By Lee Hubbard
Historically the San Francisco Film Festival the Juneteenth Celebration were joined at the hip and celebrated as one big party. Ave Montague, the founder of the film festival, incorporated film into the Juneteenth to diversify the events.
Thirteen years ago the Film Festival split from the Juneteenth celebration. This year the two events were held on the same weekend and in various venues throughout San Francisco. Blacks flocked to both events with enthusiastic support.
“The San Francisco Black Film Festival was really good, selling out venues and partnering with the Juneteenth in cross marketing and advertising,” said Kevin Jefferson, the vice chairmen of the San Francisco Juneteenth. “Likewise, the Juneteenth was beautiful. There were over 10,000 people and 150 booths. People had fun at the event.”
The Black Film Festival opened with Kevin Epps’ “Straight Outta Hunters Point 2” documentary and Mario Van Peebles’ film, “Things Fall apart” which stars Curtis “50 Cents” Jackson, Ray Liotta and Lynn Whitfield. Peebles deals with how a football player’s cancer impacts his family.
“The San Francisco Black Film Festival was a great coming back party after being dormant for two years,” said Jacquie Taliaferro of La Hitz Media. “It showcased local film talent like Kevin Epps, Shabaka Henley and me, as well as international film artist such as Mario Van Peebles the director of Red, White and Blue, Xavier Mitchell, the director of Fathers of the Sport.”
Melissa Marie Gibson, an actor and filmmaker, sought exposure for her love triangle film “Empty Sand Box”.
Gibson said “The festival was well organized with a lot of quality films and I learned a lot. It had good vibes.”
The Festival closed with a film by actor Shabaka Henley, “90404 Changing” a documentary that looked at relationships between Blacks and Latinos in the Santa Monica, California community.
A few thousand people attended the San Francisco Black Film Festival’s screenings at the Lumiere Theater, the Delancy Street screening house and the Jazz Heritage Center at 1330 Fillmore Street .
Both events intersected at the Jazz Heritage Center on Fillmore Street through the ingenuity of Katerra Crossley, a co-director of the film festival along with Kahlil Ray, the director, who volunteered with the Juneteenth.
“The San Francisco Black film festival morphed out of the Juneteenth and it was an outgrowth that started with Ave Montague,” said Jackie Wright, the publicist for the San Francisco Black Film Festival. “Things are going full circle and it is like touching home base again. It is a foundation for a stronger relationship between the two groups moving forward.”
The Juneteenth occupied Fillmore Street and the streets along Fillmore from Golden Gate to Geary Street with thousands milling around two huge stages on opposite ends of Fillmore street featuring gospel, R&B and Blues and hip-hop music.
There were booths from the various restaurants and stores such as 1300 on Fillmore, Gussies Chicken and Waffles and 100 Hundid Racks clothing. Bars such as the Sheeba lounge, Yoshi’s, Rasselas catered to the customers. Geoffrey Simpson, a visitor to the Juneteenth, said he had a good time.
“It was a nice family event,” said Simpson. “They had a lot of booths and everything. It was like an old reunion.”
A DJ booth along Fillmore and Geary Streets played old school 1970’s funk music as hundreds of people danced in the streets. “The Juneteenth featured a petting zoo, a skateboard park for youths and adults and they also had a basketball tournament for children and adults,” said Jefferson . “There was also a community health fair which treated over 500 people each day. Juneteenth was a nice family friendly event.”
According to Jefferson, the success of both events bodes well for the future of San Francisco ’s black community.
“This means that two African American non-profits are partnering and now the Juneteenth festival and the African American community will have access to small films and cinematography opportunities, as the San Francisco Black Film Festival has become a major film festival,” continued Jefferson.
“What goes around, comes around, back again for San Francisco’s Blacks again ,”said Jefferson.