Reel Sisters of the Diaspora Film Festival & Lecture Series is focusing exclusively on self-care. Using the hashtag #Time4Self, the festival, the first Academy qualifying festival for women filmmakers, showcased a slate of 35 films exploring wellness and healing October 6 at Harlem’s Miller Theatre and October 20-21 at Brooklyn’s Alamo Drafthouse Cinema.
“We’re proud to present a fine selection of life-affirming films that capture the beauty of our everyday lives and the art of practicing self-care,” said Carolyn A. Butts, the founder of Reel Sisters. “Sharing our stories with the world is an act of self-love and healing.”
At the Miller Theatre, the screenings began with My Life Interrupted, relaying the story of stage four cancer survivor Alana Devich Cyril. Other films included 21 and Done, which focuses on young adults who have “aged out” of the foster care system and struggle to establish a stable life for themselves, and Cedar Tree of Life, telling the story of three Indigenous women who share the cultural and medicinal importance of cedar.
Mr. Soul, directed by Melissa Haizlip and Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Sam Pollard, also screened. The film tells the story of Ellis Haizlip, a television pioneer who hosted SOUL!, a public television variety show that “offered an unfiltered, uncompromising celebration of Black literature, poetry music and politics.”Haizlip and Pollard also hosted a discussion about the film and Ellis’ cultural impact after the screening.
The Reel Sisters Award Ceremony took place October 12 at SVA Theater in Manhattan. During the event, Third World Newsreel’s JT Takagi and Random Acts of Flyness‘ Terence Nance were presented with the Trailblazer Awards.
At the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema on October 20, the audience learned more about the power of self-care during the discussion Our Stories. Our Medicine. In Conversation with Ericka Huggins. The talk, moderated by award-winning television screenwriter and producer Valerie Woods and poet, activist and educator Ericka Huggins talked about “the transformative and healing power of speaking truth of our stories.” Her life is a story of challenges, which includes being the longest-serving woman of the Black Panther Party, becoming a political prisoner, widow and a mother separated from her child as she awaited trial. But she used meditation to hold onto her peace, which has helped her in her work as a social justice activist and in her personal life as a mother and grandmother.
Some of the other film screenings included Suitable, a film about a young girl coming to terms with her sexuality; Bodega, which focuses on cultural tensions within Bedford-Stuyvesant; The Perfect Sacrifice, a short film dedicated to Emmett Till and his mother’s journey for justice, and Good Girls Don’t, a comedic short film about a Filipina-Canadian girl who goes after her basketball dreams despite her mother’s warnings that she’ll turn into a boy.
Other films being screened during the festival include Gumbo, webs series The Next Right Thing, Eboni Price’s Blaque, 2018 Reel Sisters Best Director Award recipient Kwanza Gooden’s short film Token, Takagi’s She Rhymes Like a Girl with spoken word/hip-hop artist Toni Blackman, and Larry Bullard and Carolyn Y. Johnson’s 1978 film A Dream Is What You Wake Up From. Performances include AfroPunk 2018 Battle of the Bands winner Jules and The Jinks and Broadway star Shahadi Wright Joseph. CBS News’ Jericka Duncan served as mistress of ceremonies.