A scene from Across The Tracks, by Michael Cooke
During the filming of Across The Tracks, by Michael Cooke

The Reel Sisters of the Diaspora Film Festival is on its way back to Brooklyn for its annual screening of the top-voted independent films written, produced and directed by women of color across the world.

Founded by African Voices magazine in 1997, Reel Sisters Film festival has screened more than 500 films by women of African, Caribbean, Latino, Asian, Indian and Native American descent. It is one of the first festivals to stimulate an international dialogue on improving the status of female directors, producers and screenwriters and has become a major launching pad for women directors to gain international exposure and recognition. The festival not only showcases films, but hosts panels and workshops.

This year’s festival will take place October 24 and 25, at the LIU’s Kumble Theater in Brooklyn.

Carolyn Butts, Founder of Reel Sisters of the Diaspora Film Festival

“Reel Sisters is one of the few outlets that film lovers have to experience intellectually stimulating and empowering films by women from around the world,” says Reel Sisters co-founder Carolyn A. Butts. “We’re here to reclaim our stories and launch a national dialogue about issues affecting our community and families.

Reel Sisters received a National Endowment for the Arts Award to support its 17 Anniversary Festival in 2014. Monikka Stallworth, a recipient of the Reel Sisters 2003 Best Director Award, went on to have her film Mello’s Kaleidoscope featured in Robert DeNiro’s second annual Tribeca Film Festival.

This year’s festival explores a wide range of topics from teenage narratives about a 15-year-old living with the sickle cell disease who craves nothing more than to be a normal teenager like her friends and everyone else; to a filmmaker’s journey to rediscover her Haitian roots through a voyage back to the country where she finds the nation on the brink of a new Haiti; to a documentary exploring Jamaica as an Island mired in intolerance towards the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

There’s even an area entitled, “The Trifling Section,” where films discussing “bad behavior” are screened, including around such topics as “freeloading,” and “forgiving Chris Brown.”

Reel Sisters is sponsored by New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, New York State Council on the Arts and the Brooklyn Council on the Arts. The festival still calls LIU Brooklyn its home and is held at the Kumble Theater each year.

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Here’s your full lineup:

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 24, 2015

AGAINST THE ODDS – 1 PM-2:07 PM, VENUE: Spike Lee Screening Room BUY TICKETS NOW!

BIG TIME-MY DOODLE DIARY
Producer/Director/Writer: Sonali Gulati
Length: 11:30 min. Category: Narrative

As “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” dominates the pop charts, Maya writes in her diary everything that rocks her teenage world, from the assassination of Indira Gandhi and her parents’ divorce, to the latest pimple that made its appearance.

A scene from Big Time by Sonali Gulati

TELESOURD
Director: Matamba Kombila, Sabrina Mirva Ntsame Ondo
Writer: Matamba Kombila   Producer: Nathalie Pontalier
Length: 9:32 min   Category: Narrative

Anoushka, Chris Levy, Livia and Pierre, four deaf kids frustrated by their difficulties to communicate with their families and navigate the hearing world, invent a machine that will allow them to break the barriers of language and prejudice they face daily, giving them access to possibilities until then unimaginable.

ACROSS THE TRACKS  — Best Narrative Award
Director, Co-Writer, Cinematographer/DP, Editor: Michael Cooke
Co-Producers: Don Battee, Errol Sadler

, Isabella Way, Monica Hines
Co-Writer/Producer: Kimberly Y James
Co-Producer, Asst. Director: Monica Hines, Shaniqua Henry-Davis
Length: 15 min.    Category: Narrative

Two African-American sisters grow up in 1960s Georgia. But one is born with fair skin and when schools integrate, she decides to change her destiny — by passing for white.

LIA
Producer/Director/Writer: Ethosheia Hylton  Co-Producer: Laurelle Blake
Length: 19:51 min.   Category: Narrative

Lia is a 15-year-old girl living with the sickle cell disease. She craves nothing more than to be a normal teenager like her friends and everyone else.

TROUBLED YOUTH – 1 PM-2:05 PM, VENUE: LLC116 – BUY TICKETS NOW!

FALLING
Director/Cinematographer: Maya Suchak   Writers: Imani Peterkin  Asst. Director: Imani Peterkin.
Length: 10:04 min.  Category: Narrative

This 10-minute narrative short follows two girls at the start of a relationship as they explore their own feelings and cope with a father’s disapproval. It underscores — with economy, emotion and creative camerawork — the pressures facing LGBTQ youth today.

DADDY DUTY
Director/Writer: Nikki Bates
Producers: Khalilah Bates
Length: 10:30 min     Category: Narrative Short

Daddy Duty is an action drama set to music in which a father who finds out his daughter’s doll has been stolen and he decides to get it back.

