(NEWARK, NJ) -- The 2023 Newark Black Film Festival takes place July 12-16 at The Newark Museum of Art. This is the longest-running Black film festival in the country and it celebrates films that appreciate the historic significance of the Black experience in the United States. The festival features late-night parties, live panel discussions, and exclusive screenings of films created in the last three years.
Since 1974, NBFF has presented the work of young, independent Black filmmakers, showcasing early films by the likes of Spike Lee, Ayoka Chenzira, Warrington Hudlin, Reginald Hudlin, Barry Jenkins, and Ava DuVernay. Past participants include luminaries such as James Earl Jones, Danny Glover, Pam Grier, Donald Bogle, Richard Wesley, Euzhan Palcy, and S. Epatha Merkerson.
The Paul Robeson Awards are presented annually by the Newark Black Film Festival Selection Committee to winners from several categories. The awards are named in honor of Paul Robeson and his cinematic achievements. The 2023 Paul Robeson Awards will take place on Sunday, July 16 as part of the Black Hollywood Awards Ceremony + After Party.
Tickets for individual screenings are $7 for members and $10 for general admission. A festival pass is available for $50 (members price) and $60 (general admission price). Tickets to the Black Hollywood Awards Ceremony and After Party are $12 for members and $15 general admission.
The selection committee included Monisha Bernard, Curatorial Assistant, The Newark Museum of Art; Reggie Blanding, Head of James Brown African American Room, Newark Public Library; Dale E. Colston, Esq., Interim Assistant Director for Special Collections, Newark Public Library; Patricia Faison, NBFF Coordinator Emeritus; LeRoy Henderson, Visual Artist/Photographer/Arts Educator; LeRon Lee, Filmmaker; Yvonne Michelle Shirley, Filmmaker, Director of Community Media Center at Express Newark; Ayana Stafford-Morris, Filmmaker; and Richard Wesley, NBFF Chair/Associate Professor, NYU Tisch, Screenwriter.
Tuesday, July 11, 7:00pm–9:30pm NBFF Pre‑Screening: They Cloned Tyrone, directed by Juel Taylor. (122 min). Rated R. The film stars: Jamie Foxx, John Boyega, and Teyonah Parris. A series of eerie events thrusts an unlikely trio onto the trail of a nefarious government conspiracy in this pulpy mystery caper. This is a special pre-screening for the Newark Black Film Festival, courtesy of Netflix.
Wednesday, July 12, 6:00pm–10:00pm NBFF Opening Film & Brazilian Party: Executive Order (Medida Provisória). Join them for a Brazilian party curated by Roger Costa, with free drinks, light bites, a drumming performance by Marivaldo Dos Santos and music by DJ Luciano to celebrate the opening of the Newark Black Film Festival.
The reception will be followed at 8:00pm by a screening of Executive Order and a panel discussion, featuring Ingrid Silva, ballet dancer at Dance Theatre of Harlem.
Executive Order, directed by Lázaro Ramos. (103 min). Not rated. In a near dystopian future in Brazil, an authoritarian government orders all citizens of African descent to move to Africa—creating chaos, protests, and an underground resistance movement that inspires the nation.
Thursday, July 13, 7:00pm–9:30pm NBFF Documentary: Locked Out, directed by Kate Davis and Luchina Fisher. (118 min). Not rated. Owning a home – the cornerstone of generational wealth – is increasingly out of reach for people of color. In Detroit, a group of Black women fights against scammers, evictions, and traditional banks to help make The American Dream a reality for all.
The screening will be followed by a Q&A with director Luchina Fisher and Laura Sullivan, Economic Justice Director of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice.
Friday, July 14, 7:00pm–8:45pm NBFF Film: Black Terror (Work in Progress Screening & Panel Discussion). Come see excerpts of this film, directed by Richard Lawson. (60 min of excerpts). Not rated. Fifty years after the original production of Richard Wesley’s Black Terror, Richard Lawson directs a bi-coastal cast of revolutionaries on a daunting mission to free their people. As the Black Comrades Keusi, M’Balia, Geronimo, and Ahmed fight on the edge of life and death, the divide between them intensifies and widens. This collaboration between Wesley, Lawson’s Waco Theater Center, and Newark Symphony Hall combines theater and film as it weaves together the pulse of liberation struggles both past and present. It calls upon audiences to ask: What does it truly mean to be for the people?
Excerpts of the film will be accompanied by a panel discussion about the making of the film and the continued relevance of the story, featuring Richard Wesley, Richard Lawson, and others. Moderator: Talia Young, Newark Symphony Hall.
The film was featured as a special presentation at the Cannes Film Festival’s African Pavilion, 2023.
Friday, July 14, 9:00pm–11:00pm NBFF Documentary: Kokomo City, directed by D. Smith. (73 min). Not rated. A raw depiction of the lives of four black trans sex workers as they confront the dichotomy between the Black community and themselves.
The screening will be followed by a Q&A with Tahtiana Fermin, founder of Bridges4Life, Whit Strub, Associate Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies at Rutgers University, Adaryll Moore, Amoore Enterprises. Moderator: Talia Young, Newark Symphony Hall.
Look Back at It, directed by Felicia Pride (12 mins). Not rated. A forty-something single mother gets her groove back with a little assistance from her teenage daughter. Look Back at It is set in Baltimore and also serves as a proof of concept for a feature film of the same name. This short film will play before Kokomo City.
Saturday, July 15, 2:00pm–4:30pm NBFF Documentary: Invisible Beauty, directed by Bethann Hardison and Frédéric Tcheng. (115 min). Not rated. The story of Bethann Hardison, a fashion revolutionary who has been on the front lines of racial justice in her industry for over five decades. Through her life journey as a pioneering Black model, modeling agent, and activist, the film explores race, beauty, and representation.
The screening will be followed by a Q&A with independent curator Kristen J. Owens and other panelists. Moderator: Darryl Walker, Manager of Community Engagement, NMOA.
Saturday, July 15, 5:00pm–7:00pm NBFF Shorts (Block 1). A selection of the best shorts submitted to the Newark Black Film Festival.
We Were Meant To, directed by Tari Wariebi (28 min). Not rated. In a world where Black men have wings and their first flight is a rite of passage, Akil must defy fears, insecurities, and societal barriers while discovering his perfect launch into manhood.
The Love Machine, directed by Jasmine Lynea (10 min). Not ratedNasir Smith, a teenage scientist, and influencer, desperately wants to challenge intergenerational trauma, by healing his family’s past to welcome back love and compassion in their home. In his family’s basement, Nasir goes Live! presenting his new invention to the world, called The Love Machine.
Burning Rubber, directed by Chris Fequiere (8 min). Not ratedBurning Rubber is an adult action-packed anime that follows the sport of NYC Handball told through the perspective of a Black Brooklyn Native.
The Vacation, directed by Jarreau Carrillo (10 min). Not ratedIn Flatbush, Brooklyn, four friends are stuck in their car after it breaks down on the way to the beach on the last day of the summer.
The screenings will be followed by a Q&A with Chris Fequiere, director of Burning Rubber, Dara King, producer & writer of Burning Rubber, Tari Wariebi, director of We Were Meant To, and Jasmine Lynea, director of The Love Machine.
Saturday, July 15, 7:30pm–9:30pm NBFF Film: Juice (Throwback Screening). A throwback screening of a classic by Newark’s own Ernest Dickerson, starring Tupac Shakur and Omar Epps. We also celebrate the iconic music and talent featured in this film on the 50th anniversary of hip-hop.
Juice, directed by Ernest Dickerson. (95 min). R. Four inner-city teenagers get caught up in the pursuit of power and happiness, which they refer to as “the juice”.
The screening will be followed by a Q&A with the film’s director Ernest Dickerson, producer Ralph McDaniels, and cast members Khalil Kain and Jermaine Hopkins. Moderators: Richard Wesley and Maya Cade.
Sunday, July 16, 1:30pm–3:30pm NBFF Shorts (Block 2). A selection of the best shorts submitted to the Newark Black Film Festival.
Us, directed by David F. Fortune (14 min) Not rated. A devoted father experiences the highs and lows of teaching his son with down syndrome the sweet science of baseball. However, his patience is stretched as his child struggles to grasp the basic fundamentals of the sport they love.
