Afrikana Independent Film Festival offers platform for Black voices with two films focused on the Black Trans expereince
Richmond is home to a thriving art scene with galleries, theatres and playhouse scattered throughout the city, alluring spectators by the thousands. Film festivals are some of the city’s most cherished artforms, with the annual Richmond International Film Festival and French Film Festival. Well now there is another home grown film festival in town, this one hoping to highlight stories and narratives by people who have historically been kept from such platforms.
The Afrikana Independent Film Festival is a three day festival organized by Enjoli Moon, the founder of Afrikana, a local indie film collective with a focus on films created by Black people. Beginning on September 15th through the 18th, Afrikana will host a series of film screenings, panel discussions, and workshops at various locations around Richmond. The opening reception is on Thursday September 15th at 7:30 hosted at The Valentine followed by a screening of Open City Mixtape by director NYC-based filmmaker A.V Rockwell.
The Afrikana Independent Film Festival began in 2014, to showcase the cinematic works of people of color from around the world with a particular focus on the global Black narrative.
Moon said that as she planned to attend other film festivals she wondered what a black film festival in Richmond would look like.
With help from her close friends and studying the film industry, Moon began a project that would eventually become the Afrikana Independent Film Festival for black filmmakers to show their creations and for the larger RVA community. Her aim is to hear the various stories of the black experience.
Beginning with their Noir Cinema series, the first film ever shown by Afrikana in September 2014 was Daughters of Fortune. The event’s success lead her to grow the idea into multiple events like Evening With An Icon, Starry Night Cinema, and Movies & Mimosas.
Afrikana has also hosted films and discussion panels by folks like Sonya Sanchez, Juile Dash, Petee Chatmon, Kali Turner, and Sway.
This upcoming festival is the first multi-day festival since Afrikana’s inception as Moon always envisioned it.
Two films that will be shown on the second day of the festival, Sept. 17, discuss the black queer experience. The first, Walk For Me, is by filmmaker Elegance Bratton. The film follows the story of a young trans woman exploring her identity in the New York city vogue and drag-ballroom sub-culture.
The subject of trans identity in relation to an authentic Black life are prevalent in the film’s’ themes.
The second film, Macho, by award-winning filmmaker Faren Humes, features a 12-year-old boy named Macho coming to terms with his sexuality while dealing with the death of a transgender woman in his home town of Sanderson, FL.
Macho explores themes of masculinity, as Macho is more effeminate in his mannerism and his relationship to his more conservative uncle.
“It’s a reality and story that needs to be told, that needs to be normalized and humanized to a certain degree,” Moon said about why she decided on these two films. “You don’t need to be queer to see the humanity in the characters.”
Both Bratton and Humes will stay after both films for a discussion panel with members of the RVA LGBTQ+ community to discuss their motivations in creating these films as well as a discussion on the black queer experience.
VCU student and volunteer for Afrikana, Brittney Maddox said its important to showcase all black identities through film.
“Most of our attitudes and beliefs are shaped by the media we consume,” she said. “If we have better media that shows the reality of black queer people’s lives you can start to have dialogues surrounding those experiences.”
The topic of queerness in the black community is a sensitive one that can provoke strong feelings in some, but Moon feels that he crowd will react positively to these films.
“The subject matter will push the envelope for some but that’s the importance of the post screening discussion,” Moon said. “You have the opportunity when the film is over to connect with the people in the room and have a conversations about how you may relate to the people on screen. Some people may feel against those experiences and push back but that gives someone else the opportunity to introduce different perspective.”
According to Moon, “when you look at the larger film festivals, or your more mainstream films, or any film festival hosted or curated by white people, they tend to put black stories in a box. While at the same time black people aren’t given the same platforms to show our creative works. Afrikana creates a space for black creators to tell their stories. We show the full spectrum of humanity within the black experience.”
For folks like Maddox, Afrikana will offer an important voice to Richmond as a Black led creative project in a city with a long history of cultural significance. website states that they are exploring the global black narrative in films and bringing those narratives to RVA.
“[Richmond] was once known as the Harlem of the South,” she said. “Black films are important because representation important. Black people can not expect nonblack people to tell their stories that are not always heard.”
This three day film festival promises to be uplifting but also thought provoking. According to Moon, its an important oppurtunity to catch narratives that are often over looked.
“I want people to walk away from these films wanting to see more of them and correct the imbalance of mostly white-centered films being seen and appreciated,” she said.
The Afrikana Independent Film Festival runs from September 15th to September 18th.
The opening reception and the first screening will take place on September 15th at The Valentine at 7:30.
Other screenings and panel discussions are locations around Richmond such as Grace Street Theater, Bijou Theater, Candela Gallery, Black Iris Gallery, Elegba Society, and Black History Museum.
The All-Access Pass for the festival is priced at $50 while tickets for individual events range from $5 to $20. You can purchase tickets here.
For more information on the Afrikana Independent Film Festival check out their website.
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