2017 Harlem International Film Festival, May 4 – 7

The 2017 Harlem International Film Festival announced the official selections for the 12th edition of the film festival taking place on May 4-7 at MIST Harlem (41 West 116th Street).

Opening with the world premiere of Daniel Peddle’s inspirational documentary, GARDEN OF THE PEACEFUL DRAGON, and closing with Angela Robinson Witherspoon’s tale of survival on the streets of New York City, CURTSY, MISTER, the four-day film festival will showcase 90 films from more than 30 countries, on subjects ranging from immigration, sex, race, romance, music, art, fashion, combating HIV/AIDS, surviving breast cancer, homelessness, gentrification, celebrating dance, and much more – including 6 world premieres, 2 North American Premieres, and 2 U.S. premieres.

“This year’s lineup is typically diverse, both in content and the filmmakers responsible for the films, bookended by personal profiles that hit close to home both because of their redemptive themes and because they get to the heart of what is the best in humanity,” said Harlem International Film Festival Program Director Nasri Zacharia, “In our 12th year, the festival will once again provide a forum for wonderful storytelling and exciting moments on the big screen created by talent all around the world.”

Opening Night, this evening, will mark the debut of Daniel Peddle’ GARDEN OF THE PEACEFUL DRAGON, which profiles Burley Luvell Benford III, an elderly African-American veteran who occupies an abandoned piece of government property by the beach in Kauai, Hawaii.

After being discharged from the Marines, Benford became one of the first employees of IBM and neighbor to Timothy Leary. A single acid trip changed his life over-night. Ditching his “suit,” he moved to San Francisco where he fell in with the Beat Poets and witnessed the birth of The Grateful Dead. Legendary music promoter Bill Graham hired him to be a bodyguard for his artists and he spent the better part of a decade jet-setting and hobnobbing with stars. Looking for another dramatic change of lifestyle, he repaired a schooner and sailed it all the way to Hawaii.

hree divorces and four children later, we find Luvell homeless, living out of his pick-up truck on the beach. A man whose incredible life story may have been lost to time is rediscovered in this final chapter of his life. Preceding the screening of GARDEN OF THE PEACEFUL DRAGON will be the U.S. Premiere of Anneta Lauffer’s short film, AFRO PUNK GIRL, and Eileen Byrne’s short film IRIDESCENCE.

Closing Night, on Sunday, May 7, will feature the North American premiere of Angela Robinson Witherspoon’s CURTSY, MISTER. The documentary tells the story of Ronnie Grant. Raised in the projects on 61st and West End Ave., in New York City, but eventually managing to move to the much nicer co-ops on 64th Street, right behind Lincoln Center, Grant’s life was changed forever after an aunt began dressing him up as a little girl. This led to a life of androgyny as well as an early molestation by a friend’s father. However, Grant never thinks of himself as a victim as he looks back at his life. He tells recounts very personal story with honesty, dignity and a large dose of humor. The film is preceded by Joschka Laukeninks’s short film BACKSTORY.

Highlights among the Harlem International Film festival’s other world premieres include: Jacques Zanetti’s DAY AFTER DAY, another New York-centric film, focusing on the push and pull within the relationships of two diverse couples in the city; Robert Clem’s documentary, HOW THEY GOT OVER, which combines vintage footage of the television series, “TV Gospel Time” with interviews with members of spiritual music legends, the Blind Boys of Alabama, Soul Stirrers, Dixie Hummingbirds and other groups; Stephen Dest’s film, I AM SHAKESPEARE (THE HENRY GREEN STORY) which follows the inspiring story of survival of 19-year old Henry Green, who was brutally shot and left for dead just shortly after his inspiring performance in William Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo & Juliet”; and Jason Swain’s romantic comedy, SAVE ME FROM LOVE, about a woman at wits end with her fiancé, that is pushed by her friends to begin dating again.

Additional festival highlights include; the New York premiere of Coreon Du’s BANGAOLOGIA – THE SCIENCE OF STYLE, about the African continent’s influence on style from the runways of the world to the meccas of visual art; James Marquand’s drama, BEAUTIFUL DEVILS, which is a modern retelling of Shakespeare’s Othello set within the music scene of East London; the East Coast premiere of Sean Durant’s drama/doc hybrid, GINA’S JOURNEY, based on the Afterword of the book, Life of William Grimes the Runaway Slave, written by Regina Mason, in which her path is retraced as she visits historical locations and key points of interest along her 15-year path of discovery; the New York premiere of Johan Eriksson’s HODA’S STORY about a young woman’s remarkable comeback from a gunshot wound-induced coma amidst the endless strife in the Gaza Strip; and QUALITY PROBLEMS, about a couple coping with a sudden breast cancer diagnosis while they face the challenges presented by a father with Alzheimer’s and an approaching birthday party for their 8-year old.


