African American Women in Cinema Film Festival

African American Women in Cinema Film Festival

Date Observed: Three days in late October
Location: New York, New York

The African American Women in Cinema, Inc. holds a film festival each October in New York City. The annual event aims to expand, explore and create career opportunities for minority women filmmakers within the entertainment industry.

Historical Background

Although blacks have been involved in filmmaking ever since motion pictures were first produced, white males have dominated the industry. Not surprisingly, then, AfricanAmerican women have struggled not only to be recognized as filmmakers, but also to attain the funds needed to produce motion pictures. Usually, they have produced independent films or videos for specific audiences, and, for the most part, have not been known by the general movie-going public or, for that matter, by major studios.

Black women directed and produced movies from about 1920 to 1930, when white men took over the industry, forcing nearly all women into the background. One of the early filmmakers was the famed author Zora Neale Hurston, according to Sisters in the Cinema , a documentary written, directed, produced, and narrated by Yvonne Welbon (see also Zora Neale Hurston Festival of the Arts and Humanities). Welbon's film was the result of a search for other black women filmmakers. Premiering in 2004, the documentary traces the history of black women in filmmaking and has been widely and favorably reviewed.

In January 1992, Julie Dash's Daughters of the Dust opened in Chicago. It was the first feature-length film by an African-American woman to receive a wide theatrical release. The film is the story of three generations of African Americans who meet on a Sea Island in 1902 (see also Georgia Sea Island Festival, Native Islander Gullah Celebration, and Penn Center Heritage Days).

Creation of the Festival

The African American Women in Cinema Festival began in 1998 in an effort to develop opportunities for African-American women in filmmaking. The non-profit African American Women in Cinema (AAWIC), which incorporated in 2000, focuses on supporting minority female filmmakers, particularly by providing resources that might not otherwise be readily accessible to them.

Observance

Stretching over three days in late October, the festival is a combination of film screenings, workshops, seminars, social events, and award ceremonies.

The films screened at the festival aspire to achieve AAWIC's mission: to improve cultural understanding and overall social welfare through the promotion of diversity in dramatic and documentary media content. All other activities support the organization's belief that the tools of enlightenment, empowerment, entertainment, education, and enterprise can be used by women, for the betterment of women, to break barriers in the black filmmaking arena.

Contacts and Web Sites

African American Women in Cinema Organization, Inc. 545 Eighth Ave., Ste. 401 New York, NY 10018 212-769-7949; fax: 212-871-2074

Daughters of the Diaspora offers "A Filmography of Black Women Independent Film and Video Makers," based on John Williams's "Re-Creating Their Media Image: Two Generations of Black Women Filmmakers." Black Scholar, Spring 1995. Daughters of the Dust (1992), was released as a DVD in 2000. Sisters in Cinema, a resource guide provided by Yvonne Welbon's Our Film Works, Inc.

Further Reading

Dash, Julie, with Toni Cade Bambara and Bell Hooks. Daughters of the Dust: The Making of an African American Woman's Film . New York: The New Press, 1992. Ellerson, Beti. Sisters of the Screen: Women of Africa on Film, Video and Television. Lawrenceville, NJ: Africa World Press, 2000. Foster, Gwendolyn Audrey. Women Filmmakers of the African and Asian Diaspora: Decolonizing the Gaze, Locating Subjectivity . Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1997. Moss, Marilyn. "Sisters in Cinema." Hollywood Reporter, February 6, 2004. Williams, John. "Re-creating Their Media Image: Two Generations of Black Women Filmmakers." Black Scholar, Spring 1995.
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