The San Francisco Black Film Festival Celebrates 17th Year


The San Francisco Black Film Festival, completing its 17th year, featured nearly 100 films throughout the city last week.


The festival showcased the work of dozens of emerging and established filmmakers, including “Beyond the Passage,” “Mac Dre: Legend of the Bay,” “Code Oakland” and “Farm Legacy.”


The festival celebrated cinema from a perspective of the Black Diaspora, featuring movies and documentaries based on African, Caribbean and African American experiences.


The opening night film, “America Is Still the Place,” featured the life of San Francisco businessman and war veteran Charlie Walker. A panel discussion and reception on June 10 held at the African Plural Art Gallery featured Walker and the film’s director, Patrick Gilles.


The film is based on a novel written by Walker, chronicling his struggle to succeed in business in the midst of a racist society.


Walker and Gilles discussed their collaboration and the irony of how their filming in the 70’s paralleled 2014 with a natural disaster occurring in the same area 30 years later.


They also discussed the disparities plaguing society and how much has remained the same. The outspoken Walker feels that African Americans may have been better off continuing to build their own communities and culture as opposed to working for integration.


“We should have bought our own buses and lunch counters,” he said. “Why did we fight so hard to integrate with people who bombed Black churches, killed children and were violent?”


Walker, who has five daughters and five grand children with master’s degrees, says that the key to success is a combination of education, common sense and opportunity.


“We have too many Blacks with master’s degrees who are homeless and hungry in a land of plenty, and not enough is being done to change it,” he said. “We must be the change.”


Walker encourages young people and students to move toward entrepreneurship and become owners of their own businesses.


He called on prominent athletes and celebrities in the Bay Area to do their part to help.


The San Francisco Black Film festival took place at the Sundance Kabuki Theater, the African American Art & Culture Complex, Second Act and The Variety Premier House. Forums discussed the state of independent films and monetizing films online.


“Film brings cultures together,” said Katera Crossley, co-director of the festival. “It’s important for us to have vehicles to prompt conversation on the important issues of our times.”


The festival was founded by the late Ave Montague in 1998, mother of co-director Kali O’Ray. Montague sought to present Black filmmaking to the world and generate opportunities in the industry.


“Every year we hope to expand my mom’s legacy and benefit artists while entertaining the community,” said O’Ray.


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