Feature Films Presentations

Afro-Punk Sci-Fi Cinema
GARDEN OF THE PEACEFUL DRAGON                           World Premiere
Director: Daniel Peddle
Country: USA, Running Time: 87min
GARDEN OF THE PEACEFUL DRAGON is an intimate, moving and transformative portrait of Burley Luvell Benford III, an elderly African-American veteran who occupies an abandoned piece of government property by the beach in Kauai, Hawaii. We witness his off-the-grid existence while learning about his fascinating life-story. Unforgettably charming, Burley Luvell Benford III upends our presumptions and challenges our worldview while earning his place in our hearts.

Preceded by
AFRO PUNK GIRL                                                                US Premiere
Director: Annetta Lauffer
Country: USA, Running Time: 16min
AFRO PUNK GIRL is a dystopian sci-fi drama set in a near future Britain, where Christmases are hot, nights are filled with violent muggings and the militia government enforces the “Happiness Agenda” upon it’s citizens.

Ditrector: Eileen Byrne
Countries: Germany/Luxemborg
After being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015, élodie turned her suffering and fears into a creative fight against the disease and the debilitating effects of the treatments used. Her latest work, IRIDESCENCE, is the personal story of her fight with cancer and the way she found to deal with the disease in a creative and hopeful manner. It’s also a way of giving back and handing on the positive vibes that she’s received from friends, family and strangers during the course of her disease.


CURTSY, MISTER                                                                 North American Premiere
Director: Angela Robinson Witherspoon
Country: USA, Running Time: 60min
A very human story of survival. Ronnie Grant is raised in the projects on 61st and West End Ave., in New York City, but eventually manages to move to the much nicer co-ops on 64th Street, right behind Lincoln Center. His favorite aunt, Glo, decides he would be cute dressed up as a little girl. This leads to a life of androgyny and an early molestation by a friend’s father. Ronnie never thinks of himself as a victim. He tells his very personal story with honesty, dignity and a large dose of humor.

Preceded by
Director: Joschka Laukeninks
Country: Germany, Running Time: 8min
As a young child our protagonist is left by his mother and has to live with his violent father. He fights his way through adolescence and falls in love with the woman of his dreams and just as everything seems to be finally working out for him, a sudden event changes the course of his life forever. A story about how everything we love, everything we learn, everything we build, everything we fear, will one day be gone.


BANGAOLOGIA – THE SCIENCE OF STYLE                    New York Premiere
Director: Coreon Du
Countries: USA/Portugal/Angola, Running Time: 83min
The African continent has always been a place that evokes a deep sense of wonder and fantasy. It is naturally diverse, with a vast array of people, cultures, and natural beauty. Being the home to ancient civilizations, it is considered the “birthplace of humanity” or “the motherland”. But could it also be the birthplace of style? Africans and their cultures are inspiring the aesthetic world today more than ever. From the runways of the world to the meccas of visual art, there is an undeniable presence of African influence and a growing number of African trendsetters. BANGAOLOGIA – THE SCIENCE OF STYLE sets out to explore the raison d´être behind the recent growth of the African aesthetic in the world, including from the most unexpected places.

Preceded by
Director: Sewra G Kidane
Country: USA, Running Time: 5min
An enthralling music video/fashion film centered on a fabulously fascinating woman reciting a short soliloquy paying homage to her love for using exclamation points in her missives. Periods are so period, whereas an exclamation point livens up a sentence! There is simply nothing worse than a long drawn out sentence ending in an uninspiring dull dot! So when exclamation points are your philosophy on life, one must always keep it on the up beat!!


BEAUTIFUL DEVILS                                                             U.S. Premiere
Director: James Marquand
Country: UK, Running Time: 104min
A modern retelling of Shakespeare’s Othello set within the music scene of East London. Oz and Ivan are lifelong friends and music producers. When Oz gets offered a lucrative recording contract, he makes the decision to separate from Ivan professionally. This rejection turns to rage, as Ivan plots to undermine Oz’s success and get him kicked off the label. The plan kickstarts an escalation of jealousy and paranoia in Oz with deadly consequences. Stars Iain Glen (Game of Thrones) and Osy Ikhile (The Legend of Tarzan).


