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5 African Diaspora-Interest Features To See At The Los Angeles Film Fest (Begins Tomorrow, 6/13)

Photo of Tambay A. Obenson By Tambay A. Obenson | Shadow and Act June 12, 2013 at 2:34PM

The Los Angeles Film Festival (headed by producer Stephanie Allain) begins tomorrow, Thursday, June 13, and will run through Sunday, June 23, presented by Film Independent, with a diverse slate of nearly 200 feature films, shorts and music videos, representing more than 40 countries.
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Still Image From 'The Island Of St Matthews' - Courtesy Trilobite-Arts-DAC and Picture Palace Pictures
Still Image From 'The Island Of St Matthews' - Courtesy Trilobite-Arts-DAC and Picture Palace Pictures

The Los Angeles Film Festival (headed by producer Stephanie Allain) begins tomorrow, Thursday, June 13, and will run through Sunday, June 23, presented by Film Independent, with a diverse slate of nearly 200 feature films, shorts and music videos, representing more than 40 countries.

Nijla Mumin will be covering the festival for S&A, so look out for her reviews.

Ahead of tomorrow's opening, I thought I'd highlight 5 feature-length films that tell stories about people of African descent, that those of you who'll be attending the festival, should probably have on your "to-see" lists, if they aren't already.

Without further ado...

1Ryan Coogler’s award winning feature film debut Fruitvale Station, which will be one of the festival’s Gala screenings. A film that I'm sure doesn't need much of an introduction at this point, given how much we've said about it, since its Sundance Film Festival debut in January. The multiple award-winning film is based on the murder of 22-year old Oscar Grant (played by Michael B. Jordan). Fruitvale is produced by Forest WhitakerOctavia Spencer and Melonie Diaz co-star.

2 - Another film that I'm sure needs little introduction (I could probably say that about every film on this list) - Yoruba Richen's much-anticipated award-winning documentary, The New Black.

The topical film tells the story of how the African American community is grappling with lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights in light of the marriage equality movement and the fight over civil rights. 

Yvonne Whelbon and Angela Tucker are listed as producers.

3Ava DuVernay's contribution to ESPN Films' Nine for IX documentary initiative, Venus VS, which will explore tennis star Venus Williams’ fight for fair pay at Wimbledon.

In 2005, Williams challenged the long-held practice that saw women tennis players paid less than their male counterparts, at the French Open and at Wimbledon. 

Expect commentary from women's tennis trailblazer and advocate for gender equality, Billie Jean King, as well John McEnroe and Venus Williams herself.

4The Island of Saint Matthews from Kevin Jerome Everson - a 70-minute documentary film that tells the historic tale of the people of Westport, Mississippi, and their continuous struggles with annual flooding from the Tombigbee River, in the 1970s, when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers intervened to put a stop to the cyclical damage by building a dam, and, in doing so, created the Island of Saint Matthews.

The film combines both color and b&w cinematography, and, based on the footage I've seen, contains the usual Kevin Jerome Everson-isms - sparse and rugged, combining documentary and seemingly scripted elements, focusing on the lives of mostly working class people of African descent; somewhat abstract and will likely be a *demanding* watch.

5Brothers Hypnotic, a Summer Showcase title for the festival, directed by Reuben Atlas, which follows eight young men, all sons of anti-establishment jazz legend, Phil Cohran, who collectively make up the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble.

Raised on Chicago’s South side on a strict diet of jazz, funk and "Black Consciousness," now grown, you might find them playing in the streets of New York City, collaborating with the likes of Mos Def, or wowing audiences at jazz festivals.

The film is described as a coming of age story for the eight brothers, as well as an ideal.

So that's it! These are your "starting 5," we can call them.

There certainly are other titles that fit the criteria (tell stories about people of African descent), including a new Cuba Gooding Jr drama titled Life of a King, as well as Our Vinyl Weighs A Ton (a doc on the Los Angeles-based record label Stones Throw Records).

There are also several shorts, but I'll return with a second post highlighting those specifically.

For ticket info, screening days, dates and locations, and any other info regarding the festival, visit its website HERE.


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