From the sweetness of Grannies on Safari and the erotic sparks of On the Verge of a Fever to the heartache of the closing picture, Bastards of the Party, the five-day San Francisco Black Film Festival spans not only a broad range of subjects but also a wide array of emotions.
The schedule celebrates and examines African-American life, including the diversity of experience here in San Francisco. Kevin Epps, for example, presents a new work in progress, The Black Rock, on the subject of race, justice, and escapes from Alcatraz. And Bay City Luv, the a cappella singers who hold forth in front of theaters in the Union Square area, are the subject of Sally Gati's short film of the same name.
Beyond the Bay Area, Alabama, South Africa, Liberia, and other relevant hot spots show up in documentaries, shorts, and animated works. Among these, one we found particularly fascinating (though choosing from so many seems ridiculous) was Coping With Babylon, a Jamaican documentary that looks at the current state of Rastafarianism.
Admission is $7-65
As you'd expect, many of the movies are pure amusements: Indulge yourself in the celebrity interviews of Just for Kicks, for instance, a doc about those who truly love their sneakers (Fab Five Freddy's in there!), or play along with Jepardee, Christopher Marlon's self-described "Jeopardy meets Chappelle's Show." Or work out your intellect and get yourself riled up at the aforementioned Bastards, Cle Sloan's intense investigation of the whys and wherefores of Southern California gang violence. The film uses material such as interviews with radical L.A.-area historian Mike Davis to make its point, and it refuses to let black leaders off the hook for the crimes; this screening, its West Coast premiere, should stir things up.
There isn't a single film that wraps these experiences up easily, but one features a group famous for its perseverance, bold honesty, and respect for tradition: Sweet Honey in the Rock: Raise Your Voice, screening on the fest's last afternoon, may be the SFBFF's perfect coda.