BEFORE THE TREES WAS STRANGE                               New York Premiere
Director: Derek Burrows
Country: Bahamas, Running Time: 86min
BEFORE THE TREES WAS STRANGE is a personal documentary, a journey of race and identity sparked by the  filmmaker’s desire to unlock a mystery within his own family, growing up white in The Bahamas and being seen as black in America. This film is about race, love and forgiveness and finally redemption as he explores his mother’s questions about her own heritage only to find the truth that was kept away from him.

DAY AFTER DAY                                                                  World Premiere
Director: Jacques Zanetti
Counry: USA, Running Time: 107min
A Romeo and Juliet & Juliet and Juliet Story: This New York City-centric film is based around two diverse couples going through relatable struggles that many have faced in their own lives. What is love, and how do you know if you’re in it? How will we work together to maintain and preserve our love? DAY AFTER DAY is a story of love and conflict, with dynamic, relatable interactions between characters.


EVERYBODY HAS AN ANDY DICK STORY                       New York Premiere
Director: Cathy Carlson
Country: USA, Running Time: 77min
Every generation has its legendary characters – icons who have lived outrageous lives, created hilarious stories that only their closest friends have access to. This documentary makes you feel like you are a part of it, like you are at the party. And because Andy has created thousands of great stories, there’s a pretty good chance that you have a story about him. And let’s face it, after decades of partying, these people just might remember the stories just a little bit better than Andy does.
Preceded by
Director: Christopher Ming Ryan
Country: USA, Running Time: 7min
A passion for finding talent. Philip Carlson was a talent agent who signed and represented the likes of Philip Seymour Hoffman, Claire Danes, Idris Elba, Viola Davis, and Liev Schreiber. His roster of acting talent is long and his career spanned decades.

Director: Luis Ayhllón
Country: Mexico, Running Time: 83min
Hugo has terminal cancer and needs easy money. For that reason, he wants to sell his house to Paco, an old friend who had an affair with his wife, thirty years ago. Paco wants to buy the house, but he doesn’t have a penny. Therefore, Hugo suggests to Paco that he should commit a robbery to get he money he needs.


GINA’S JOURNEY                                                                 East Coast Premiere
Director: Sean Durant
Country: USA, Running Time: 82 min
Documentary based on the Afterword of the book, Life of William Grimes the Runaway Slave, written by Regina Mason. The Afterword, “My Long Road Back to William Grimes” reveals Regina’s long path to authenticate her ancestor’s story and the intense personal sacrifices that made editing and re-publishing his original book possible. In the film, Regina’s path is retraced as she visits historical locations and key points of interest along her 15-year path of discovery. The film features special visual effects to create scenes during the 1800s when her ancestor, William Grimes, was enslaved in the South and endured a life of hardship as a free man in the North. This footage is blended with interviews from Regina Mason, her coeditor, Dr. William Andrews, scholars, and others who were a part of her journey.
Preceded by
JONAH                                                                                   East Coast Premiere
6 min
Director: Andrew Michael Ellis
Country: USA, Running Time: 6min
JONAH is a meditative documentary using dance to explore and personify a curious interview with a former African American slave. Interpreting a historical interview through a modern exploratory dance, the documentary asks questions about the inheritance of trauma, and our capacity to regenerate.


GROOM’S BLOCK                                                                North American Premiere
Director: Ilker Savaskurt
Country: Turkey, Running Time: 103min
In the Groom’s Block, the guards and prison governor manipulate tensions, as prisoners push each other to the edge of survival. We experience the tension and paradox of a violent prison and justice system reflecting the shifting moral norms and structure of Turkish society. The jailed and jailers enforce violent justice daily, expressing in their lives a society confronted with its need to hide from itself, in desperate denial of its cruel contradictions.


