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The Black Film Festival vs Black Filmmaker Conversation...

Photo of Tambay A. Obenson By Tambay A. Obenson | Shadow and Act December 5, 2012 at 11:57AM

Let me first say that, I don't have any answers to this folks; I routinely find myself in the middle of conversations (especially around this time of the year, when the Sundance Film Festival unveils its lineup) that center on why there isn't a black film festival in the USA that matches Sundance's significance/relevance on the national film stage.
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Eric Deggans

Let me first say that, I don't have any answers to this folks; I routinely find myself in the middle of conversations (especially around this time of the year, when the Sundance Film Festival unveils its lineup) that center on why there isn't a black film festival in the USA that matches Sundance's significance/relevance on the national film stage.

On one side of the argument, you have film festival directors who wonder why black filmmakers (specifically those who overlook black film festivals in favor of festivals like Sundance) don't hold black film festivals in a similar high regard; and on the other side of the argument, you have black filmmakers who say that, essentially, they don't feel that they'll get what they hope/want/need from black film festivals - whether it's the notoriety that comes from being an *Official Selection* of a Sundance for example, or attention from distributors, and more. And in response to that, festival directors say, we can't become what you want us to become, if black filmmakers overlook us and send their films to non-black-specific film festivals (especially those filmmakers with what we'd call *quality* work; no offense to any filmmakers; I don't make the rules or define what is generally considered *quality*). And in response to that, filmmakers say, I want to make sure my film is given the best possible chance to succeed, and getting into a festival like Sundance, makes that journey a bit easier, for a number of reasons - reasons that I think generate even more questions.

And in response to that, festival directors say...

And so on, and so forth, round and round we go.

I'm simplifying what I think is a much more complex debate (for example, there's the importance of premieres to some film festivals which influences how filmmakers map out their paths; but then it brings us back to the question of why certain film festivals are held in higher regard than others).

But this essentially sums it all up.

By the way, let me also add that this is not a conversation that EVERY black film festival or EVERY black filmmaker is having. Obviously black film festivals exist, which means there are black filmmakers who are targetting black film festivals with their films. Not every black film festival wants to be Sundance, and not every black filmmaker has Sundance dreams.

I just want to be clear that there are those, on either side, who are content with the status quo, have found their niche, are making it work for them, and aren't distressed with the state of things.

However, there are clearly those on both sides who do find the status quo problematic, and, each year, as I noted earlier, in my travels, I find myself in conversations that suggest just that.

And as I also said, I really don't have any easy answers, except to provide a space where those who are interested (on both sides) can have a conversation, which is what I'm doing right now.

And I hope that can happen constructively. 


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