HARLEM INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL Announces line-up for 18th edition

No Rest for the Weekend
6 min readApr 29, 2023

Opening Night features the New York Premiere of Ryan Dickie and Abigail Horton’s Blow Up My Life, with Christina Kallas’ Paris Is In Harlem

The 2023 Harlem International Film Festival (Hi) today announced it is teaming up with STARZ (2023 Luminary Partner) and unveiled films and events for its 18th edition — a hybrid event taking place in-person May 18–28. The film festival will open with a double feature presentation of Ryan Dickie and Abigail Horton’s Blow Up My Life, and Christina Kallas’ Paris Is In Harlem. Friday Spotlight Presentations include the world premiere of the first two episodes from the next season of STARZ’ Run the World series, and the world premiere of Clayton P Allis and Doug E. Doug’s In The Weeds.

The in-person screenings will take place at AMC Magic Johnson Harlem 9 Theaters (2309 Frederick Douglass Blvd), with the Harlem International Film Festival and Columbia University Zuckerman Institute’s free-to-the-public screenings at The Forum (601 West 125th Street), and the Maysles Documentary Center (343 Malcolm X Blvd.). With a music theme running throughout the festival, this year’s film lineup will once again celebrate and showcase relatively undiscovered international cinematic gems and local New York filmmaking talent with a special focus on Harlem artists. Hi’s lineup features 64 films, including 35 features (14 narrative, 21 documentary), 29 shorts (20 narrative, 9 documentary), 2 television episodes, and 2 VR projects. Other feature films making their world premieres are David Bell and Mecca Medina’s $ Broke Boi, Taylor Krauss’ BronX BandA: Arturo O’Farrill & The Bronx, and Patrick Heaphy’s The Sacred Place between Earth and Space.

Harlem International Film Festival’s Program Director, Nasri Zacharia, said. “This year we are celebrating over a century of Harlem Renaissance and Resilience with an amazing slate of films from the area. We are also glad to be back at the AMC Magic Johnson Theaters and Columbia University as well as Maysles Documentary Center, and this year we are thrilled to present the world premiere of the first two episodes of STARZ Run the World season 2, set in Harlem, to our lineup featuring several other world premieres, and wonderful work by our filmmakers here in Harlem, Upper Manhattan, and the Bronx. This year, music runs throughout our schedule with amazing documentaries, very special honorees, culminating in a big day of music films and a special live performance on Sunday, the 21st. This film festival has always emphasized the idea of being a festival with exciting and entertaining events inspired by the films we screen, and this year really underlines that idea.”

Opening on Thursday, May 18 at AMC Magic Johnson Harlem 9 Theaters (2309 Frederick Douglass Blvd), the Harlem International Film Festival will present the New York premiere of Ryan Dickie and Abigail Horton’s Blow Up My Life. The homage to noir comedy thrillers follows a disillusioned pharmaceutical employee who becomes a reluctant whistleblower forced to go on the run when he accidentally discovers a deadly opioid conspiracy hidden by his former boss and the CEO of the company. The film will be preceded by Eunice Levis’ short film, InVade, which follows an undocumented scientist and his son trying to stop an environmental disaster. The second screening of the Opening Night double feature will be Christina Kallas’ drama Paris Is In Harlem, which involves the lives of several strangers intertwining during a shooting a jazz club in Harlem on the eve of New York City’s controversial “No Dancing” Law getting repealed. Preceding that screening will be Fany de la Chica’s short film Last Night in Paris Blues about a Latino flamenco-jazz immigrant singer who needs to decide between love and her career as an artist on the last day she performs at Paris Blues. Both screening presentations will include appearances and post-screening Q&As with filmmakers, cast and crew.

The Friday Spotlight Presentations on May 19 will be highlighted by the World Premiere of the first two episodes of STARZ’ Run the World series second season. Chronicling the euphoric highs and heartbreaking lows that three black women must endure in their pursuit of world domination, the dramatic comedy returns as they continue to not simply survive but thrive. Directed by Rachael Holder, the episodes will include “A Dream Deferred,” where Whitney anxiously awaits the fate of her relationship, while Sondi and Renee are reminded by Ella that it’s never a bad time to choose yourself, and “Honeymoon’s Over,” in which Renee hustles to get her agency some business, as Sondi and Whitney are forced to face the reality of their new living situations. Attending and participating in a special panel discussion following the screenings will be series stars Amber Stevens West, Bresha Webb, and Corbin Reid, with showrunner Rachelle Williams-BenAry.

