This Weekend: MFAH Puts Black Female Directors in the Spotlight with Film Fest

THIS WEEKEND, FEB. 3-5, presented by the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston Through the lens of African American women, a mini-festival featuring four films and one short film, all directed by black women. The program was curated by UH graduate Autumn Johnson, who completed an internship in the film department at MFAH last summer and produced the short film This is the real life, which has reached 70,000 views and counts on YouTube. With Houston being home to talented black film directors such as Candice D’Meza, Lisa E. Harris and Brittany Bass, and with this being Black History Month, the festival is timely and will resonate with all those who seek great, independent interested in filmmaking.

The festival starts with Alma’s rainbow (1994) directed by Ayoka Chenzira, a coming-of-age drama starring Victoria Gabrielle Platt as Rainbow Gold, a teenager trying to challenge societal ideals of beauty, her self-image, and the rights that black women have (or don’t have) , to understand ) about their own body.

The screening is preceded by Chenzira’s animated musical satire Hair Piece: A film for diaper heads(1984). On Saturday, the festival showcases the buzzing surreal art-school-meets-art-world satire The African Desperate (2022) directed by Martine Syms and starring Diamond Stingily as an MFA candidate desperate to get out of upstate New York and back to Chicago. Saturday is also the date for The Watermelon Woman (1996) directed by Cheryl Dunye in which a filmmaker, played by Dunye, explores the legacy of a fictional Faith Richardson, a “lost cinematic ancestor featured in the racing movies of the 1930s”. Described as a milestone in New Queer Cinema, the film transitions from 16mm to grainy videotape with black and white “archive” footage by Richardson. The demonstration will be followed by a live virtual Q&A with Dunye.

The end of the festival will be the experimental feature film on Sunday Damage payment (1999) directed by Zeinabu Irene Davis. Inspired by the poem of the same name by African-American poet Paul Laurence Dunbar and set in turn-of-the-century Chicago and present-day Chicago, Damage payment tells the story of a deaf woman and a hearing man, two couples living decades apart who fall in love. With the needs of both hearing and deaf viewers in mind, Davis uses silent film techniques and closed captioning throughout, while the unfolding narrative explores issues of racism, disability and discrimination.

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