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The Roxbury International Film Festival turns 20

Celina Colby
Celina Colby
Celina Colby is an arts and travel reporter with a fondness for Russian novels.... VIEW BIO
The Roxbury International Film Festival turns 20
A poster for ‘Like Fine Silk,’ one of the films featured in the Roxbury Film Festival. Poster Design: Cubby Golden

The Roxbury International Film Festival celebrates 20 years of amplifying filmmakers of color this month. Independent films telling the stories of unrepresented groups will be screened June 20–30 at the Museum of Fine Arts, the Haley House Bakery Café and Hibernian Hall in Dudley Square.

On the Web
or more information and to check out the film festival schedule, visit:

“The theme of the festival is storytelling,” says festival director Lisa Simmons. “We saw it with ‘Black Panther,’ there’s a hunger for positive stories about people of color.” The Museum of Fine Arts will host a free outdoor screening of “Black Panther” on June 20 to kick off the festival spirit.

Writer and director Sandra Manzanares drew on her own experience as an Afro-Latina when making her film. “Like Fine Silk” follows a mother and daughter shopping at a black hair care store, speaking Spanish to each other. Their dual identities as both of African and Latina descent spark the unsettling interest of the Korean store proprietor. The daughter must act as a cultural translator to relieve the tensions of the conversation.

“Even when white people leave the room, white supremacy stays there, and that impacts how these communities interact with each other,” says Manzanares. Having grown up in Mattapan, Manzanares hopes to illustrate that there are stories in Boston that take place outside of Newbury Street and Back Bay.

On June 21 at the Museum of Fine Arts, the award winning film “Liyana,” produced by Thandie Newton of the HBO series “Westworld,” makes its Boston premiere. Woven in a stylistic mash-up of documentary and animation, the narrative follows five orphaned Swazi children who channel their trauma into creative energy. This opening night event will also feature the live storytelling of U-Meleni Mhlaba-Adebo and Valerie Stephens.

Tickets for individual films and events are available, as are Gold passes, which grant access to all screenings, parties and events, and Silver passes, which grant access to screenings and panels. A full list of events and pass information can be found online.

Since its inception, the festival has grown every year. In those 20 years, the festival has welcomed over 38,000 attendees and screened more than 600 films. It is now the largest festival in New England that celebrates people of color.

“I think it’s important for everyone to see films about people of color across the world,” says Simmons. “It’s a very different visual than what we’re seeing in mainstream media. There are infinite narratives.”