Also featured on Friday’s Spotlight Presentations will be the World Premiere of Clayton P Allis and Doug E. Doug’s magical realism drama In The Weeds. In the film, a free-spirited girl from Harlem falls for a handsome transplant from London, whose mental scars have been awoken by the pandemic. The remedy, she believes, is outside, everywhere, from medicinal weeds sprouting out of sidewalks in the Bronx, to magic mushrooms in Queens. Meanwhile, her chronically suspicious father, with the help of two healing witches runs all over NYC looking for her, desperate to make amends. The screening will be preceded by Hans Augustave’s short film I Held Him, about a man’s decision to choose an uncomfortable solution to help his friend out of his pain and depression. Doug E. Doug will attend and participate in a post-screening Q&A with additional filmmakers moderated by Malik Yoba.

On Saturday, May 20, the Harlem International Film festival continues its association with Columbia University with three free-to-the-public screenings at The Forum. Ashwin Chaudhary’s documentary Blind Eye Artist tells the origin story of renowned painter Justin Wadlington. Blind in his left eye. Wadlington’s unique and dynamic art has become a sensation with clients and benefactors including Shaquille O’Neal, Kevin Hart, and Broke Shields. As part of the special screening, Wadlington will also be displaying some of his work during the in-person run of the film festival. Jenny Mackenzie’s documentary The Right To Read will make its New York Premiere as part of the special screening series. The film shares the stories of an NAACP activist, a teacher, and two American families who fight to provide our youngest generation with the most foundational indicator of life-long success: the ability to read. The third free-to-the-public presentation at The Forum will be a special package of Harlem Shorts, celebrating the best in local filmmaking this year.

Additional world premiere includes David Bell and Mecca Medina’s $ Broke Boi about a weed delivery boy, with dreams of being an NYC Hustler, who finds himself up against it after he gets robbed of his stash and profits and now has twelve hours to make the money back or he could lose more than his dreams. Taylor Krauss’ music documentary BronX BandA: Arturo O’Farrill & The Bronx watches 6-time Grammy Award-winning jazz pianist Arturo O’Farrill bring to life a 9-piece hip-hop-jazz ensemble converting stories of South Bronx life to music resounding in the streets. Patrick Heaphy’s documentary The Sacred Place between Earth and Space captures the mid-pandemic culmination of Harlem Stage’s Afrofuturism series featuring Craig Harris’ Nocturnal Nubian Ball for Conscientious Ballers and Cultural Shot Callers.

On Sunday, May 21, the Harlem International Film Festival will give music its due by featuring films putting music front and center. In addition to the aforementioned BronX BandA: Arturo O’Farrill & The Bronx, and The Sacred Place between Earth and Space, the film festival will feature the New York City premiere of Bestor Cram’s documentary Bonnie Blue: James Cotton’s Life in the Blues about James ‘Super Harp’ Cotton, who became a mentor to harp players around the globe as he brought the delta blues into mainstream rock ‘n roll. NC Heikin’s award-winning documentary Life & Life tracks the journey that musician Reggie Austin took to redeem his life following a murder conviction 40 years ago. With surprising honesty and depth, the film looks at Austin’s effect on his fellow inmates and his efforts to reconnect with his family. Peter Schnall’s Ron Carter: Finding The Right Notes is a captivating and informative story of the legendary jazz bassist. The film festival will honor Ron Carter with its Renaissance Award and will also present a special live performance by Reggie Austin and his band out of San Francisco.

Following the opening in-person weekend, the film festival will continue virtually with TBA in-person screenings and events throughout the second week. For updates, film festival passes, tickets, and more information on the Harlem International Film Festival visit the festival website.

Originally published at https://behindtherabbitproductions.wordpress.com on April 29, 2023.

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