BlackStar Film Festival Recap

This year’s BlackStar Film Festival was an amazing experience. Whether a content creator, entrepreneur, executive, or guest the energy was positive and inspirational. Here is a recap of our experience.

World Channel

While attending the 8th annual BlackStar Film Festival we had the pleasure of sitting down with Chris Hastings, Executive Producer and Editorial Manager at the WORLD Channel. The WORLD Channel is a syndicate of  PBS (Public Broadcasting Service) airing news and documentaries across the nation centering itself around diversity giving emerging directors a place to showcase their work and tell their stories. The World Channel assists creatives with editorial, distribution, marketing support through promotion, and collaborations across multi-platforms. They were recently awarded $600k by the John D and Catherine T. Mac Arthur Foundation to expand their coproduction efforts.

Here is what Chris Hastings shared with us while attending the BlackStar Film Festival:


CHRIS HASTINGS, of the World Channel

“I appreciate people who tell their own story.” 

– Chris Hastings

Are you an emerging filmmaker with a project to submit? Head over to the World Channel or reach out to Chris Hastings via Twitter with inquiries.


The Winners Circle

  This year marked the launch of the inaugural BlackStar Pitch. Eight (8) filmmakers were selected to pitch their projects in front of a live audience and a panel of esteemed judges including Chris Hastings from the World Channel to receive feedback and have an opportunity to win a cash prize of $1,000.   This first BlackStar Pitch focused on feature documentary projects and was open to any filmmaker who identifies as a person of color. 2019 BlackStar Pitch prize went to “Higher 15 from the director and filmmaker Ameha Molla.  

Full list of nominated films and winners are as follows:  

Best Feature Documentary Nominees:

  • Always in Season (Director: Jacqueline Olive)
  • The Infiltrators (Directors: Cristina Ibarra & Alex Rivera) ** winner
  • Titixe (Directors: Tania Hernández Velasco)

  Best Feature Narrative Nominees:  

  • Jezebel (Director: Numa Perrier)
  • Selah and the Spades (Director: Tayarisha Poe) ** winner
  • Temporada (Long Way Home) (Director: André Novais Oliveira)

  Best Experimental Nominees:  

  • Bereka (Director: Nesanet Teshager Abegaze) ** winner
  • The Cancer Journals Revisited (Director: Lana Lin)
  • Fainting Spells (Director: Sky Hopinka)
  • Only When It’s Dark Enough Can You See The Stars (Director: Charlotte Brathwaite)

  Best Short Documentary Nominees:  

  • America (Director: Garrett Bradley)
  • BLACK TO TECHNO (Director:Jenn Nkiru)
  • A Love Song For Latasha (Director: Sophia Nahli Allison) ** winner
  • Oklahoma is Black (Directors: Melinda James, Tatyana Fazlalizadeh (Co-Director))
  • Practice (Director: Iyabo Kwayana)

  Best Short Narrative Nominees:  

  • CAP (Director: Marshall Tyler)
  • Liberty (Director: Faren Humes)
  • Me Time (Director: Iyabo Boyd)
  • Sega (Director: Idil Ibrahim) ** winner
  1. Suicide By Sunlight (Director: Nikyatu Jusu)

  Best Youth (11-17) Nominees:  

  • Code Red (Directors: Eva Bassel, Rickeyna Fields, Estrella Lopez, Erika Martinez and Celeste Vaca)
  • The Next Stop (Director: Jalyssa Jimenez) ** winner
  • We Are Black: A Cinematic Experience (Directors: Darien Woodard and Aneesah Parker)

  Best Youth (18-22) Nominees:  

  • The Last Day (Director: Zsaknor R. Powe)
  • Wash Day (Director: Jaida Salmon) ** winner 
  • Where the Dahlias Grow (Director: Jayden Gillespie)

  2019 Special Recognition Award: Narrative:   Presented by HBO

  • Feathers (Director: A.V. Rockwell)

