From October to December of 2016, Northern Ireland took part in the BFI’s major UK-wide season BLACK STAR, celebrating black actors. This season of events explored the range, versatility and power of black actors on film and television.
Screenings, talks, and special evenings took place in Belfast and Derrry, all exploring the impact of black stars, both locally and internationally.
The QFT, Belfast Film Festival, Banterflix and Nerve Centre Derry came together in partnership with BFI Film Audience Network, Into Film and the Independent Cinema Office to produce the dizzyingly diverse BLACK STAR NI programme.
BLACK STAR NI turned a lens on the galaxy of black acting talent, examining the creativity and charisma of trailblazing performers, and celebrating the transatlantic wave of black British talent breaking across our screens.
Screenings included Big Budget classics such as 48 Hours, Sister Act and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, powerful examinations of Black American history such as The Colour Purple, 12 Years a Slave and Selma, and dazzling art house explorations such as Jim Jarmusch’s Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai and Clint Eastwood’s little known Charlie Parker biopic Bird. The latter two movies star the great Forest Whitaker, who is one of the pivotal figures in BLACK STAR’s Northern Ireland Programme. Whitaker of course also stars in Neil Jordan’s seminal “troubles” thriller The Crying Game – another QFT BLACK STAR Screening.
Another focus of attention will be the great - if not “The Greatest” – Muhammad Ali. There’ll be screenings of his Greatest Fights, When Ali Came to Ireland and a panel discussion Ali: The Greatest?, followed by the incontrovertible proof of When We Were Kings. Elsewhere the late, great Richard Pryor is remembered in film, and there is a mini-season of explosive underground and independent black cinema.
Local author Tim Brannigan, whose memoir Where are You Really From? has been optioned for cinema adaption, will be speaking about his experience of growing up black in a Republican family at the height of the armed conflict in Northern Ireland.
Hugh Odling-Smee of Film Hub NI said:
“We are delighted that the membership have responded so creatively and passionately to the BLACK STAR opportunity from the BFI. The BFI and ourselves wanted the season to not only to celebrate black acting achievements, but also ask the searching questions that underpin this season. How have we represented black communities on screen, and how has this representation affected issues of identity and exclusion? All four of the programmes boasts brilliant titles, with QFT’s deserved spotlight on Forest Whittaker, Nerve Centre’s exploration of Ali on screen, Belfast Film Festival’s brilliant programme of underground gems and Banterflix’s celebration of the late, great Richard Pryor. Collective programming like this can highlight the rich and varied black talent on screen, and the coming together of our membership to ensure a wide distribution of the BFI’s vision is to be welcomed.’