*It’s day four at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. Here’s some of our favorite Black female and male filmmakers, writers, directors, producers and artists.
About the Feature: Khat, a flowering plant with leaves that produces a stimulant effect when chewed, has been harvested in Ethiopia for centuries. With social significance in communities around the world, khat is a cash crop, sustaining so many who have worked in the fields for generations. However familiar the work is, some young people who have grown up in its shadow want more. They consider leaving home and all they have ever known for something new, faraway, and, while perhaps more economically beneficial, lonelier and more isolating. In her debut documentary feature, Jessica Beshir takes us to a world of beauty and lyricism that must be seen to be truly experienced. A spiritual journey with mesmerizing photography that channels a khat-like high, Faya Dayi brings together the ethereal and the material, tying another plane of existence to the reality of this world, with its real people whose destiny is bound to their home, their land, and what it produces.
Meet the Artist: Jessica Beshir is a Mexican Ethiopian director, producer, and cinematographer. She made her directorial debut with her short film “Hairat,” which premiered at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival and was released by the Criterion Channel. She is a recipient of the Sundance Institute Documentary Fund grant. Her short films have screened at venues around the world, including International Film Festival Rotterdam and the Eye Film Museum. Faya Dayi is her feature debut.
About the Short: A Black man comes face-to-face with the realities of being Black in the twenty-first century.
Meet the Artist: Kelly Fyffe-Marshall is a director, screenwriter, and social activist whose work includes award-winning short film “Haven” (2018) and “Marathon” (2020) was released online and has amassed more than 25,000 views. “Black Bodies” was selected for the 2020 Toronto International Film Festival and awarded the Shawn Mendes Foundation Changemaker Award for social change through film.
About the Short: With the help of their family, friends, and faith, three fathers unravel the incomparable partnership of forgiveness and community in North Philadelphia.
Meet the Artist: Renee Maria Osubu is a Nigerian photographer and filmmaker born and raised in London. “Dear Philadelphia” is directed and produced by Osubu; it is her first short film. Driven by a desire to deconstruct the compartmentalized views within society, Osubu focuses on unveiling the details within communities that others often miss. She endeavors to unify people through their intimate truths and core similarities.
About the Short: A God-fearing woman in present-day South Africa finds herself in a transactional relationship as she tries to support her sick husband and daughter.
Meet the Artist: Nomawonga Khumalo is a writer/director from Johannesburg, South Africa. “Five Tiger” is her narrative film debut. Her feature film, “The Bursary,” will head into production in the second half of 2021.
About the Short: “Amidst” a racially tense Southern wedding, a biracial bride has the chance to confront her estranged Black father after accidentally hiring his wedding band to perform.
Meet the Artist: Melody C. Roscher hails from Richmond, Virginia, and New York City, and she is developing her feature directorial debut, “Bird in Hand.” In addition to directing, she’s half of the producing team The Wonder Club, with Craig Shilowich. Together, they are producing Robin Comisar’s upcoming feature “Great Choice.” Roscher recently produced Christine, James White, “Creative Control,” and Simon Killer, as well as line-producing HBO’s “The Jinx.”
About the Project: Step into a garden and encounter oral histories spanning generations of African American women. As you wander this spatialized tract, you will encounter women with stories to tell: surviving a slave boat, growing up on a 1920s Black-owned farm, surviving 9/11, and embodying an AI powered by African American women. “Secret Garden” reminds us that sharing and receiving stories is an act of resistance.
Meet the Artist: Stephanie Dinkins is a transmedia artist who creates platforms for dialogue about artificial intelligence and our future histories. Dinkins’s art employs lens-based practices, emerging technologies, and community engagement to confront the contradictory histories, traditions, knowledge, and philosophies that form/inform society at large and underpin her thought and art production.
THE CHANGING SAME
About the Project: This immersive, episodic experience uses time travel and magical realism to pilgrimage through the evolution of racial violence in the U.S., making vital connections between the past and present. Episode 1 introduces the time travel portal—the Cracker House—and begins with a police altercation in a quiet suburb of modern-day New Jersey. The police altercation leads to mass incarceration and a slave warehouse, while hurtling toward a glimpse of a radiant post-racial utopia.
Meet the Artists: Michèle Stephenson pulls from her Panamanian and Haitian roots and international experience as a human rights attorney. Her most recent film, “American Promise,” was nominated for three Emmys and won the Special Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival.
Joe Brewster is a Harvard-trained psychiatrist who uses his training in approaching the social issues he tackles. His film “American Promise” was nominated for three Emmys and won the Special Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival.
Yasmin Elayat is an Emmy-winning immersive director, Scatter co-founder, and 2020 USA fellow whose work pushes the boundaries of immersive storytelling. Elayat is the co-creator of “18 Days In Egypt: A Participatory Documentary Project” and director of “Zero Days VR.”
TRAVELING THE INTERSTITIUM WITH OCTAVIA BUTLER
About the Project: The human interstitium is the fluid space between cell walls and organs. In this mesmerizing interactive WebXR experience, the interstitium is the liminal space where reality shifts, challenging us to harness the power of our radical imagination. Dip into this primordial pool and find innovative artists working at the intersection of art, film, science, music, and technology. They are divining inspiration from Octavia Butler and creating portals on your desktop to alternate dimensions—making the invisible visible.
Meet the Artists: Sophia Nahli Allison is a Black queer radical dreamer, experimental documentary filmmaker, and photographer who disrupts conventional documentary methods by reimagining the archives and excavating hidden truths.
Idris Brewster is a creative technologist who disrupts traditional narratives through immersive experiences and social activism, all the while empowering others to do the same.
Stephanie Dinkins is a transmedia artist who creates platforms for dialog about artificial intelligence as it intersects race, gender, aging, and our future histories.
Ari Melenciano is an artist, designer, creative technologist, researcher, and educator who explores the relationships between various forms of design and the human experience.
Terence Nance is an American filmmaker, writer, director, actor and musician from Dallas, Texas known for An Oversimplification of Her Beauty and Random Acts of Flyness.
source: Sundance Institute