S.F. Black Film Festival celebrates its 10th year

When Ave Montague started the San Francisco Black Film Festival 10 years ago, it was a side event to the annual Juneteenth celebration, which commemorates the abolition of slavery in Texas and much of the South after the Civil War.

She says, “It was a one-day event and there were not a lot of people there.” With a budget of just $3,000, the festival only drew 300 people.

Things have changed in a decade.

This year, it has a $100,000 budget and more than 2,000 people are expected to attend the event, which runs Wednesday through June 15 at the Sundance Cinema Kabuki, Yoshi’s, the African American Cultural Complex Center, Rasselas and the Museum of the African Diaspora.

“Today, the film festival is a 10-day cultural celebration drawing international attention and thousands of attendees,” Montague says. “It is one of the largest black film festivals in the country and filmmakers from all over the world come … because we provide a platform for them to screen films.”

This year’s theme is “10 years, 10 days, 100 films.” Movies from Africa, Australia, Canada, Europe and the United States directed by or starring blacks make up the programming.

“We are particularly excited we are bringing it back to the Fillmore district this year, where the festival started,” Montague says.

At 6 p.m. Wednesday, the festival opens at the Sundance Kabuki with “Shoot the Messenger.” Directed by Nigerian-born British filmmaker Ngozi Onwurah, it’s about a British teacher who loses his job.

Other highlights include the documentary “Tribute: Stanley Tookie Williams, 1953-2005,” about the death row prisoner and member of the Los Angeles-based gang the Crips, which screens at 5:30 p.m. June 15 at the African American Cultural Complex.

Additional documentaries featured are “The People’s Advocate: the Life & Times of Charles R. Garry,” about the legendary attorney who defended Black Panthers Huey Newton and Bobby Seale (screening at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Museum of the African Diaspora) and “Adjust Your Color: The Truth of Petey Greene,” narrated by Don Cheadle, screening at 6 p.m. June 12 at the Kabuki. Greene, one of America’s first shock jocks, is also the subject of the feature film “Talk to Me,” starring Cheadle.

Documentary filmmaker St. Clair Bourne, who died in December, will be honored in a retrospective tribute. Bourne made more than 40 films in his 36-year career. “The Making of ‘Do the Right Thing’” and “John Henrik Clark: A Great and Mighty Walk” will be screened in a program featuring panel discussions at noon Saturday at the Museum of the African Diaspora.

Taraji P. Henson, who starred in “Hustle and Flow,” will receive the Phoenix Award at the Melvin Van Peebles brunch at 11 a.m. June 14 at 1300 on Fillmore.

IF YOU GO

San Francisco Black Film Festival

When: Wednesday through June 15

Tickets: $10 for most screenings; more for special events

Contact: (415) 771-9271 or www.sfbff.org

Most screenings at

– African American Cultural Complex Center, 762 Fulton St.

– Museum of the African Diaspora, 685 Mission St. (at Third Street)

– Sundance Kabuki, 1881 Post St.

– Yoshi’s, 1330 Fillmore St.

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