Daddy Duty screens at 1 pm in Troubled Youth section.

AMERICA 1979
Director/Writer: Lila Yomtoob
Producers: Lila Yomtoob, Gregory Horoupian
Length: 14 min.  Category: Narrative

The Iran Hostage Crisis is in full effect, and even though Regina’s parents are Iranian, she was raised to be American. When political tensions create problems for her at school, Regina’s confusion about her identity causes a crisis at home.

SAFAR
Directors/Writers: Mariam Zaidi
Length: 14:52 min Category: Documentary

Safar is a film about Rabab, a young woman who lives with cerebral palsy and the way in which Canadian exclusionary immigration policies restrict her attempt to migrate to Canada.

THE YOUTH — Best Screenplay Award
Director/Writer/Editor: Dehanza Rogers
Producer: Vanita Shastry
Length: 15:14 min. Category: Narrative

A recent college graduate is frustrated that his life is going nowhere until an old friend offers him the opportunity to make a difference.

FROM BROOKLYN TO ZIMBABWE – 2:10 PM-3:14 PM – BUY TICKETS NOW!
VENUE: Spike Lee Screening Rm

DIDN’T I ASK FOR TEA
Directors/Writers: Rahwa Asmerom, Essence Ward
Producers: Rahwa Asmerom, Essence Ward, Jeremy Batchelor
Length: 23 min.  Category: Narrative Short

When an apartment falls through, Brandy must scramble to find a place. Too little money, too much advice, and a budding romance make for a humorous, if not nerve-wrecking, search as change in the form of an evolving friendship and an evaporating potential relationship is proving to be quite the challenge for this Brooklynite.
 

SHADOW MAN    Best Cinematography Award
Length: 15:20  Category: Narrative Short
Director/Writer: Afia Nkrumah
Producer: Enrico Tessarin  Cinematographer: Beniamino Barrese

Shadow Man is modern day film noir set in London. Newly arrived in the UK, a young African man’s attempts to become British takes an unexpected turn. A poignant story that takes a fresh look at migration using humor, suspense and a dash of magic realism.

MY HOME
Director/Producer: Denise Khumalo
Length: 14:40 min   Category: Documentary

A story about an African woman’s struggle to keep her traditions and customs alive while living in an increasingly Western world.

WEB SERIES – 2:20 PM-4:10 PM, VENUE: LLC 116 – BUY TICKETS NOW!

STAR BOY  — Invited Film
Director: Stephen Williamson  Writer: Tilsa Wright
Length: 9:06 min  Category: Animated

Star Boy is based on a three part book series. The main characters, Tania and Brian started out as teenage lovers who later marry and have children. Being a great Cricketer, Brian has trouble being faithful to his wife and many dramas enter the union.


EVERYTHING I DID WRONG IN MY 20S  
 Best Web Series Award
Producers: Kim Williams, Michelle Clay
Writer: Kim Williams
Length: 22 min.    Category: Web / New Media

A series that follows the journey of a 35+ year old woman’s search for happiness after she loses her job.

LECTURE SERIES PANEL – 3:20 PM-4:20 PM – BUY TICKETS NOW!
VENUE: Spike Lee Screening Rm; Good Love! (Re) presentations of Love and Sex in Black Women’s Cinema
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My Hair-i-tage – 4:15 PM-5:22 PM, VENUE: LLC 116 – BUY TICKETS NOW!

Screening of “Hair Stories” & “Living Natural” w/Panel Discussion
Aleathia Brown, Founder Unveiled Unlocked
Date & Time: Oct. 24, 2015, 3:40 pm-4:47 pm, Location: LLC 116
Guests: Thando Kafele, Paul Stewart, Thando Kefele, Carla Brown

The film Hair Stories by the Late Yvette Smalls covers dialogue on the age old emotional charge on Women of color regarding their hair. With more than a decade past and long before the Chris Rock film  Ms. Smalls discovered the vulnerabilities and experiences carried over generations, economics, history, science and intellectually when it came down to the core of a woman’s identity, self worth and evolved being on how she is about herself and her hair. Yvette Smalls was a Philadelphia Native in the Natural Hair Industry made the transition to filmmaker as a result of the stories experienced in her surroundings. Compelling, humorous and oft times jaw dropping discovering the experiences and lengths “black beauty” has.


LIVING NATURAL
Director/Writer/Producer: Jasmine Jones
Length: 6:52 min.  Category: Documentary

The documentary is about Jenise Wamble’s natural hair story and her role as President of Towson University’s natural hair club, Naturalistas.

