As for the audience, Favors hopes they see themselves in the movies played on the big screen.
“Our stories matter, our content matters, our culture matters,” she said.