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Civil Rights Icons, Drama and Music Headline The San Diego Black Film Festival

Speaker 1: 00:00 From award winning films to documentaries that reshape the way we see America. San Diego's black film festival has been a platform for nearly two decades tonight. This year's film festival kicks off. Karen Willis, director of the San Diego black film festival joins us in studio with what we can expect this year. Karen, welcome. Thank you. Hello Jay. Hey there. So this year is pre opening focus as a film called the Evers, a new feature documentary on the life of Medgar Evers. Can you tell me about it? Yeah, we're really excited about, I'm premiering this film on the life of a civil rights pioneer Mecca Evers, um, who as you know, was tragically, uh, assassinated, um, during the early stages of the civil rights movement. And so there's a new documentary focusing on his life. Uh, and so we're really excited to have his daughter to come down to San Diego. Um, she's going to, um, participate in a panel discussion on the film and also on the life of Mecca Evers. Speaker 1: 01:04 So we're really excited about that in the film itself. Screens on Saturday, uh, of, um, this week. And then we were hoping that miss Myrlie Evers, who's the widow widow of a mega Evers, will be in attendance to for that screening. And so why did you decide to set the tone for the festival with this documentary? You know, we, um, the San Diego black film festival, we always look for a film that we sort of identify as a signature film, although it's not the opening day film, you know, um, but it's certainly one of our signature films in that we felt that, um, the subject matter, um, is something that would be of interest, um, to, you know, moviegoers. And so that's why we decided to focus on it this year. What other films and documentaries can people expect to see this year? Oh my goodness. We have over 120 films to choose from, from features to documentaries to shorts, um, comedy, drama. Speaker 1: 02:09 Um, a couple of films that I'm excited about. One in particular also is a film called louder than rock. Uh, and that film is about the, um, original guitar player for Elton John who happens to be black. And so he sorta telling the story in a documentary about his life with Elton John. And so we're really excited about that. And also, um, our opening day film and our opening day film is pink opaque and it's about a film student, um, who's trying to complete a project, you know, or fail, uh, while balancing, uh, his love life. And also, um, uh, with him sort of coming into the, coming back into the life of a relative that he's not seen in a while. And so, um, our films run the gamut and you the film Speaker 2: 03:00 louder than rock. I know there will be several panel discussions as well. I noticed music seems to be a big part of those discussions. What's the connection? Speaker 1: 03:09 Well, you know, it's interesting because, um, the San Diego black film festival, we've had a long, you know, I guess a relationship with music. You know, we've had quite a few, um, African American, um, um, music. The stars here like Bobby Brown, I mean, you name it, they've all had movies. Um, we've had ice tea. And so this year we also have films by, um, King Bach, who's a very, very trendy type comedian and hip hop star. So it just happened that the San Diego black film festival, um, you know, get a lot of films, uh, uh, based on, uh, recording artists. Yeah. Speaker 2: 03:53 And I want to take a listen. Here's a clip from louder than rock, a documentary playing at the San Diego black film festival on Caleb K, a legendary guitarist who helped usher in artists like Elton John and really the British invasion of music here in America. Take a listen. Speaker 3: 04:29 [inaudible] Speaker 2: 04:30 how much of an influence do film festivals like yours have in terms of providing a platform for black films, artists and black stories to be seen and heard? Speaker 1: 04:40 Oh, black film festivals are very important. And of course, we're proud that the San Diego black film festivals, one of the larger black film festivals in the country. In fact, we are known as an Oscar watching type festival whereby by a lot of the films that come through the San Diego black film festival, uh, you know, the Oscar, the voters, they're paying close attention. You know, we've had a few like Selma that came through here, you know, that were Oscar contenders and stuff. And so when you think about it in that sense, it really gives the black filmmaker an opportunity to exhibit his craft. I mean, when you come into the San Diego black film festival and you are a African American director or even a, a white or Asian director who just happened to be producing a film on the subject matter of, of African Americans. When you come into this festival, you are treated like you at any, uh, big, um, uh, film premiere. Speaker 1: 05:44 You know, you get the red carpet treatment, uh, they get to actually premiere their film with an audience. They get the Q and a. And so it's, um, it's a very important component. Uh, African American filmmakers, uh, excuse me, African American film festivals to promote the very art of black filmmaking. And is that what drives your passion to do this? Every year? It's been 18 years going into 19. So yeah, if I did not have that total passion, I sorta like it. You know, it's more of a charity thing for me, but, um, there's a passion there and, and I do it really actually for the community. You see. Uh, and we are the really, we're the largest, uh, black cultural event in San Diego and we've in, it's been that way for quite a few years. And you mentioned the askers earlier, you know, in the past there's been criticism around the Oscars for not being diverse. Speaker 1: 06:39 Uh, what do you think of this year's nominations? Well, you know, a few years ago there was the hashtag of, you know, Oscar, so white and, and everything and Oh wait, there's any good black film festival. I remember we had a panel on that for years ago and I don't know, it's um, it's not as diverse, you know, that I think it should be and hopefully, hopefully this, some things going on behind the scenes to correct them. Anything else you want to say or add about this year's festival? Well, you know, we are looking forward to the event, which runs January 29th. I pre opening all the way to Sunday, um, the 2nd of February. And on Sunday, we're excited because what, that's the day that we do the African diaspora films. They're all foreign films on Sunday, and on Thursday through Saturday, they're more mainstream. You get into everything from, uh, the Evers into our opening day, found pink opaque, and then into films like hip hop related films. So we're excited about that and we hope people come out. I've been speaking with Karen Willis, director of the San Diego black film festival. Karen, thank you so much for joining us. Thank you.

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The San Diego Black Film Festival runs from Jan. 29 through Feb. 2 at the Theater Box San Diego.
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