Imagine the city of brotherly love as the hot bed for an independent Black film festival started by a woman. Its success could locate Philadelphia as ‘that space’ just as Park City is known for Sundance. Imagine people from all over the globe traveling to Philly to see films that tell stories which inform, excite, and transform culture; films made by people within the diverse spectrum of African descent. This is what Founding and Artistic Director Maori Karmael Holmes is hoping for the BlackStar Film Festival, August 2-5 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Holmes’ goal is to deliver a global festival with a line-up of award winning American directors including Byron Hurt, Soul Food Junkies, Ava Duvernay, Middle of Nowhere and Nelson George, Brooklyn Boheme, as well as international directors such as Sonia Godding Togobo, Adopted ID and Kurt Orderson Breathe Again.  The festival offers approximately 40 dynamic glimpses of life often unseen on the big screen.

“[Film] transforms our vision of the world in a very deep way,” Holmes says. “It impacts the way we think and create our own worlds.”

Most Black folks in the US have grown up on big screen, studio-produced representations of people of color. The problem, of course, is that these character representations, mostly found in Hollywood, rely heavily on stereotypes. This is true at times even in films created by Black directors. The BlackStar festival is on a mission to provide stories beyond the stereotypes.

“The gatekeepers of Hollywood are not intimately familiar with our stories,” she says. “I don’t think it’s a conspiracy [but] because they are not us, it’s challenging for them to ‘get it.’ So we continue to be in these boxes, you have to be Black in a certain way. You have to be urban and ghetto, yet our experiences are so diverse and broad.”

The stories lined up for the BlackStar film festival are informative, heart wrenching, and rich; and they dare to capture global perspectives on a wide range of topics such as adoption, love, food production and consumption, anti-oppression activism, music, striving, thriving, and overcoming hardships—they are fully human stories.

Top that Hollywood.

For the full festival line-up and to purchase tickets visit: