The 60th BFI London Film Festival in partnership with American Express announces that David Oyelowo will be the lead speaker at this year’s Festival’s headline industry event, the Black Star Symposium, on Thursday, October 6 at BFI Southbank.
Oyelowo will be launching the Black Star Symposium the morning after the Festival opens with the European Premiere of Amma Asante’s eagerly-anticipated “A United Kingdom,” in which he stars, and he will be joined by British and international actors, filmmakers and thought-leaders to explore why opportunities for black actors to shine on screen in the US and the UK remain limited, and debate what more can be done to effect positive change.
David Oyelowo, who also stars in the Festival’s Gala presentation of Mira Nair’s “Queen of Katwe” (European Premiere), said: “I’m really hopeful we’re about to segue from talking about diversity to actually doing it.”
The LFF Black Star Symposium heralds the UK’s biggest celebration of black screen actors and the BFI’s cultural focus for 2016 – BFI Black Star – launching immediately after the Festival and celebrating the achievements of black actors from the earliest years of cinema through to current icons.
The BFI’s Creative Director Heather Stewart will also be unveiling the first phase of new and ground-breaking research at the Symposium about the representation of black actors in British films. The first findings focus on films released in the UK over the past ten years (2006-2016).
Heather Stewart said: “We are working towards a complete data set from the beginnings of British cinema to today, to understand what has changed both on screen and behind the camera. We want to make the data available – as both a tool and a mirror – for everyone who is in a position to say ‘yes’ to new creativity and new opportunities. It will help shape what funders, policy makers, producers, directors and writers think about when they are making decisions in a world where audiences hope for so much more than they are offered.”
Following David Oyelowo’s opening address, guest filmmakers and film industry leaders will take part in two panel discussions: The first panel will focus on the opportunities available to, and the obstacles faced by, black actors in the US and the UK; the types of roles and the kinds of stories being told; the politics vs. the reality of ‘color-blind’ casting; and the differences between the film and TV sectors in the respective territories. The second panel will discuss development and green-lighting barriers, consider how to stimulate change within media agencies, funding bodies and production companies and examine whether more diverse and inclusive creative and management teams lead to a wider variety of productions and more representative stories on-screen.
Also participating in the Symposium are: London-born writer and director Amma Asante, whose film “A United Kingdom” starring David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike has its European Premiere as the Festival’s Opening Gala; Actor, producer and director Noel Clarke, one of the UK’s leading stars of British film and television production; Julie Dash, whose “Daughters of the Dust” (1991) is being presented at the LFF (a new restoration of the film) in association with Mobo Film; Barry Jenkins, writer and director of “Moonlight,” which screens in Official Competition at the LFF; Karen Blackett OBE (Chairwoman, MediaCom UK) who has been instrumental not only in the success of MediaCom, the largest media agency in the UK, but in championing diversity throughout the advertising and media industry and recently was named as one of the Evening Standards Progress 1000, London’s most influential people of 2015; Ramy El-Bergamy (On-Screen Diversity Executive, Channel 4), who has worked in the independent television across a broad range of programs and genres, and is focusing on ensuring the best people are being recruited onscreen for Channel 4 programs from the widest possible pool across all genres; Ben Roberts the BFI’s Director of the Film Fund which has supported films including “A United Kingdom,” “Belle” and “Half Of A Yellow Sun;” and Heather Stewart, Creative Director of the BFI who sponsored the Black Star program and the accompanying research project.
The Black Star Symposium will be attended by guests from across the British film industry including producers, directors, writers, commissioners, financiers, distributors and exhibitors as well as international filmmakers attending the LFF.
Clare Stewart, Festival Director, BFI London Festival said, “I am delighted that David Oyelowo and his esteemed colleagues are joining us for this agenda-setting symposium. We want to amplify the ambitions and the purpose of the Black Star programme at the Festival, not only to celebrate black acting achievements, but to ask the searching questions that underpin this season. Questions about opportunity and aspiration, about the power to decide. Questions that have become increasingly urgent over the course of this year, intensified by the Black Lives Matter movement and by world events, including those closer to home.”
This year’s Black Star Symposium follows 2015’s hugely successful Global Symposium on Gender in Media, in partnership with The Geena Davis Institute and Women in Film and TV, with Geena Davis delivering a keynote speech raising the agenda internationally on the lack of gender balance in front of, and behind the camera, in the film and TV industries and the importance of committing to strategies for positive change.
In 2015 BFI Diversity Standards were introduced across all Film Fund Lottery funding schemes including film development, production, distribution and audience development. Underpinning the BFI Diversity Standards is a new BFI definition of diversity, applicable across all BFI Lottery funded projects: to recognize and acknowledge the quality and value of difference. BFI Diversity Standards are an extension and enhancement of the BFI’s ground-breaking Three Ticks initiative, launched in September 2014, with the pledge that the projects funded should reflect the society that supports them, both in terms of the people employed and the stories they tell.
BFI London Film Festival Black Star Symposium kicks off Thursday, October 6 at NFT1, BFI Southbank.
Purchase Festival tickets online at bfi.org.uk/lff, by phone from 10:00-20:30 daily at +44 (0)20 7928 3232, or visit the BFI Southbank Box Office 11:00-20:30. BFI Members’ priority booking opens 10.00, September 8 – join at bfi.org.uk/join; Public booking opens 10.00, September 15.