Black Filmmakers Speak On The Importance Of Telling Black Stories Rooted In Joy

ESSENCE Fest hosted it’s first-ever Film Festival this year, which definitely lived up to the hype.

Between the screenings of fantastic films, conversations with amazingly talented actors, actresses, directors, writers and filmmakers, and the long (very, very long) lines of attendees excited to view these films, it’s safe to say that this Film Festival’s success is definitely not going to be a one-time thing. Helmed by Producer and Director Sidra Smith, it’s clear that ESSENCE Fest has created yet another space where Black stories can have their spotlight.

During the ‘Widening The Screen’ segments presented by P&G, audiences had the opportunity to view a series of short films that premiered at the 2021 Tribeca Film Festival. After the screenings, audience members sat in on a panel with the creative minds behind each of the projects. When asked about their films as well as their inspirations, Gibrey Allen, Zoey Martinson, Camrus Johnson, Marshall Tyler, and Moira Griffin shared responses that reflected a general collective sentiment of wanting to tell Black stories and experiences.

Each film’s story was distinct in style and substance, as Zoey Martinson’s Cupids told an adorable and amazingly animated story. In contrast, Camrus Johnson’s film, She Dreams Of Sunrise, is a heartwarming animated film that both captivated and tapped into the ethos of audience members. All of the films shown were fantastic in their own ways, and each story held its own incredible messages.

Zoey Martinson revealed that all of the films screened here were crafted with the prompt to create a film that’s eight minutes and forty-three seconds long, as a response to the killing of George Floyd, and a way to reclaim that time to tell stories of Black love and joy. Every film screened during this session was not only impactful, but also stayed within its assigned amounts of time, a testament to the imagination, creativity, and dedication of the Black innovators.

Gibrey Allen, director of the short film Pearl and Henry, stated that one of the main messages he wished to exemplify from his characters was that “No matter what happens in the world around them, what binds us all together is ‘us.’”

There was a general camaraderie amongst the filmmakers in this panel, as they each seemed to have been inspired by personal experiences and a sense of togetherness in crafting and telling Black stories.

Scroll down to read a little about each of the short films mentioned above. For more of everything you missed at the 2022 ESSENCE Festival of Culture, visit our official video content hub HERE.


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