The 20th annual Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival (MVAAFF) will open with the award-winning documentary “Descendant” from Netflix, Participant Media and Higher Ground, Barack and Michelle Obama’s production company.
The documentary — which earned the U.S. special jury award for creative vision after its Sundance Film Festival debut earlier this year — follows members of Africatown, a small community in Alabama, as they share their personal stories and community history as descendants of the Clotilda, the last known slave ship to illegally transport human beings as cargo from West Africa to America. The opening night screening will be held at the Martha’s Vineyard Performing Arts Center on Friday, Aug. 5, at 8 p.m. ET, followed by a panel discussion with director Margaret Brown and producers Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter and Essie Chambers.
Celebrating 20 years of Black excellence in film, the MVAAFF — an Oscar-qualifying film festival in the short film category — runs from Aug. 5-13 on the beach island of Martha’s Vineyard, with an impressive slate of independent films, documentaries, panel discussions and exclusive events.
“Each year we are beyond thrilled to have support from industry partners with content from and a dedication to creators of color,” stated Floyd and Stephanie Rance, Run&Shoot Filmworks founders and MVAAFF producers and founders, announcing the program of special events. “It is our mission to amplify these storytellers in a meaningful and safeguarded way. We have done this for 20 years and will continue to do so.”
In addition to “Descendant,” this year’s lineup features talent including Tyler Perry, Spike Lee, Michael Ealy, Patina Miller and the cast of Peacock’s “The Best Man: The Final Chapters.”
Perry will preview his Netflix film “A Jazzman’s Blues,” with clips and conversation presentation planned for Saturday, Aug. 6, at 8 p.m. The drama, set from 1937-1987, follows an investigation into an unsolved murder unveiling a story fraught with forbidden love, deceit and a secret that has been held for 40 years.
Also on Saturday at 12 p.m., Kasi Lemmons will receive the Legacy Spotlight for her classic film “Eve’s Bayou,” which marks its 25th anniversary this year. Following a screening of the film, Lemmons will sit to discuss her pathway to success, past and upcoming, including helming the Whitney Houston biopic, “I Wanna Dance With Somebody,” which is set for release in December. The special honor is presented in partnership with Lionsgate and NYU’s office of global inclusion, diversity and strategic innovation.
Reverend Al Sharpton is scheduled to speak during Saturday’s program as well, as part of a conversation following a screening of the BRON Life documentary “Loudmouth,” a film by Josh Alexander, which paints a portrait of Sharpton’s lifetime of activism, protest and power.
On Sunday, Aug. 7, at 7 p.m. ET, Netflix will screen the premiere episode of the upcoming limited series “From Scratch,” followed by a talkback with co-creators and sisters Tembi and Attica Locke.
Additional screenings and panel discussions will be updated throughout the festival, with all scheduled to take place at Martha’s Vineyard Performing Arts Center (MVPAC), unless otherwise noted. For more information on the MVAAFF and a complete schedule, visit www.mvaaff.com.