What to See at the BlackStar Film Festival

The international film festival brings over 40 films to Philadelphia:

Michael K. Williams in "They Die By Dawn," screening Sunday during the BlackStar Film Festival.

Isaiah Washington in “They Die By Dawn,” screening Sunday during the BlackStar Film Festival.

The 3rd annual BlackStar Film Festival kicks off this Thursday, July 31st. The event comprises screenings of more than 40 feature and short films, and panels made up of filmmakers, artists, and other film-industry industry professionals.

BlackStar celebrates cinema by and about people of African descent, highlighting works from emerging filmmakers across the globe. The festival includes works from a range of genres—narrative, documentary, experimental, even music video—and seeks to cultivate an open space for dialogue on the varied landscape of black life.


This year's theme, "Music is the Weapon," celebrates the relationship between music and film. There are several Philadelphia premieres slated throughout the four-day festival, including Til Infinity: Souls of Mischief, a feature-length documentary chronicling the impact of Souls of Mischief’s critically acclaimed album 93 Til Infinity; and Time is Illmatic, which, if you haven't guessed already, is all about Nas's 1994 debut Illmatic. Another buzzed-about selection is They Die By DawnJeymes Samuel's exploration of the African American cowboys of the Old West stars Erykah Badu, Rosario Dawson, and The Wire's Michael K. Williams, who will be at the screening Sunday for a post-film Q&A.

On top of that, full blocks of short films will be dedicated to topics like social justice, relationships, hip-hop, and experimental music. Festival goers can also look forward to several industry panels, such as "The Crossover: Film and Music Industries," which will explore the intersections of both industries with participation from composers, directors, producers, and executives.

A full schedule of films and events featured at the festival can be found here. The festival will primarily take place at International House, with other venues listed on the festival schedule.

There will be free screenings, though please note that some events and films at the festival are ticketed. Festival passes, which include access to all BlackStar events, are available for purchase online. More information about free and ticketed events is available here.

BlackStar Film Festival runs Thursday, July 31st to Sunday, August 3rd, International House, 3701 Chestnut Street.

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