Capital City Black Film Festival Returns With New Voices
After a forced hiatus, stronger than ever
Blindspotting. Black Panther. BlacKkKlansman. Sorry to Bother You. 2018 has been a banner year for black filmmakers, and that's being reflected in the number and quality of films submitted to the Capital City Black Film Festival. CCBFF Executive Director Winston G. Williams said, "In the planning stage, we had outlined that we would only accept 50 films into the festival, and there were so many good films that it's over 80 now. Talk about coming back strong."
It's amazing that the festival is coming back at all. Last year was meant to be a fifth year celebration, but three days before the first film was supposed to unspool, a key sponsor backed out, meaning the whole event had to be canceled. Williams said, "I called each one of our advisory council members and I said, 'Well, I think it's over' and they said, 'No, you can come back from this.'"
With that affirmation, Williams set about rebuilding: first step, bringing in new and talented staff, and giving them the authority and autonomy to excel. "We wanted to get back to executing on the high levels that we started on," he said. "All of these people working together took a lot off me, and so I was able to go out and have the necessary meetings, not only for '18 but for our future."
Festival communications director Desirae Jones added, "What we really tried to do is be purposeful by making sure that we are not only focused on bringing in brands who will help us generate revenue for the festival, but we still want to keep it about the filmmakers."
In a year when the interplay of sports and civic engagement has been in sharp focus, the revived festival has a particular emphasis on crossover between athletics and cinema, including a screening of college sports documentary Breaking Down Barriers: The C.R. Roberts Story (see "The Touchdowns That Changed Texas") and a special retrospective screening of beloved comedy Cool Runnings. There will also be a celebration of the legacy of a baseball legend, Austin native Don Baylor, whose son Don Baylor Jr. will receive the Harlem Lights Award on his late father's behalf for his influence and inspiration.
For Williams, CCBFF plays a vital role in providing a forum for Austin's growing African-American filmmaking community, and that's why they have collaborated with the newly-founded nonprofit Black Film Collective – to bring those locally based storytellers and technicians (many of whom have only recently moved to Austin) together. "We have always known that they were here," said Williams, "but they just didn't have a community to be a part of. So working with the Black Film Collective and getting the word out about what the film festival is doing has really increased our numbers of local participation."
All that outreach across the last year, as well as the relationship with the collective, is designed to fit CCBFF into a pipeline for the filmmakers that Williams calls "CCBFF Alumni. We don't just have them here and show their films and then disconnect from them. We stay connected, and we act as a resource to them. If they need referrals, if they need information, then they call us and we respond."
Moreover, Williams sees CCBFF as keying in to and adding to Austin’s bigger reputation as a film town. “Austin’s name carries weight around the world,” he said. “We are really committed to letting the general public know that there are platforms where these independent films will be.”
Capital City Black Film Festival, Aug. 30-Sept. 1 at the Austin Convention Center. Tickets and info at www.capcitybff.com.