10th Black International Film Festival breaks down barriers in Birmingham

The following news story appeared first on Birmingham Eastside and was picked up by a range of local media:

Birmingham hosts the 10th Black International Film Festival this month, giving audiences a chance to celebrate stand-out work created by film-makers and actors of colour from the city and around the world.

The festival, running from October 17 to October 29 at venues around the city, is crammed with film premieres, online showings and short movies from new and established writers and directors.

The star studded Movie, Video and Screen Awards (MViSAs), hosted by prominent black actor Wil Johnson and Emmerdale star Fiona Wade (Priya Sharma), will be the finale of the fortnight long festival.

Sheryl Miller, Festival Director, said it was a wonderful opportunity for Birmingham audiences to support talent from a broad spectrum of backgrounds and communities.

“Our ambition is to celebrate film making and to particularly support artists of colour to reach a wider audience. The festival is for everyone, from all backgrounds, and we hope to attract audiences from across the city and beyond.

“We want to show people of colour in roles which are broader than the lens applied by mainstream Hollywood, where black people are typically cast as gangster, thug, slave or sassy best friend.”

The programme of online and live movies, documentaries, workshops and Q&A sessions are themed ‘Life Imitates Art…In All Its Colours’.

“The films focus on telling different stories that are about or connected to people’s real lives. The story is the key. We want to push the boundaries and support artists who want to share the stories of their lives,” adds Sheryl.

“So, for example, we show a very powerful film called The Pass, which explores LGBT issues against a backdrop of football. We also introduce a wonderful selection of short films exploring all sorts of issues from dementia to identity to cross-cultural relationships.

“One of the many short films made for the festival is by a young actor, Theo Johnson, from Handsworth, which explores the impact of a single knife crime and how far reaching the consequences of one act can be.”

Selected festival highlights include:

  • Nathan East: For The Record, by Chris Gero, which gives a behind the scenes look at the life of one of the most influential and revered bass guitar players in modern music, with tributes from the likes of Lionel Richie and Eric Clapton (Oct 24, Crescent Theatre, Brindley Place)
  • The Pass, starring Russell Tovey and Arinze Kene, in which two young Academy footballers share an excited kiss – and its impact reverberates through the next decade of their lives in an industry where image is everything. (Oct 26, Everyman in The Mailbox)
  • Everything But A Man, by Nnegest Likke, in which a successful career woman has a life changing romance with a mystery man from another culture whose radical lifestyle differences shake up her world and challenge her perspective on love and what it means to be a strong woman. (Oct 27, Crescent Theatre)

The full programme and ticket booking information can be viewed at the festival website.

The lack of opportunities for and prominence of people of colour in the film industry has been well documented in recent months.

In a foreword to the festival programme, the organisers write: “A recent study by the British Film Institute found that almost 60% of British films made in the past 10 years featured no named black characters, and just 13% cast a black actor in a leading role.

“A study of 1,172 UK films found that just 15 black actors had played more than one leading role in the past decade.

“And despite the exodus of black actors and filmmakers to the US, things aren’t much better there.

“Racial minorities had 12.9% of the lead roles in the top 163 films examined in the 2016 Hollywood Diversity report, despite making up almost 40% of the nation’s population.

“The argument made by film companies used to be that people of colour didn’t come out to watch films, or that the masses wouldn’t come out to watch people of colour. Well, both of those theories have been disproven at the box office, so what’s the excuse now?”

The 2016 Oscars were blighted by protests about the Academy’s failure to nominate any black actors or film makers in any of the key categories.

The accusations that the awards were a ‘whitewash’ resonated with many in the US, with prominent black actors and directors boycotting the awards ceremony in protest.

You can read the statistics behind the outcry in The Economist

The finale of the festival fortnight is the MViSAs, the Movie, Video and Screen Awards, taking place at the International Convention Centre (ICC) on Saturday October 29. The gala night features performances from Omar, Donaeo and Wayne Marshall.

For more information and to book tickets visit www.biffestival.co.uk or tweet to @biffestival #iluvmvisas

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