Chief among the docs is A Place of Our Own, director Stanley Nelson's personal-historical tale of Oak Bluffs, a summer vacation spot for upper-middle-class blacks in Martha's Vineyard. Nelson merges the story of an angry father's destruction of a family with the changing history of a beach town where professionals could shrug off the burden of "representing the race" and just be themselves. Another outstanding selection is Kevin Epps' (Straight Outta Hunters Point) world premiere of Rap Dreams, a stylish profile of three Bay Area rappers, which is followed by an after-party and fashion show.
Attendees should also look out for Saturday's presentation of Girl Trouble, which won this year's S.F. International Film Festival's Golden Gate Award for Best Bay Area Documentary. This unflinching four-year saga of three young women and their experiences with this city's juvenile justice system delves sympathetically into the conditions that underlay the teens' troubles. It also makes a local heroine of Bay Area activist Lateefah Simon, a MacArthur Fellow, single mother, and mentor for the movie's subjects.
Also on Saturday, the Urban Kidz Film Festival returns for its third year with a series of workshops and screenings designed to pass on the movie-making bug to kids aged 4 to 12. An animation workshop with alumni from Disney, Nickelodeon, and Warner Bros. is a top pick here, as is a presentation of excerpts from Aaron Greer's feature, Gettin' Grown.
But best of all is Friday's Melvin Van Peebles Awards Ceremony and Reception, where the toothsome, undefeated boxer/actor Laila Ali (youngest child of Muhammad) appears at the Brava Theater to publicize a silent auction of the limited-edition Taschen book GOAT: A Tribute to Muhammad Ali, a monster publication of some 800 pages (it weighs 75 pounds), and to present the Maverick Award to a promising new filmmaker. Post-ceremony, treat yourself to the local premiere of Isaac Julien's revealing IFC documentary Baadasssss Cinema, a clip-studded analysis of the 1970s blaxploitation genre.
Yep, the Black Film Festival runs a mere five days -- but with an action-packed schedule like this, it'll be all you can do to keep up with it.