Little Trumpet, directed by Megan Trufant Tillman (30 min) Not rated. A nine-year-old loner wants his brother to teach him how to play the trumpet. In the 7th Ward of New Orleans, that’s not so simple.
Ricky, directed by Rashad Frett (20 min) Not rated. An ex-offender struggling with new freedom pursues redemption at all costs when given a job from his neighbor.
boju weyín, directed by Bimpé Fageyinbo (28 min) Not rated. Nigerian-American poet Bimpé Fageyinbo explores love, heartbreak, and grief in this visual poetic memoir featuring selected poems from her 2010 book, “so maybe that’s the bee’s weakness.”
The screenings will be followed by a Q&A with Rashad Frett, director of Ricky, and Bimpé Fageyinbo, director of boju weyín.
Sunday, July 16, 4:00pm–6:00pm NBFF Film: Story Ave, directed by Aristotle Torres, with Asante Blackk, Luis Guzman. (94 minutes). Not Rated.The film follows a teenage graffiti artist who ran away from home and holds up an unwary MTA worker in a robbery gone right that would change their lives forever.
The screening will be followed by a Q&A.
Sunday, July 16, 6:00pm–10:00pm Black Hollywood: NBFF Award Ceremony + After Party. Join them for a night of glamour and celebration on the closing night of the Newark Black Film Festival, powered by Vibes After Dark!
Dress to impress in your finest red-carpet attire and step into the world of classic and contemporary Black cinema. Rub shoulders with industry professionals and fellow film enthusiasts as we honor the incredible talent and creativity of Black filmmakers. Enjoy live entertainment, fashion, artmaking and more, all in one unforgettable night.
Live performances by: Melanie Charles, Janétza Miranda, and DJ set by Zunyda. Fashion presentation featuring Rrouge, by Melody Asherman. Drinks and food available for purchase.
The Newark Museum of Art is located at 49 Washington Street in Newark, New Jersey.
Since its introduction, the Newark Black Film Festival (NBFF) has provided a forum for writers, directors, producers, performers, and film patrons who enjoy African American and African Diaspora cinema. The goal of the Festival is to present programs that reflect the full diversity of the black experience both past and present, and encompass a wide range of forums and formulas from documentary to the avant-garde. Since its inception, NBFF has screened over 800 films to an audience of almost 180,000 adults and youth, including the work of young, independent, Black filmmakers, such as Spike Lee, Ayoka Chenzira, Warrington Hudlin, and Reginald Hudlin. Past participants include luminaries such as James Earl Jones, Danny Glover, Pam Grier, Donald Bogle, Richard Wesley, Euzhan Palcy, Ava DuVernay and S. Epatha Merkerson.
The NBFF started in 1974 with a touring black film festival that was put together by filmmaker Oliver Franklin who worked at the Annenberg Center for Communication, Art & Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania. The late Gus Henningburg, who was then the Executive Director of the Greater Newark Urban Coalition, learned about the festival and proposed it to The Newark Museum of Art.
In 1976 when the touring festival was no longer available, the Museum decided to produce the Newark Black Film Festival and established a selection committee, whose volunteer members represented important institutions in the community.
‘‘When we introduced the festival, few black filmmakers were successful in bringing their projects to the screen and those that made it, didn’t stay long,’’ said NBFF Chair Gloria Hopkins Buck, a charter member of the Festival. ‘’The founders were sensitive to the need for creative expression, and we did our best to make it happen. Challenges still exist but the quality of work and their artistic accomplishments on a global scale are changing the landscape.’’
‘’NBFF is a Festival unique for its longevity and the endearment in which it is held by patrons of more than a generation,’’ said Rutgers professor and historian Dr. Clement Price, also a charter member. ‘’ “It is also civic ritual that has witnessed the emergence of black film as a genre important to understanding multiple narratives about the human spirit.’’
Warrington Hudlin, President, Black Filmmaker Foundation said, ‘’The NBFF came into existence to fill the void left by movie theaters that were fleeing Newark and other inner cities throughout the United States. The real beneficiaries soon became the newly minted generation of young African American filmmakers who were graduating from film schools with films under their arms and looking for a place to screen them. And even today, if a filmmaker wants to put his or her film to a litmus test for authenticity, I say ‘screen it in Newark.’’’