LA BELLE VIE: THE GOOD LIFE – 4:30 PM-5:42 PM – BUY TICKETS NOW!
VENUE: Spike Lee Screening Rm

LA BELLE VIE: THE GOOD LIFE    Best Director Award
Director: Rachelle Salnave    Producer: Jean H. Marcelin
Length: 62 min.  Category: Documentary

La Belle Vie: The Good Life takes a look into a filmmaker’s journey to discover her Haitian roots by examining the complexities of the Haitian society but also chronicles her voyage to find hope in this nation on the brink of a new Haiti.

COMMUNITY PARTNER: Haiti Cultural Exchange.

TABOO YARDIES – 5:25 PM-6:49 PM, VENUE: LLC 116 – BUY TICKETS NOW!

Taboo Yardies
Producer/Director/Writer: Selena Blake

“Taboo…Yardies” The concept of the documentary is to explore the perception of Jamaica as an Island that is saturated with intolerance towards the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community (LGBT) by giving a voice to Jamaicans who are pro or con and everywhere in between this highly controversial issue, by giving a voice to those Jamaicans who dare to stand up for human rights.

COMMUNITY PARTNER: Caribbean Film Academy.

JIMMY GOES TO NOLLYWOOD (FEATURE FILM) – 7 PM-8:30 PM – BUY TICKETS NOW!
VENUE: KUMBLE THEATER

JIMMY GOES TO NOLLYWOOD — Invited Feature Film

Directors: Jimmy Jean-Louis, Rachid Dhibou
Length: 72 min.
      Category: Documentary

Have you heard of Nollywood? Not known to many, Nollywood is one of the largest movie producers putting them ahead of Hollywood and just behind India’s Bollywood. The Haitian actor Jimmy Jean-Louis makes his directorial debut with this documentary, taking us on a journey that includes the African Movie Academy Awards, giving us insight into the heart of a burgeoning African cinema full of confidence.

Community Partners: Calabar Imports and Haiti Cultural Exchange.

TRIFLING – 6 PM-7:06 PM, VENUE: SPIKE LEE SCREENING RM – BUY TICKETS NOW!

FORGIVING CHRIS BROWN
Director/Writer: Marquette Jones
Length: 12 min.   Category: Narrative

Forgiving Chris Brown is a dark comedy short that follows the follies of “Rihanna,” “Halle” and “Tina.”  These stylish girlfriends hope to heal their battered hearts through the old-fashioned way – Revenge.

Forgiving Chris Brown screens Oct. 24 at 6 pm in Trifling section.

FREELOADER
Director: Tarina Pouncy
Producers/Writers: Tarina Pouncy, Rashim Cannad
Length: 17:51 min.  Category: Narrative

A habitual freeloader gets a taste of her own medicine when a colorful but mysterious guest talks her way into her apartment.

ROOMMATES
Director/Writer: Sheryl A Gauntlett
Producers: Beau Jadrosich, Samantha Rood, Antoinette Productions
Length: 11:35 min.
  Category: Narrative Short

Kiel Johnson plans to travel outside of the country for 12 weeks, and wants to sublease the apartment she’s in. She’s narrowed it down to Amanda — a freelance musician; Steven & James, a gay couple; and Kris–a graduate student. As she conducts interviews with them, we witness each character display a skewed version of themselves.

THE WAY YOU LOVE
Director/Producer/Writer: Lydia Darly
Producer: Jordan Bayne
Length: 9:57 min.  Category: Narrative

The Way You Love is a confrontation between two strong women with opposing views on relationships and love with a generation gap that further divides them. The dialog subtly unfurls in a Beauty Salon during the course of a haircut. Marie, owner of the Beauty Salon is guarded, cynical and distrustful of love and men.

OUTTA MY NAME
Director/Writer: Cathleen Campbell
Producer: Wifit J. Hayes
Length: 4 min. Category: Narrative

A woman who’s ridiculed for her unusual name unexpectedly discovers the power of truly connecting with another person.

WHO RULES THE WORLD – 7 PM-8:14 PM, VENUE: LLC 116 – BUY TICKETS NOW!

(re)breathe
Director: Mia Ginaé Watkins
Length: 4:38 min.   Category: Experimental

Through her words, a poet describes her fears, hopes, and dreams as an African-American female in today’s modern society.

OUT OF JAM
Director/Writer: Shalini Harshwal
Producers: Shalini Harshwal, Vivek Khandelwal, O. P Harshwal, Satish Chilka, Gaurav Thappa
Length: 58:44 min.  Category: Documentary

Out of a jam is about the success story of a group of Indian rural women, bound together by courage & jams.

