Black Film Festival under way

The ninth annual San Francisco Black Film Festival, which begins today and runs through June 17, features more than 80 feature films and documentaries and shorts from around the world, exploring subjects from apartheid and AIDS to hip-hop culture.

The opening program, at 6 p.m. today at Theater Artaud, 450 Florida St., is the U.S. premiere of “The Front Line,” a story of a Congolese asylum seeker (Eriq Ebouaney) working as a security guard in Dublin, Ireland, who turns the tables on vicious gang members when they force him to assist in a bank robbery.

On June 15 at Theater Artaud, the festival will present the “Pioneer Award” to veteran actor Barry Shabaka Henley, a character actor who performed with the San Francisco Mime Troupe in the 1970s. His movie credits include “Collateral,” “Miami Vice” and “Four Brothers”; on TV, he’s appeared in “Lackawanna Blues,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Law and Order” and “NYPD Blue.”

The event will also include an announcement of film festival award winners, in the short, documentary, feature and student categories.

Among the more high-profile films on the roster is the West Coast premiere of Richard Schenkman’s “And Then Came Love” starring Vanessa Williams, Eartha Kitt and Ben Vereen.

The character-driven romantic comedy is about a high-powered single mom who unleashes Pandora’s box when she seeks out her son’s anonymous sperm donor; it screens at 7:15 p.m. June 15 at Theater Artaud.

Closing the festival June 17, screening at 6:30 p.m. at Theater Artaud, is the Northern California premiere of “Premium.” Starring Hill Harper and Dorian Missick, it’s about a struggling actor — pumping gas to pay the bills — who encounters his true love on the day before her wedding.

On Saturday, an Urban Kidz program beginning at 10:30 a.m. features shorts including “Black Star Line All-Star Swim Team,” “He Loves Baseball,” “I Want to Be a Pilot” and “Wormhead.”

The presentation, free for children and $10 for adults (adults may bring up to four kids) is at the Museum of the African Diaspora, at 685 Mission St.

Additional screenings will be at the African American Arts and Culture Complex at 762 Fulton St.

Tickets range from $8 to $10 for regular programs and up to $40 for special events; festival passes for multiple programs also are available.

For the complete schedule and more information, visit www.sfbff.org or call (415) 771-9271.

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