HODA’S STORY                                                                    New York Premiere
Director: Johan Eriksson
Countries: Palestian Territories/Israel/Finland, Running Time: 58min
Twelve years in the life of a girl in Gaza who was blinded by a bullet. On March 1, 2003, 12-year old Hoda Darwish is hit in the head by a bullet while sitting at her desk in an elementary school in Khan Younis in the Gaza Strip. Hoda miraculously survives, but she wakes up from her coma asking when the daylight comes, as the bullet had blinded her. She struggles to come to terms with her altered life, doubting her will to live, amidst the endless violence in the Gaza Strip. Eventually, she meets the girl who sat beside her when she was shot, which changes her fate in a remarkable way.
Preceded by
Director: Alexander Kurilov
Country: Moldova, Running Time: 11min
The story of a boy who lives with his grandmother in an Eastern European village. His parents are both working abroad, so the boy is left to his own devices. He fills his time by playing in an abandoned shed on the riverbank. Inside the shed he toils away at a mysterious project – a powerful ‘flying machine’ that would take him to his parents. This project keeps him going, until one day he makes an unexpected friend who needs his care and protection. So the boy has to choose between his all consuming dream of re-uniting with his parents or taking care of another living soul.
Director: Robin Polak
Country: Germany, Running Time: 7min
A little boy walks through a toy store full of people talking a strange and incomprehensible language. Alone he bonds with a young mother who finds a way to communicate with him without words. He is going to tell her something that she was not ready to hear.


Director: Oliver Yan
Country: China, 101min
Mr. Zhou, in order to purchase the VIP membership of a nursing home, wants to seize the opportunity of the relocation of his house by arranging a fake marriage with Mrs. Dong to acquire more money out of the compensation. But Mrs. Dong, fearing karma, has her doubts all along. Zhou Ping, Mr. Zhou’s son, on the other hand, sees the relocation as an opportunity to buy a school estate for his daughter, Zhou Jiajia.


HOW THEY GOT OVER                                                        World Premiere
Director: Robert Clem
Country: USA, Running Time: 87min
Footage from the classic early 60s television series, “TV Gospel Time” is mixed with archival images and interviews with members of the Blind Boys of Alabama, Soul Stirrers, Dixie Hummingbirds and other groups to tell the story of young black men who found a way out of poverty through spiritual music and the secular music they inspired.

Preceded by
Director: Dominic Laing
Country: Luxemborg, Running Time: 5min
The music video for WHEN THE SAINTS’ takes a stanza from “When the Saints Go Marchin’ In” and uses it as an conduit for a single character’s emotional journey; from grief to defiance, from deep ache to true hope — a full expression of heart and soul.


Director: Stephen Dest
Country: USA, Running Time: 81min
I AM SHAKESPEARE (THE HENRY GREEN STORY) chronicles the inspiring true life story of 19-year old Henry Green. While living a dual life as a brilliant young actor and inner-city gang member, he was brutally shot and left for dead just shortly after his inspiring performance in William Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo & Juliet’ when he was just 19- years old. The film traces his remarkable recovery and intestinal transplant received from a 13-year boy killed in a car accident on the other side of the country.
Preceded by
Director: Jon Bunning
Country: USA, Running Time: 15min
A look at the powerful connection between a pair of outdoor ping pong tables in the heart of New York City and the unlikely group of people they’ve brought together, from homeless people to investment bankers to gangbangers.


Director: Roberta Durrant
Country: South Africa, Running Time: 122min
Krotoa is a historical character, a woman of colour who can be described as the first woman in South Africa who fought against colonialism and discrimination. KROTOA is set in 1652 and is a drama inspired by the real life of a feisty, bright, young 11-year old girl who is removed from her close-knit Khoi (indigenous) tribe to serve Jan van Riebeeck (the first Governor of the Cape Colony), her uncle’s trading partner. She is brought into the first Fort established by the Dutch East India Company in 1652. There she grows into a visionary young woman who assimilates the Dutch language and culture so well that she rises to become an influential interpreter for van Riebeeck. As such, Krotoa ends up being rejected by her own Khoi people and eventually destroyed by the Dutch when she tries to find the middle way between the two cultures.


LANDSCAPES                                                                       New York Premiere
Director: Vincent Fournier
Countries: France/Thailand, Running Time: 52min
LANDSCAPES tells four different stories of a small group of friends living in rural areas northeast of Thailand (Isan). Their daily life is made of basic repetitive things: eating, sleeping, working, partying, dreaming – surviving like we all do. What we don’t all do is have to cope with that peculiar feeling, that sensation that you will never be able to live your life fully, that you will never reach any level of happiness. A hard fate, for sure, but accepting that fate and agreeing to tell us what it means – even in a country, Thailand, where everybody says it’s easier to be accepted when you are transgender (which is a false affirmation) – reveals extraordinary characters whose personal balance is always at risk. Sad but true, these stories are nevertheless also very positive as the message brought by these universal cameos is so powerful and sincere that you can only be touched.
Preceded by
Director: Jeannie Donohoe
Country: USA, Running Time: 15min
A.J Green, a new kid in town, shows up at the high school boys’ basketball tryouts and instantly makes an impression. Coach takes notice, and so do the other players, some of whom feel threatened by the new blood. The school’s team is excellent–second best in the state–and this is the year Coach plans to win it all. A.J. proves himself on the court and clearly has talent, heart, and drive… as well as a big secret. Will A.J. be able to make the team once the players and Coach discover the truth?


