From the art house to Philly audiences

The BlackStar Film Festival might seem to have a very focused goal: to showcase work by and about people of African descent. While curating the first annual festival, however, artistic director Maori Karmael Holmes learned firsthand how wide-ranging that focus really is.

“There is no singular representation of blackness,” Holmes says. “There’s a lot of people and a lot of different cultures and religious experiences and relationship experiences.”

Holmes didn’t initially plan for such a big project when she booked a couple of dates at International House to screen recent African films. But the more films she saw, the more she realized how much quality work simply wasn’t appearing on local screens.

“A lot of independent film doesn’t make it to the audience that it’s actually intended for,” she says. “It lives in this high art space and doesn’t make it to the people because it doesn’t make it to the theater. So I was interested in creating a space where people could come and see this work.”

Highlights of the four-day festival include Byron Hurt’s “Soul Food Junkies,” a PBS documentary about soul food; “Brooklyn Boheme,” about the artistic community that included Spike Lee, Chris Rock, and Branford Marsalis; and a discussion with Ava DuVernay, who became the first African-American woman to win best director at Sundance this year. She’ll offer an excerpt from “Middle of Nowhere,” which netted her the prize, the first glimpse the East Coast has gotten of the film.

If you go

BlackStar Film Festival

Today through Sunday

Various locations

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