Now in its 14th year, the festival will include more than 20 films, about half of them by female directors. It runs April 27-30.
Starting Thursday (April 27), the Langston Hughes African American Film Festival will showcase more than 20 independent films by black filmmakers from around the country and the world.
The festival, now in its 14th year, is being presented by a new nonprofit arts organization called LANGSTON. Along with screenings, organizers have planned panel discussions and other activities.
Karen Toering, the festival’s program consultant, said the event is an opportunity to build relationships between filmmakers and the Seattle community.
Langston Hughes African American Film Festival
Workshops, discussions and screenings, Thursday-Sunday (April 27-30), Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute, Seattle; opening night ticket is $20, tickets to individual screenings are $7-$10, $90 festival pass (brownpapertickets.com).
“We’re not a market festival,” Toering said. “We’re more of a filmmaker and audience festival.”
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This year’s documentaries cover a wide range of topics. “Mr. Handy’s Blues” tells the story of composer W.C. Handy, “the father of the blues.” “Black Women in Medicine” looks at the past, present and future of female African-American doctors. The festival concludes with “Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Historically Black Colleges.”
The short films are as varied as the feature-length films. “DIVINE: Part 1” celebrates body positivity among African-American women. “Padlock Men” reveals a secret pact among John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King and Malcolm X.
In “Last Stop,” a young veteran with PTSD is transported to 1860 and must survive the night as a runaway slave. In an interview at the California-based Grove Center for the Arts and Media, director Prentice Dupins said his struggle with suicidal thoughts in college and his experience learning about his great-great-grandfather — an emancipated slave — inspired him to create the film.
On Saturday, the festival will screen “DREAMSTATES,” an experimental film about two people touring the country during the Afropunk movement. Director Anisia Uzeyman, who spent 42 days shooting the film on an iPhone, will be in attendance with actor-musician Saul Williams, also her spouse.
Toering said about half of the films’ directors are female.
“Women are taking the stage this year, and that’s something you don’t typically find at film festivals,” Toering said. “We’re pretty proud of that.”
Several other filmmakers and special guests will also be at the festival. After the Thursday screening of “90 Days,” filmmakers Jennia Aponte, Nathan Hale Williams and Sol Aponte will join the audience for a discussion. Comic-book writer and cinema scholar David Walker will give a free presentation on the importance of black superheroes on Saturday. Local chef Tarik Abdullah will prepare Sunday’s brunch.
Toering has been involved with the festival for 13 years. She said increased interest from companies like Netflix and improved access to equipment have led black filmmakers to challenge themselves.
“I feel like there was a time when independent black filmmakers weren’t taking the kind of risks with their content that they’re taking now,” Toering said. “There’s more discussion about indie black film.”