A Celebration of Black Cinema This Autumn at The BFI

The BFI are launching a season of films to celebrate diversity in cinema.

The BLACK STAR event has been announced by the BFI as follows:

“Black Star explores the relationship between stars and the audiences who love them, spotlighting great performances by black actors on screen.

Black Star will focus on the work of contemporary actors including Samuel L. Jackson, David Oyelowo, Denzel Washington, Lupita Nyong’o, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Sophie Okonedo alongside cinema’s first black stars, such as Josephine Baker, Lena Horne and Dorothy Dandridge, and enduring icons like Sidney Poitier, Whoopi Goldberg, Paul Robeson and Angela Bassett. The season takes place October – December 2016 at cinemas nationwide, on BFI Player, on DVD and at BFI Southbank”

Programmer Ashley Clark said: “From cinema’s earliest trailblazers to today’s transatlantic stars, I’m excited for audiences to enjoy icons, heroes and heroines back on the big screen where they belong.”

Key highlights will include brand-new screenings of classics like BOYZ N THE HOOD, IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT, plus an opportunity to see the incredible cross-section of work that black and ethnic artists have provided throughout film history.

The season is certainly a timely reminder of the transitions affecting the creative world and it is certainly something that is destined to continue with the imminent release of Nate Parker’s THE BIRTH OF A NATION, a film that may take the same title as DW Griffith’s famous 1915 epic, but which flipsides the story to question and counterbalance the issues and context that the earlier work provoked and created.

The film secured the highest ever distribution deal through Fox Searchlight Pictures at this year’s Sundance Film Festival in January 2016 with a fee of $17.5 million, as well as winning two awards at the festival after the audience gave it a standing ovation.

Parker also has suggested that the 1915 film helped to shape the attitudes of Hollywood film-makers towards the conflicts and concerns that have recently led the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to rethink their attitude to diversity and race in the context of contemporary film making. The film has already been touted as a potential Oscar winner.

There will be much for fans to relish, with Blaxploitation getting a fair showing with the likes of Pam Grier’s cult performance in FOXY BROWN, the 1954 music Carmen Jones with Dorothy Dandridge. Other notable examples include Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, Jim Jarmusch’s 1999 release starring Forest Whitaker. There will also be a chance to view an episode or two DESMOND’S, the fondly remembered Channel 4 show back in the early years of the channel which ran from 1989 – 1994 which gets an event of it’s own, plus a cast reunion.

Fans and cinemagoers should check out the season and give as much support to what is being offered. There are many great opportunities during the two months the season is on and it will certainly give all manner of discussion and awareness to improve the appreciation of what diverse artists are trying to instil and create in the world.

Performance Reviewed will give a more in-depth assessment of some of the key releases when the season begins in October.