Alaska Is a Drag
Still image from "Alaska Is a Drag" (Courtesy photo)

After four days filled with more than 80 films screenings, including 15 in competition, the inaugural Smithsonian African American Film Festival, presented by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture from Oct. 24-27, announced the six films that won the inaugural awards.

“The museum’s inaugural film festival celebrates African-American culture through the medium of film, and we are tremendously proud of the five winners of our first-ever juried competition,” said Kinshasha Holman Conwill, deputy director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture. “Each awarded film is a singular work of film artistry, telling powerful stories, which are not only great entertainment but are important cultural markers in African-American and American film.”

Of the 225 films submitted for consideration, 15 were a part of this year’s competition, with top honors being presented as follows:

• Narrative Feature – “Alaska Is a Drag,” directed by Shaz Bennett
• Narrative Short – “Where the Water Runs,” directed by DuBois N. Ashong
• Documentary Feature – “United Skates,” directed by Dyana Winkler and Tina Brown
• Documentary Short – “Black 14,” directed by Darius Clark Monroe
• Experimental and Animation – “Give,” directed by David de Rozas
• Audience Award – “Respect and Love,” directed by Angelique Webster

The winners were selected by nine jurors based on a set of criteria including technical merit, relevance to the National Museum of African American History and Culture’s collection, storytelling, and representation of African-American history and culture.

Jurors included:

• George Alexander, principal, Galex Media Group
• Ayoka Chenzira, division chair of the arts and chair of the Department of Art and Visual Culture, Spelman College
• Terri Francis, associate professor, cinema and media studies, director, The Black Film Center/Archive, The Media School at Indiana University
• Michael Gillespie, associate professor of film, Black Studies Program, the City College of New York
• Maori Holmes, artistic director, BlackStar Film Festival
• Shola Lynch, curator, moving image & recorded sound division, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture
• Michelle Materre, Materre Media Consulting/Creatively Speaking
• Dawn Porter, director and producer, Trilogy Films
• April Reign, senior director of marketing, Fractured Atlas

“I am tremendously proud of the inaugural winners, filmmakers and jurors who devoted themselves and their films to the first Smithsonian African American Film Festival,” said Rhea Combs, curator of photography and film at the National Museum of African American History and Culture and organizer of the film festival. “The festival’s success is rooted in the commitment of the many dedicated filmmakers whose moving images inspire and shed light on the many untold stories of the African-American journey.”

The Smithsonian African American Film Festival is supported by Toyota, AARP, Netflix, Earl W. and Amanda Stafford and the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities.

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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