Director: Min Sook Lee
Country: Canada, Running Time: 88min
A powerful feature documentary by multiple award-winning director Min Sook Lee (El Contrato, Hogtown, Tiger Spirit) and Emmy award-winning producer Lisa Valencia-Svensson whose Herman’s House won Best Documentary at Harlem International in 2012. MIGRANT DREAMS tells the undertold story of migrant agricultural workers struggling against Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) that treats foreign workers as modern-day indentured laborers. Under the rules of Canada’s migrant labor program, low wage migrants are tied to one employer.
Preceded by
Director: Nathalie Blomme
Country: France, Running Time: 3min
Music video for “Trip to the Stars” by NATE.


MOSCOW NEVER SLEEPS                                      New York Premiere
Director: Johnny O’Reilly
Country: Russia, Running Time: 100min
MOSCOW NEVER SLEEPS is a multi-narrative drama about the hidden bonds that connects us all. The film dives headlong into the volatile intersections of contemporary Moscow and the intimate lives of five people: An entrepreneur whose business empire comes under siege by powerful bureaucrats, a teenage girl mired in the misery of a broken home, a young man forced to choose between his girlfriend and his grandmother; a beautiful singer torn apart by the pursuit of two men, and an ailing film star who gets embroiled in a bizarre kidnapping. Over the course of one day, their lives will change forever. These stories weave through Moscow’s choked cityscape as it celebrates its birthday with a massive fireworks display. They reveal the unrestrained energy of Europe’s biggest city and the cruelty and beauty of the Russian spirit.


NANA                                                                          New York Premiere
Director: Serena Dykman
Countries: USA/Poland/Belgium, Running Time: 100min
At 22, Serena had always known that her grandmother, Maryla Michalowski-Dyamant, was an Auschwitz survivor, but never inquired more about the Nana she had lost at 11. After witnessing the Charlie Hebdo and Brussels Jewish museum attacks, Serena suddenly decides to read her grandmother’s memoir, and realizes who she was; more than a survivor, more than a Polish Jew, Serena discovers a woman she barely knew, a woman who despite her heavy past, gave all of her strength and life to fighting intolerance.
Preceded by
Director: Robert Kerr
Country: USA, Running Time: 5min
Music video, set in 1939, in Nazi Germany, where an amazing thing happened: Jewish parents, sensing their lives were in danger, placed their children aboard trains to be raised by foster families across free Europe. They did this, knowing they would probably never see their children again…
Directors: Price Arana, Adam Rothlein
Country: USA, Running Time: 16min
Sam Harris, believed to be one of the youngest to survive the camps during the Holocaust, shares his amazing story of survival with Executive Producer Sharon Stone.


ORDINARY PEOPLE (Pamilya Ordinaryo)                         East Coast Premiere
Director: Eduardo Roy, Jr.
Country: Phillipines, Running Time: 107min
Jane and Aries are teenage parents. They make a living out of stealing on the streets… until fate hits back at them.
Preceded by
THE DESERT JOURNEY                                                      New York Premiere
Director: Kamal Khan
Country: Pakistan, Running Time: 8min
A sex worker’s world breaks down when she finds herself in a whirlwind of violence after a murderer is suspected to be hiding at her workplace.


QUALITY PROBLEMS                                                          East Coast Premiere
Directors: Brooke Purdy, Doug Purdy
Country: USA, Running Time: 106min
Bailey and Drew Poster are a 40-something couple much like other couples: They have two kids, two jobs, one dad with Alzheimer’s and one boob with cancer. Toss in planning a birthday party for an 8-year old, and the only thing you can do is laugh.


SAVE ME FROM LOVE                                                         World Premiere
Director: Jason Swain
Country: USA, Running Time” 90min
Kendra, who is at wits end with her fiancé, explores the world of dating, with coaxing from her friends, to find that true love comes when least expected.


