The 16th annual Langston Hughes African American Film Festival (LHAAFF) begins Thursday, April 25, featuring dozens of films from emerging and established black filmmakers.
For festival director Andrea A. Stuart-Lehalle, seeing those voices become established is one of LHAAFF’s key missions.
“We really value creating long-term relationships with the filmmakers that we feature,” she said. “It’s important for them to be recognized and to know that their voice as a filmmaker is valued, whereas in other landscapes, it can easily be marginalized.
“As a filmmaker myself — making a film can kill you. To make it to the end of a film is a huge accomplishment.”
Two directors are returning this year: Kiana Harris, a Seattle artist whose third installment in her “Aje Ijo” dance film series screens Sunday, April 28, and Elijah Hasan, whose documentary about the black experience in Portland, “Where the Heart Is,” plays Saturday, April 27.
Nearly 20 filmmakers and cast members are scheduled to attend for post-screening discussions — a foundational part of the festival since its inception, Stuart-Lehalle said.
“It’s been about community dialogue and giving people a space to see themselves on the screen and to share that experience with other people and to talk about that experience with other people,” she said.
The festival’s programming is organized thematically. There are screenings centered on empowered women, music, politics and academics, with films that span the genre spectrum.
There are dramas, such as “Solace,” a feature by Tchaiko Omawale that deals with eating disorders — “a topic rarely surfaced for people of color,” Stuart-Lehalle says. There are comedies, including “Po’ Psi Broke,” Akil DuPont’s fish-out-of-water fraternity feature. Short documentaries cover a heated New Orleans mayoral race, a suit against the Catholic Church and the origins of Afrobeat. Local filmmaker Jamaal Bradley’s animated short “SUBSTANCE” explores the tension between brothers.
The established and the emerging sit side-by-side in the festival’s closing night, which features Zeinabu Irene Davis’ documentary “Spirits of Rebellion: Black Cinema at UCLA,” on her fellow filmmakers in the L.A. Rebellion movement, including legends Charles Burnett and Julie Dash. Before that: Behold the future, with four youth films created by 9-to-12-year-olds as part of a workshop hosted by LANGSTON and SIFF.
“It’s really been a fun collaboration to get cameras in the hands of these kids and see what kinds of stories they want to tell,” Stuart-Lehalle said. “It reinforces my belief that it’s important to put black films on the big screen, and give [kids] the tools of art — like cinema — to express themselves. There’s so much that people have to say, and there’s not always space for that in the mainstream.”
For more information on the festival, go to langstonseattle.org.
Translations: Seattle Transgender Film Festival
One of the few festivals in the world dedicated to films about transgender, nonbinary and gender-diverse people, Translations returns for its 14th year May 3-5. Opening-night film “The Garden Left Behind,” which recently premiered at SXSW, tells the story of a transwoman’s struggle to live as an undocumented immigrant in New York City.
There will be 45 short and feature films presented at the festival, which also includes opening- and closing-night parties and a free workshop about how to be a trans ally. See a full schedule of events at threedollarbillcinema.org/translations
Langston Hughes African American Film Festival, April 25-28; Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute, 104 17th Ave. S, Seattle; $7-$20 individual tickets, $90 for full festival pass; langstonseattle.org
Translations: Seattle’s Transgender Film Festival, May 3-5; Northwest Film Forum, 1515 12th Ave., and Gay City, 517 E. Pike St.; $5-$22 individual tickets; $100 for festival pass; threedollarbillcinema.org/translations