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The Roxbury International Film Festival enters 21st year

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 enters 21st year

The Roxbury International Film Festival is back for its 21st year, running June 19 through June 29. The ten-day festival is the largest festival in New England celebrating filmmakers of color and features films by local and international artists at venues around Roxbury and at the Museum of Fine Arts.

“The theme, as it always is, is sharing stories that oftentimes don’t get the opportunity to be seen in a big megaplex,” says Lisa Simmons, festival director. This year’s festival is focused on community engagement and has added a substantial number of events to that end. They’ll be hosting a wine tasting at Urban Grape, screening three films by local filmmakers at Hibernian Hall, holding a “Dinner and a Movie” night at Haley House and running a “Business of Acting” workshop at Black Market, among many other activities.

Simmons notes also that the festival has many more women of color participating than in previous years. “I think as the business of independent film grows and evolves, more and more women of color are getting involved,” she says. “It’s wonderful to see that happen.” Notable films by women of color include “Una Great Movie,” a directorial debut by Jennifer Sharpe, and “Solace,” directed by Tchaiko Omawale.

June 20, the official opening night, will feature the highly anticipated documentary “Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am,” a reflection on Morrison’s work and cultural impact. The film includes interviews with the author and many other cultural icons of color. Director Timothy Greenfield-Sanders says, “There should be so many more films about artists of color. We’re living in a terrible political moment, so it’s even more important to bring out these stories.” Greenfield-Sanders has been a close personal friend of Morrison’s for 35 years and was inspired by her to create “The Black List,” a portrait in film of 23 prominent African Americans in all careers and disciplines.

Simmons encourages the community to support the filmmakers involved in the festival despite the recent racially charged controversy at the festival’s partner location, the Museum of Fine Arts. “We certainly stand with those students. But we feel like we need to be present in those spaces. We want people to come and support the filmmakers,” she says.

The Roxbury International Film Festival’s mission has always been to bring stories of people of color and work by artists of color to the forefront, and Simmons says that work is more important than ever. “Independent film counters the negative narrative and helps create a wider breadth of stories within a continuum of a group of people,” she says. “You can always find someone, somewhere, that looks like you.”

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