Director: Steven McGregor
Country: Australia, Running Time: 58min
Bringing to light the heartbreaking experiences of Rita, Violet, Adelaide and Valerie, SERVANT OR SLAVE is a film of courage, strength and the fortitude to pursue justice for the crimes committed against them after being stolen from their families, trained to be domestic servants and forced into indentured labor. Theirs is a David and Goliath battle, not only for personal retribution, but also for the next generation of Aboriginal people to come
Preceded by
JONAH                                                                                   East Coast Premiere
Director: Andrew Michael Ellis
Country: USA, Running Time: 6min
JONAH is a meditative documentary using dance to explore and personify a curious interview with a former African American slave. Interpreting a historical interview through a modern exploratory dance, the documentary asks questions about the inheritance of trauma, and our capacity to regenerate.


Director: Brian Vawter
Country: USA, Running Time: 110min
Produced by UNH’s Center for the Humanities and Atlantic Media Productions, SHADOWS FALL NORTH features the key players responsible for Portsmouth’s African Burying Ground memorial park, honoring the centuries-old souls discovered beneath city sidewalks more than a decade ago. And it delves deep into the overlooked history of racism in Northern New England. A rallying cry to acknowledge untold stories and set history straight. How does New Hampshire, a state with the motto “Live Free or Die,” confront and understand its participation in slavery, segregation, and the neglect of African-American history? What happens to our identity as residents of this state, as New Englanders and as Americans when we begin to acknowledge all of our past?


Director: Raquel Cepeda
Countries: USA/Dominican Republic, Running Time: 52min
SOME GIRLS explores issues of identity within the Latina-American community by focusing on a group of troubled teenage girls in a Bronx-based suicide prevention program who feel rejected by mainstream America, but are transformed through an exploration of their roots. In the course of the film, shot over a four-year period, they use ancestral DNA testing to discover their ancestry and, in doing so, begin to rethink what and how they’ve been taught about history. Following the testing, the girls embark on an expedition to learn more about themselves based on the results.
Preceded by
A GIRL CAN DREAM…BRE SCULLARK               Harlem Spotlight
Director: Marquis Martin
Country: USA, Running Time: 35min
Bre Scullark is a professional Model (America’s Next Top Model, Cycle 5), a Certified Trauma Yoga Instructor for Jails and institutions, a Documentarian and the founder of Urban Peace Squad; Urban Peace Squad is a donation Based Peace Workshop providing live Music, Yoga, Meditation and open Discussion in under served communities. Bre takes us on her journey in finding peace through yoga.
Director: Brandon German
Country: USA, Running Time: 4min
Music video for the song ‘My Black Is Beautiful’ inspired by teaching middle-school aged children and realizing that low self-esteem was a recurring issue among young black girls. The video follows a young middle school aged, black girl, who struggles with low self-esteem. She is insecure about her hair texture, her size and her complexion. The young girl, while undergoing Rites of Passage, is taught that ‘self love is more precious than anything else.’ As the story unfolds, she slowly begins to understand the importance of self-worth.


Director: Eduard Erne
Country: Switzerland, Running Time: 52min
November 4th, 2008. President-elect Barack Obama addresses an enthusiastic gathering in Chicago’s Grant Park. With the three words ‘Yes, we can’, Barack Obama sums up the America’s optimism and its capacity for change. The documentary, THE SPEECH, sets out to take this historic speech at its word. It seeks a dialogue about words and their effect, while also assessing a whole era. It takes us back to the beginning of Obama´s presidency, to the energy of his words, to the hopes and achievements that this speech was targeting. In a consciously radical fashion, the film focuses on the words. Witnesses are interviewed and it is their memories, emotions and criticisms that provide the framework for the film.


Director: Kari Barber
Country: USA, Running Time: 65min
STRUGGLE & HOPE follows the stories of four residents of the remaining historically all-black towns: retired teacher Shirley Nero, juke joint owner Selby Minner, recent college graduate and rancher Spencer Nero (a distant relation to Shirley), and younger than usual town council member Keisha Gaines. Each has launched an effort to try to keep people in their town and keep the towns from disappearing like so many already have. Meanwhile, renaissance man and former college professor Dr. Harold Aldridge Jr. searches for meaning again in life after the death of his father. His story underlies the importance of place, knowing one’s own history and, ultimately, why these towns are worth fighting for.
Director: Lucas Mendes
Country: USA, Running Time: 67min
Emcee and actor Malik Work blurs the lines between hip hop and traditional storytelling in this compelling film capturing the urban artist’s resilience and proclivity to rise, fall, and rise again.


