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Columbus Black International Film Festival Returns for a Third Year

Hope Madden Hope Madden Columbus Black International Film Festival Returns for a Third YearPhoto via Columbus Black International Film Festival website
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Returning for its third year, the Columbus Black International Film Festival kicks off a weekend of films, speakers, networking events and activities this Thursday, August 22.

The festival’s theme this year is Black Infinity.

“Infinity kind of came to me after the last film festival ended,” says Cristyn Steward, film festival director and founder. “Infinity means our blackness is timeless. Black narratives are a constant, regardless of lack of access or resources. We see that on Netflix, on HBO, on network TV, in theaters—arthouse or major box office theaters— there is black film, black TV, black web series. Black narrative will always be in the fabric of any society in which we are represented or even under represented.”

Often a film festival comes into its own in its third year, and Steward is seeing a shift in the volume and type of content being submitted.

“This year we had 142 submissions with 12 countries represented,” she says. “We definitely had different cultures in terms of that diaspora. We’re really expressing what that means to be Brazilian or Cuban or Ugandan or Kenyan.”

“The first two years, it was a lot of political, social justice type of narratives,” she says. “People’s experience with gun violence and police brutality and those sort of things. This year it was more or less just being normal and that human aspect of what blackness is, so that means anything. We’ve seen a lot of family challenges. We’ve seen a lot of international takes on everything, from SciFi to fatherhood. We had a lot of experimental films this year that express identity and space, which also plays into the theme.”

Steward has also ensured space for the voices of youth in year three.

“We had a lot of student films this year, students exploring their time and space,” she says. “The creativity behind student films is always fascinating to me. The student films we chose were really speaking on something more than just unilateral experience. We had a film talking about how you pass down the torch to the next generation about Civil Rights. How does that work out? What are your fears?”

Steward see this as a vital topic to explore.

“I feel like there are a lot of gaps in terms of intergenerational knowledge,” she says. “How can you pass the torch if that’s not a conversation being had?”

She says she’s also programmed some comedies as well as creepy horror this year.

“Year one was a lot of documentaries,” she says. “Year two was a ton of features. Year three offers more shorts, but they’re all stories that I’m really excited to share with people.”

Beyond the program of films, CBIFF aims to provide resources for filmmakers, including networking opportunities, workshops, panel discussions and speakers.

“Part of the vision of our festival is to create a community of filmmakers that have resources to be the best storytellers they can be,” she explains. “I feel like that’s the best service that we can give to budding filmmakers is resources. Anybody can do anything they want if the resources are available.”

“When I was a beginning filmmaker, I didn’t have access to those resources,” she says. “In creating this film festival, I wanted that to be one thing that made it stand out among the sea of other film festivals that exist. It can also cultivate a film culture.”

Columbus filmmaker Kyle Meeks, a guest speaker for this year’s festival, can attest to Steward’s commitment to provide both resources and community. He remembers his involvement in the festival’s inaugural season.

“As soon as I heard about CBIFF, I knew I had to participate,” he says. “I was passionate about watching independent films, but I didn’t know where to find them, and I was far too intimidated to make my own. I contacted Cristyn to volunteer, and she was surprisingly open to bringing me onto her team.”

Meeks’ involvement has grown over the years. Along with his spot as a speaker, he served as a member of the festival’s jury.

“Cristyn is all about building a community of authentic artists and filmmakers who tell stories steeped in our culture and heritage,” he says. “My first year, I was nervous to volunteer, and this year she’s given me a platform to speak about my filmmaking process. I think my story is just an example of how she fosters community and invests in local artists.”

The third annual Columbus Black International Film Festival opens Thursday, August 22 at 5 p.m. with screenings of Anemone Me and Oreos with Attitude at the Wexner Center for the Arts. These are followed at 6 p.m. with a reception, and then a screening of Djibril Diop Mambéty’s 1992 film Hyenas.

The balance of the festival will be held at Hyatt Regency Columbus, 350 N. High St. Find the full schedule and buy tickets at the CBIFF website.

Read more from Hope at MADDWOLF and listen to her weekly movie review podcast, THE SCREENING ROOM.

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