Inside The 17th Annual Harlem Film Festival

Inside The 17th Annual Harlem Film Festival

Harlem Film Festival

"An American Street Mural In Harlem" shows how artists and community members come together to create the historic Harlem Black Lives Matter mural, which was subsequently removed. Courtesy of the Harlem International Film Festival

Get ready! It’s time for the much-anticipated Harlem International Film Festival. Celebrating its 17th year, this edition will offer an exciting hybrid event that will take place from May 5 to May 15, 2022.

We were able to catch up with Nasri Zacharia and B. Lorenzo Roache, co-founders of the Harlem International Film Festival, to obtain all the inside scoop on what will take place during the opening gala presentation. 

Zacharia is an actor, cinematographer and program director of the Harlem International Film Festival. He is known for his films “Camouflage” (2008), “Daughter” (2013) and “Incorrectional” (2018). Roache is a producer, writer and director of operations for the film festival, and is known for the films “Camourflage”, “His and Hers” (1997) and “Kojo” (2017).

There will be three dynamic films screened at the festival opening along with the red carpet glitz, and more. Go behind the scenes with us now:

Lauren deLisa Coleman: How did you select the location for this year’s opening night?

B. Lorenzo Roache: The New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture is a place where our film festival has screened many times over the past decades. It is a staple in the community as well as a living monument of the Harlem Renaissance and the American Negro Theater, which brought us so many great thespians, including Sidney Poitier, whom we just lost.

Returning there this year for the opening night gala presentations will be a happy moment for us. Along with our second screening location at Columbia University’s Zuckerman Institute and, of course, the AMC Magic Johnson Harlem 9 Theaters, all three places have a wonderful history both with this film festival and the people who have enjoyed our films and supported our filmmakers through the years. 

As we continue to build back from the pandemic years (we were one of the first film events in New York City to return to in-person/in-theater screenings last year) these touchpoints are vitally important for our film fans and filmmakers, as they are familiar and beloved locations to see this important and original work.

Lauren deLisa Coleman: How many people will be invited?

B. Lorenzo Roache: Well, it is not a closed invite-only event, so we are hoping, of course, that we balance a healthy audience with a safe environment for all filmmakers, staff and community alike.

Lauren deLisa Coleman: How did you select the three films that will be shown that evening? How many submissions were there in total?

B. Lorenzo Roache: One of the things that has always been a priority for the Harlem International Film Festival has been to thoroughly dedicate a solid portion of our programming to represent the city and Harlem, Upper Manhattan and the Bronx — which we affectionately refer to as HUB — in particular, as well as the groundswell of talented filmmakers in our own backyard. We pride ourselves on the fact that we highlight and celebrate those films and that work, arguably more so than any other NYC-based film festival.

These three films fall squarely within that ambition and directive. They are extremely timely pieces that will certainly be added to the historical record each in their own right. 

Lauren deLisa Coleman: What is most compelling about each of these films? 

B. Lorenzo Roache: “A Gorgeous Mosaic” gives a wonderful and warm look at David Dinkins’ career as well as the man, himself.

“A Gorgeous Mosaic,” is Jamal Joseph’s intimate look at the late David Dinkins, a tennis lover, anti-apartheid activist, and Black mayor of New York City. Courtesy of the Harlem International Film Festival

An American Street Mural In Harlem” really places you in the midst of people rising up and rising together, finding their voice to say something important – stating that we are here and we require your attention to the issues and crises we have faced recently.

Love Is The Legend” is a colorful look at a pivotal flashpoint in fashion history — place and a moment that influenced popular culture and style in ways that no one could have seen coming.

Lauren deLisa Coleman: Who can we expect to see on the red carpet?

B. Lorenzo Roache: Former Congressman Charles Rangel is expected to join us again. Board member and “NYPD Blue” favorite James McDaniel, Former “America’s Next Top Model” Bre Scullark, designer Marc Jacobs, NYC cultural icon Patricia Field and countless filmmakers from around the country and across the world are expected to attend the red carpet entrances on opening night.

Myra Lewis’ “Love is in the Legend” film explores the communities of NYC’s Paradise Garage, the Harlem Ball scene, and the House of Patricia Field. Photo by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, courtesy of the Harlem Intl. FF

Lauren deLisa Coleman: Will there be any exclusive dinners prior to or parties after opening night?

B. Lorenzo Roache: Due to the rise of covid cases in NY and throughout the region we have opted not to offer the usual social and nightlife events that we associate so closely with the festival in the interest of the health of all participants. While the state has relaxed the mask mandate, we strongly encourage everyone to wear a mask during the event.

Lauren deLisa Coleman: Will we be able to view red carpet entrances virtually? if so, where? 

B. Lorenzo Roache: While we are a hybrid film festival and offer a number of our official selections virtually, if you want to see our filmmakers on the red carpet, you’ll have to come down to the New York Public Library-Schomburg Center.

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Lauren deLisa Coleman: Finally, what are the key differentiators between the Harlem Film Festival and other festivals in the industry?

B. Lorenzo Roache: Again, we combine a true dedication to the films and filmmakers who are creating new work right here in Harlem and the NYC HUB. That is an essential part of our programming and thrust to what we do here. And we also have an eye for world cinema that has not been celebrated elsewhere to a great extent. While many other festivals are satisfied to recycle whatever screened at Cannes or Locarno or San Sebastian, etc., we want to make discoveries. We want to shine a light on the exigent international films that slipped through the cracks here in the states.

There’s still time to grab Harlem International Film Festiva passes, tickets, and more. For information please visit http://HarlemFilmFestival.org

Image: Artists and community members come together to create the historic Harlem Black Lives Matter mural, which was subsequently removed (Courtesy of the Harlem International Film Festival)