Short Films

Director: Doug Webb
Country: USA, Running Time: 5min
Music video for song meant to be an homage to the filmmaker’s parents — especially his father — for working to support him and his brother, and sending both to college, something they never had the opportunity to do. The fourteen steps comes from the fact that he would watch him from the upstairs window walking down the steps and onto the sidewalk, heading to the subway to travel to Harlem to his job as a foreman in a small factory.


Director: Jake Alexander
Country: USA, Running Time: 8min
Madou Dossama, an immigrant husband and father of two young children attends a job interview that could change his family’s life. During this job interview with the hospital administrator, Garrett Morgan, we discover that there is more to Madou Dossama than meets the eye.


I PROMISE TO REMEMBER                                     New York Premiere
Director: Jimmy Castor, Jr.
Country: USA, Running Time: 15min
When one loses a parent, memories may fade but their words linger.


Director: Rodrigo Zanforlin
Country: UK, Running Time: 16min
Jimbo, 16-years old, quiet, and shy, has spent his life cowering in the shadow of his controlling, anarchist, father El Tigron, and his devoted yet delusional lover, Lolli. After their latest heist, Jimbo decides to take charge of his destiny and break free from his father’s prison.


Director: Seran Kim
Country: USA, Running Time: 15min
When Mrs. Han returns to work alone after her husband’s murder at the very liquor store she has to maintain now, even her only employee quits on her. Despite her raw trauma and fear for the uncaught robber still roaming in the neighborhood, she steps outside in desperation of hiring someone new. While no one wants to work at the store out of fear, a quiet but eager woman carrying a large suitcase follows her back to the store.


Director: Abdul Malik Abbott
Country: USA, Running Time: 4min
Sergeant James Powell is suffering from severe PTSD. While self-medicating and contemplating his future on a cold and cloudy day in Brooklyn, he experiences a chance encounter with his estranged family as the music and lyrics by B.O.S.S help to soothe his soul.


SEARCH PARTY                                                                   Harlem Spotlight
Director: Tesia Joy Walker
Country: USA, Running Time: 9min
SEARCH PARTY is a short film about Donna Greene, a lower middle class mother living in the Grant Housing projects, hosting a surprise party that is interrupted by an uninvited guest—the police. The police are on a manhunt looking for an unidentified suspect in the area. Donna fights hard to drive the police away, because she doesn’t want anyone or anything to ruin her son’s special day.


Director: Royston Scott
Country: USA, Running Time: 28min
The film looks at the life of Sara Spencer, a young black woman who became a phenomenal success selling her line of hair products door to door in 1920’s Atlantic City, New Jersey. She created a business that lasted through The Great Depression, eventually becoming a million-dollar empire giving tens of thousands of black women the opportunity to become self sufficient. She called the business Apex, and they called her Madame Sara Spencer Washington.


THIS IS FAMILY                                                                     Harlem Spotlight
Director: Roan Bibby
Country: USA, Running Time: 14min
A young father-to-be struggles with the decision to finally locate his birth father, only to find that he was not looking for answers about his past as much as he was running from questions about his future.


Directors: Price Arana, Adam Rothlein
Country: USA, Running Time: 16min
Sam Harris, believed to be one of the youngest people to survive the camps during the Holocaust, shares his amazing story of survival with Executive Producer Sharon Stone.


WHITE FACE                                                                         New York Premiere  
Director: Mtume Gant
Country: USA, Running Time: 20min
New York Actor Charles Rogers hates his skin and all that hardship that comes with it. Feeling trapped by his race, Charles believes he has found the solution to his problems – change his appearance to embody ‘Whiteness’ – erase all that he has ever been and join the group he’s believes he should be a part of. But is this ever possible?



Celebrating the art of cinema in the home of the Harlem Renaissance, The Harlem International Film Festival (Hi) inspires and entertains by honoring dynamic films by anyone about anything under the sun. Conceived from the belief that we all have unique experiences and perspectives to share, the Festival actively seeks and exhibits fresh work. Hi is committed to exemplifying the eminence that Harlem represents and is dedicated to bringing attention to the finest filmmakers from Harlem and across the globe.


Gregg Morris can be reached at gmorris@hunter.cuny.edu