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Calgary Black Film Festival back for third year this May

The Calgary Black Film Festival is returning May 26 through 29, with a strong lineup of films, panels, and special events that celebrate Black films and filmmakers.

The festival, now in its third year (second in-person) is Calgary’s only major film festival that exclusively provides a platform for Black artists to have their work shown to wider audiences.

“Our festival has really been a vessel where Black filmmakers can come and show their work, and where people can come and see their work, and where there’s exchanges for future collaborations on different projects,” said Andrea Este, head coordinator for the Calgary Black Film Festival (CBFF), Fabienne Colas Foundation.

New this year is the addition of the newly renovated and reopened Plaza Theatre as a venue. The Globe Theatre is continuing to host the CBFF opening night and red carpet.

The festival is opening with 1960 by King Shaft and Michael Mutombo, a story about the discovery of the body of an apartheid-era police officer decades after he went missing.

“It’s a bit of a thriller, mystery. So that’s sure to please our audience for the opening night, and it was a really strong, beautiful film,” Este said.

“We’re really excited to be showing it this year.”

Opening night is also kicking off with a special VIP ticket offer which will include the film and access to the exclusive film showing afterparty.

Online and in-person viewing options are available

All of the films being shown during the festival will also be available online to view at any time during the festival, with the purchase of an online festival pass.

“This pass permits people to see all the films as many times as they like, from Friday 9 p.m. to Monday 11 p.m,” Este said.

“We felt it was really important to have accessibility, and going forward we will always have online elements to the festival in-person.”

Este said though that there was nothing like the magic of attending the films in person, experiencing it on the big screen, and being able to have a discussion at the theatre post-film.

“We tend to choose films that are powerful, and where people can walk out of there and say, ‘wow, what an amazing film,’ and ‘I didn’t know that’… it causes a lot of discussions afterward, which is really great,” she said.

“The Calgary Black Film Festival is not just for Black people. It’s for all Calgary communities and everyone to come in and enjoy, and it permits people to come and see films that they otherwise would never be able to see, or would not have much opportunity to see, because a lot of these films are never shown in mainstream cinema.”

Networking, celebrating, helping Black artists is important this year

Este said that the festival’s Black Market is back for 2023 at the Central Memorial Library, with four free discussion panels on the topics of creating content for young audiences, keeping a creative focus as a freelancer, how to fund projects, and how to find an audience for projects.

“These are free discussions that will feature some of Calgary’s movers and shakers in the industry. People who are directly involved in what’s happening in Calgary as far as our film and television arts go,” she said.

“After each panel discussion, there’ll be a little moment for people to come in, you know, do a little bit of networking and discussing.”

She said that the discussion would be relevant for Alberta artists looking to create projects in this province, especially around the topic of funding.

“Alberta has different rules and regulations, different procedures, and about funding different projects, especially, different film projects and things like that,” Este said.

The festival is being sponsored by streaming giant Netflix, along with the Canadian Council for the Arts, and Telefilm Canada.

Tickets start at $25, with weekend and online passes available. Tickets and a full schedule of events are available at calgaryblackfilm.com.