Philadelphia, PA —  BlackStar Film Festival proudly announces the winners of the 2017 Festival awards. The Festival, which took place August 3-6  in Philadelphia, was the biggest yet, attracting thousands of film enthusiasts from around the world with multiple sold-out events.

“We were lucky to have an exceptionally strong lineup of films this year, and we saw them resonate with our audience,” says producing artistic director Maori Karmael Holmes. “We’re proud that BlackStar can provide a platform for excellent work across genres and give filmmakers of color a place to convene and share ideas.”

This year’s Festival, with the theme of Resistance, featured over 60 films from around the world. Juried awards were presented at the BlackStar Awards Ceremony at World Café Live.  Audience favorite awards are determined by audience member ballots. The 2017 award winners are:


Richard Nichols Luminary Award:  Ava DuVernay


Best Documentary Feature

NOMINEES: Action Kommandant (Nadine Cloete, Horace Tapscott);  Musical Griot (Barbara McCullough); Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Black Colleges and Universities (Stanley Nelson); Whose Streets? (Sabaah Folayan and Damon Davis.  WINNER: Whose Streets? (Sabaah Folayan and Damon Davis)


Best Narrative Feature

NOMINEES:   Ayiti Mon Amour (Guetty Felin); Hello Cupid (Dennis Dortch, Numa Perrier, Tina Cerin);  Ironwood (Shahin Izadi). WINNER: Ayiti Mon Amour (Guetty Felin)


Best Short Documentary

NOMINEES: black enuf* (Carrie Hawks); How They Sway (Jaad Asante); Kojo: A Short Documentary (Michael Fequiere);  Water Warriors (Michael Premo). WINNER: Water Warriors (Michael Premo).


Best Short Narrative

NOMINEES:  Conversations With Otura Mun (Omid Fatemi);  Marabout (Sy Alassane);  The Philadelphia Bicycle Vignette Story (Bryan Oliver Green); See You Yesterday (Stefon Bristol); The Tale of Four (Gabourey Sidibe); They Charge for the Sun (Terence Nance);  To Be Free (Adepero Oduye). WINNER: They Charge for the Sun (Terence Nance).


Best Experimental Film

NOMINEES:  Forged from the Love of Liberty (Vashti Harrison); A Hotel Called Memory (Akin Omotoso);  Kindah (Ephraim Asili); Mtindo (Ng’endo Mukii);   Mugabo (Amelia Umuhire);  Proclamation Punctuation (Sewra G Kidane).

WINNER: Mugabo (Amelia Umuhire)


Best Youth Film (Ages 11-18)

NOMINEES:  Mrs. Moore’s Class Documentary (WHYY Media Lab); We Are Sankofa (Big Picture Alliance). WINNER: We Are Sankofa (Big Picture Alliance).


Best Youth Film (Ages 19-23)

NOMINEES:  Flesh and Iron (Emma Michalak); Greetings to Browned Blue Flowers (Udochi Ekwerike);  Hot & Bothered (Leah Byrd). WINNER: Flesh and Iron (Emma Michalak).


FOX Inclusion Emerging Voices Award: Narrative

Sketch (Mariama Diallo).


Fox Inclusion Emerging Voices Award: Documentary

Kojo: A short Documentary (Michael Fequiere).



Favorite Experimental Film: A Hotel Called Memory (Akin Omotoso)

Favorite Documentary Feature: Whose Streets? (Sabaah Folayan and Damon Davis)

Favorite Narrative Feature: 195 Lewis (Chanelle Aponte Pearson)

Favorite Documentary Short: Baobab Flowers (Gabriela Watson Aurazo)

Favorite Narrative Short: The Tale of Four (Gabourey Sidibe)

Favorite Youth Film: Tied between Walking Wounded (Tshay Williams) & I & She (Kaia Naadira)

2017 Festival Jurors:



Patricia White
Eugene Lang Research Professor of Film and Media Studies, Swarthmore College


Heidi Saman
Filmmaker & Associate Producer, Fresh Air


Lina Srivastava
Founder, Creative Impact and Experience Lab (CIEL)


Feature Narrative

Tilane Jones
Executive Director, ARRAY


Michèle Stephenson
Filmmaker, Rada Film Group


Cauleen Smith
Artist & Faculty, Vermont College of Fine Art Low Residency MFA



Layne Eskridge
Original Series-Content Acquisitions, Netflix


Anthony Elms
Chief Curator, Institute of Contemporary Art at University of Pennsylvania

Khaled Jarrar
Artist & Filmmaker



Omid Fatemi
Filmmaker & Creative Producer, What Matters Most


Roni Nicole
Henderson Filmmaker


Laura Deutch
Director of Education & Production, Philadelphia Community Access Media


Short Documentary

Opeyemi Olukemi
VP, Digital Production and Innovation–POV


Loira Limbal
Vice President, Firelight Media


King Britt


Short Narrative

Salamisha Tillet
Associate Professor of English and Africana Studies, University of Pennsylvania


Shawn Peters


Damani Baker
Filmmaker & Producer, Sarah Lawrence College

For more information on the 2017 festival and its programs, visit The 2017 BlackStar Film Festival is generously supported by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Wyncote Foundation, Xfinity Streampix, Ford Foundation | JustFilms, Barra Foundation, PECO, Fox Inclusion, Fox Rothschild, Visit Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy and Practice, Lomax Family Foundation, Urban Movie Channel, Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania, and individual donors; as well as a gracious network of partners including All Ages Productions, The Barnes Foundation, Institute of Contemporary Art Philadelphia, Lightbox Film Center, Johnny Brenda’s, World Café Live, Pearlstein Gallery, The Alliance for Media Arts + Culture, Sundance Film Institute, and Moxy PR.

Photo credit:   Daniel Jackson.

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