A native of Philadelphia, Ephraim Asili, now an assistant professor at Bard College in New York, will see his first feature film screened at BlackStar. “The Inheritance” is both a narrative fiction and a cinematic essay on the history of black liberation. The protagonist inherits a West Philly house from his grandmother, always filled with books and records by Charles Mingus, Nikki Giovanni and Gordon Parks. Loosely based on Asili’s own experience living in a West Philly group house, the protagonist uses the house to organize a political collective and experience socialist life.
Inspired by Jean-Luc Godard’s New Wave films, the film offers readings of works by writers such as Audre Lorde and James Baldwin; performances by poets Sonia Sanchez and Ursula Rucker; archival footage of Shirley Chisholm, the first black woman to be elected to the United States Congress; and cameo appearances by MOVE members Debbie Africa, Michael Africa and Mike Africa Jr.
Debbie and Michael Africa Sr. are also featured in their own short documentary about keeping their marriage in prison, “By Your Side”.
Asili has shown her shorter work at BlackStar in the past. During one of these returns to his hometown, he began taking photos of West Philadelphia, some of which were used in his filming process which resulted in “The Inheritance”.
Khander said BlackStar is a place where new movies are made.
“People meet their people at BlackStar. Filmmakers meet producers, directors, screenwriters, funders, ”she said. “People often bring a short film to the festival and then they will find the funding to make it into a feature film. “
This year’s BlackStar is a partial return to in-person films. All films are available online, as they were last year, but some will also be shown outdoors on the Parkway at Eakins Oval as free evening screenings. On Sunday, a four-program mini-festival will be screened at the Mann Center, inside its open-air glass roof.
There will also be events for the filmmakers, including opening and closing nights and a director’s brunch.
“A lot of directors wanted to come to Philadelphia. I think everyone was really lacking in human touch and exchange. And so many of us got vaccinated,” said BlackStar founder Maori Karmael Holmes. “We do. Really our best. The fact that Philadelphia is 75% vaccinated – which is an incredible number – and we always encourage social distancing and the wearing of masks to protect others. We’re going to be as safe as possible.
The BlackStar Film Festival takes place Wednesday through Sunday. More information can be found online.