Black Film Festival Comes to Town


This weekend, a new film festival comes to the Sag Harbor Cinema on Main Street. Granted, by festival standards it’ll be a pretty modest affair — just a handful of films screened between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Saturday, but, says festival founder, Angelique Monet, this is just a taste of what’s to come.

Monet, a former Ms. Black South Carolina, a reporter, an actress and a filmmaker herself, notes that she started the Hamptons Black International Film Festival in an effort to call attention to filmmakers of color who are taking on important issues in their work. 

This Saturday’s festival will feature six films of varying lengths by New York area filmmakers, but come next summer, Monet notes the HBIFF is scheduled to run from July 23 to 26 with a full slate of screenings from around the globe, panel discussions and workshops. 

“There’s a limited number of African American theater and film festivals,” says Monet. “The more we have the better for the filmmakers to showcase their work. The more filmmakers we have in a platform, the more people will see the talent.”

Monet, who has family “all over the Hamptons,” said she settled on Sag Harbor as a venue because of it’s ties to the black community.

“Sag Harbor is rich in African American culture. That’s the reason we picked it,” said Monet. “This weekend will set the taste and the flavor for the summer festival. It’s very important for the festival that people of color who may not have had an opportunity to get films out there have a chance to get their work seen.”

Though trained as a reporter and an actress, Monet utimately found her calling behind the camera in filmmaking — one of her short films was screened during an event at the Cannes Film Festival. Though Monet’s own work won’t be featured this Saturday, she handpicked all the films for the screening herself. 

“When I picked them, what was really important was the expression of the film,” notes Monet. “Not just cinematography, but beautiful acting. It was also about the message. Something that’s going to inform people.”

“The first film is a short, ‘King of Kings,’” notes Monet. “It’s an important film because the men in it went to jail for leading a bad life in the streets. Then they turned their lives around and are now pioneers and examples for others to get their life together.”

Also featured will be “Freedom Flyers of Tuskegee” a 40-minute documentary by Dean Tapia about the first African-American division of U.S. Army Air Corp pilots who fought in a segregated military during W.W.II.

The documentary, “13th Amend-ment” by Philadelphia filmmaker Mike Dennis who followed his 90 year old grandmother on her trek to vote for Barack Obama in the Pennsylvania Democratic primary. 

Also screened will be “Ursula Rucker,” another documentary by Mike Dennis, about the acclaimed poet and activist who inspired a generation.

“Everything’s Jake” is a feature film by Matthew Miele and Chris Fetchko that follows a homeless man, Jake (played by Ernie Hudson) during his daily routine. When he discovers a newly destitute man (Graeme Malcolm) in distress, Jake takes him under his wing and teaches him some survival techniques.

“It’s about people being homeless sometimes because they choose to be, not just because they are poor,” explains Monet. 

“We also have a Latin piece, called ‘The Big Shot Caller,’” says Monet. “I like the movie and the filmmaker I like a lot. It’s about a man who has a hard life and gets into salsa dancing.”

The film’s director, Marlene Rhein, is expected to be on hand for a Q&A after the film. There will also be a special salsa dance performance.

Tickets for the film festival are available in advance at Sag Harbor Cinema (90 Main Street). The price is $25 for the full day or $10 per show. For more information on HBIFF (Series) call (347) 713-7965.