Aug 2, 2023 - Things to Do

BlackStar Film Festival begins amid Hollywood strike

A screenshot from the film "Ampe: Leap into the Sky, Black Girl." Courtesy of BlackStar Film Festival

The BlackStar Film Festival, dubbed Black Sundance by Ebony magazine, kicks off Wednesday in Philadelphia.

Why it matters: The festival boasts a bigger lineup and new locations this year, but it could see less participation due to the ongoing Hollywood actor and writer strikes.

The big picture: The dual strikes aren't only upending movie and TV production. They're also barring union members from taking part in most film festivals and promotional work.

Driving the news: The nonprofit BlackStar Projects' 12th annual film festival runs through Sunday with a slate of more than 90 films spotlighting Black, brown and Indigenous artists — up from 76 last year.

The intrigue: Nicole Izanec, president of the Philadelphia local SAG-AFTRA, tells Axios she has heard little buzz about the festival amid the strike.

  • She and other union members would typically help promote local films and festivals, which can boost smaller indie festivals like BlackStar.
  • "Under normal circumstances, we would be there [supporting the festival], but our priorities have shifted to strike efforts," she said.
A screenshot of the film "Living Proof"
A screenshot of the film "Living Proof." Courtesy of BlackStar Film Festival

Zoom in: The festival fell short of its fundraising goals this year due to the strike and industry groups freezing their budgets, Maori Karmael Holmes, chief executive and artistic officer of BlackStar Projects, tells Axios.

  • Plus: The strike also forced organizers to pause its Philadelphia Filmmaker Lab, a year-long program for filmmakers, and to replace a popular evening talk show created by writers — a move Holmes said was made in solidarity with striking union members.

Details: The festival features films from 31 countries.

  • Cost: $350 for an all-access pass that lets you attend all films and events, like panels, parties and live podcast tapings. Or pay $18 per screening and events are pay-as-you go.
  • A $175 virtual pass lets you stream all films; or pay $7.50 a screening.

Of note: The opening night party at 9pm Wednesday at the Cherry Street Pier is free, but registration is recommended.

1 cool thing: Check out a trio of shorts from Philly filmmakers who participated in BlackStar's Filmmaker Lab — "The Freedom to Fall Apart," "All That's Left," and "An Endoscopy."


Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Philadelphia.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Philadelphia stories

No stories could be found


Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Philadelphia.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more