  2019 Special Recognition Award: Documentary:   Presented by HBO

  • Respect and LOVE (Director: Angelique Webster)

  2019 Lionsgate/STARZ Producer Award:  

  • Test Pattern (Producers: Pin-Chun Liu & Shatara Michelle Ford)

  2019 Richard Nichols Luminary Award:  

  • Marcia Smith

  Audience Awards:  

  • 2019 Favorite Documentary Feature: Warrior Women (Directors: Elizabeth A. Castle and Christina D. King)
  • 2019 Favorite Narrative Feature: Sprinter (Director: Storm Saulter)
  • 2019 Favorite Experimental Film: The Cancer Journals Revisited (Director: Lana Lin)
  • 2019 Favorite Documentary Short: Finding Elijah (Director: Yolonda Johnson-Young)
  • 2019 Favorite Narrative Short: T (Director: Keisha Rae Witherspoon)
  • 2019 Favorite Youth Film (11-17):  Closeted (Directors: George Hollyer and Danielle Ridgeway)
  • 2019 Favorite Youth Film (18-22):  PETAL (Director: Derek Yancey Jr.)

  2019 BlackStar Pitch Lineup:  

  • Armenina: This Too (Director: Artina Nimpson) 
  • Ave Maria (Director: Tristan Seyek)
  • Black Zombie (Director: Maya Annik Bedward) 
  • The Department of Space and Land Reclamation (Directors: Darren Wallace, Shani Akilah, and Domonique London) 
  • A Good Man (Director: Michael Fequiere)
  • Higher 15 (Director: Ameha Molla) ** winner
  • Murders That Matter (Director: Marco Williams)
  • Traces of Home (Director: Colette Ghunim)

  Feature Documentary Jury:  

  • Asad Muhammad (Vice President of Impact and Engagement Strategy – AmDoc)
  • Gessica Geneus (Actress, Cousines)
  • Lyric Cabral  (Director, (T)ERROR)

  Feature Narrative Jury:  

  • Dana Gills (Director of Production and Development – Lionsgate)
  • Michael Gillespie (Scholar & Professor – City College of New York)
  • Opeyemi Olukemi (Vice President of Digital Production and Innovation – AmDoc)

  Experimental Jury:  

  • Deana Haggag (President & CEO – United States Artists)
  • Kamil Oshundara (Cultural Executive – Monkeypaw Productions)
  • Rea Tajiri (Artist & Professor – Temple University)

  Youth Jury:  

  • Bryan Oliver Green (Director, The Philadelphia Bicycle Vignette Story)
  • Chloe Walters-Wallace (Documentary Lab Manager – Firelight Media)
  • Marie Alarcón (Director, Witness)

  Short Documentary Jury:  

  • Amer Shomali (Artist & Filmmaker)
  • Jamila Farwell (Manager, Original Nonfiction Series – Netflix)
  • John L. Jackson (Walter H. Annenberg Dean – Annenberg School for Communication
  • Richard Perry University Professor – University of Pennsylvania)

  Short Narrative Jury:  

  • D’Lo (Actor & Writer, TV series Mr. Robot, Bruising For Besos)
  • Racquel Gates (Scholar & Professor – College of Staten Island)
  • Rhea Combs (Curator of Film & Photography)


Spike Lee and Tarana Burke in Conversation


Chief Marketing and Storytelling Officer at Color of Change


The 2019 BlackStar Film Festival was generously supported by John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, William Penn Foundation, Cinereach, Wyncote Foundation, Color of Change & Open Society Foundations, HBO, Barra Foundation, Annenberg School for Communication at University of Pennsylvania, PECO, Comcast/Xfinity, Critical Minded, Netflix, Crux, Firelight Media, Fractured Atlas, Lomax Family Foundation, and individual donors; a gracious network of partners including Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, The Barnes Foundation, Institute of Contemporary Art, Lightbox Film Center, Pearlstein Gallery at Drexel University, and World Cafe Live; as well as a generous host of members, media and community partners.


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Photo Credits: URBN SOCIAL


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