THE WRITING LIFE – 8:20 PM-9:48 PM, VENUE: Spike Lee Screening Rm BUY TICKETS NOW!

THE ART OF AMA ATA AIDOO Reel Sisters Spirit Award
Director: Yaba Badoe    Executive Producer: Amina Mama
Length: 78 min.  Category: Documentary

The Art of Ama Ata Aidoo explores the artistic contribution of one of Africa’s foremost woman writers, a trailblazer for an entire generation of exciting new talent. The film charts Ama Ata Aidoo’s creative journey in a life that spans 7 decades from colonial Ghana through the tumultuous era of independence to a more sober present day Africa where nurturing women’s creative talent remains as hard as ever.

SUNDAY, OCTOBER 25, 2015 • Spike Lee Screening Rm

VIOLATIONS – 1 PM-2:03 PM – BUY TICKETS NOW!

ON RAPE Best Experimental Award
Director/Animator: Nicky Rose Kaveny
Length: 3 min  Category: Experimental

This project has been used by several counselors and psychologists in the hopes that it will help give a voice to those who feel like they do not know how to speak out.

THE REUNION
Director/Producer/Writer: Carmen Elly Wilkerson
Co-Producer: Alex Georges   Associate Producer: Sylvia Franklin
Length: 19:53 min   Category: Narrative Short

Four teenage girls the morning after a party where the youngest of them all wakes up to find out she is a victim of sexual assault. The friends DEBATE what to do next…call the police, tell their parents or keep it a secret.

ROUBADO — Best Short Award
Director/Writer: Erica A. Watson
Producers: Tierney Young, Daniel Willis, Joshua Clark
Length: 18 min.  Category: Narrative

Roubado tells the story of Alain Castelo, an introverted Afro-Portuguese teen growing up in the south of France. As he suffers his parents’ recent breakup, the only solace he can muster is his penchant for photography. When his mother’s new live-in boyfriend crosses the line, his eyes are opened to the world and he can no longer hide behind the viewfinder of his vintage camera. 

ACTS OF NOTHINGNESS
Director/ Executive Producer/Writer: Maya Emelle
Cinematographer: Mike Undestad
Length: 11:16 min.
  Category: Women Film

Acts of Nothingness explores the use of violence as communication within the Black community through several generations of both parents and children, analyzing the psychological and sociological impact.


SOUL MUSIC – 2:05 PM-3:03 PM – BUY TICKETS NOW!

MOTHERSHIP OPERA
Director: Caress Reeves
Length: 7:17 min.
   Category: Animation

Under the enslavement of the opera house prima donna, a lowly maid learns her past and destiny extend beyond confines of the theater. A funk-opera musical!

AMEN- THE LIFE AND MUSIC OF JESTER HAIRSTON  Best Documentary Award
Director/Writer: Lillian Benson          Producer: Hansonia Caldwell-Harriford
Length: 45 min    Category: Documentary

AMEN: The Life and Music of Jester Hairston, is the story of composer-arranger Jester Hairston who popularized and preserved the Spiritual, the source from which all of African American music flows, from slave songs to hip-hop.

MARY LOU WILLIAMS – 3:10 PM-4:21 PM – BUY TICKETS NOW!

MARY LOU WILLIAMS: THE LADY WHO SWINGS THE BAND
– Invited Film
Producer/Director: Carol Bash
Length:  70 min Category: Documentary

Mary Lou Williams: The Lady Who Swings the Band is a documentary about the life and music of jazz’s greatest unsung innovator throughout the 20th century. While many women were confined to the home, Mary Lou Williams forged a unique path as a pioneering pianist, composer and arranger.

A scene from Mary Lou Williams: The Lady Who Swings the Band

CHANGING THE FACE OF MEDICINE – 4:25pm-5:35pm – BUY TICKETS NOW!

Presenters: Clairesa Clay and Michelle Materre
Date & Time: Oct. 25, 2015, 4:50 pm-6 pm, Location: Spike Lee Screening Room
Changing the Face of Medicine w/excerpts from the film and guest panelists.

Changing the Face of Medicine”  presents an alternative to mainstream media and the educational and healthcare workforce disparities. It provides images of positive role models of color, counteracting the perpetuation of stereotypes of people of color in media. The stories in this film are stories that need to be told. This documentary represents women doctors as vessels who inspire and motivate young people (and adults) to believe in themselves and their ability to achieve their own dreams. This documentary is a film for all times and all generations; it will encourage and empower all who view it. The stories of these women remind us that the greatest power to achieve and change our world lies within each one of us.


SUNDAY, OCTOBER 25, 2015 • KUMBLE THEATER

Awards Ceremony
Honorees: Actresses Jessica Williams and Ebony Jo-Ann

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