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Martha’s Vineyard African-American Film Festival returns to Oak Bluffs

From left: Dule Hill, Saycon Sengbloh, Laura Kariuki, and Elisha Williams in "The Wonder Years."Erika Doss/ABC

The 19th annual Martha’s Vineyard African-American Film Festival is returning to the island Aug. 6-14, after last year’s in-person hiatus because of COVID-19.

“Coming out of the pandemic, we are back stronger than ever,” said Stephanie Taveras-Rance, cofounder of the festival, in a statement. “We are thrilled to see that it did not stop filmmakers, producers, and storytellers from delivering compelling and thought-provoking content.”

Centerpiece screenings include the documentaries “Hallowed Ground,” honoring filmmaker Henry Hampton’s television series “Eyes on the Prize” and the history of the civil rights movement, and “Obama: In Pursuit of a More Perfect Union,” both from HBOMax, and Netflix’s “Blood Brothers: Malcolm X & Muhammad Ali.” The highly-anticipated ABC reboot of “The Wonder Years,” centered on a Black middle-class family in Montgomery, Ala., in the 1960s will also screen.


From 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily, the festival’s lineup will include a selection from more than 70 original feature films, documentaries, and short films produced and directed by filmmakers from around the world. Panel discussions and other events throughout the island will highlight the work of people of color in film.

On Aug. 9, Boston Globe culture columnist Jeneé Osterheldt will host a conversation about “A Beautiful Resistance,” the Globe’s series on Black joy and Black lives. The festival will screen two episodes from the series: “Water Is a Beautiful Resistance,” about the Black beach community in Oak Bluffs, and “The Beautiful Resistance of Kim Janey,” about the first Black person and the first woman to serve as mayor of Boston. (The Globe is the 2021 MVAAFF media sponsor.)

After the showing of “Hallowed Ground” on Aug. 11, filmmakers Sophia Nahli Allison and Melina Matsoukas will be in conversation with activist and cofounder of Black Lives Matter Patrisse Cullors. Writer and political expert Jelani Cobb, the Reverend Al Sharpton, and Washington Post columnist Michele Norris will discuss Peter Kunhardt’s documentary “Obama: In Pursuit of a More Perfect Union,” about America’s first Black president, after its Aug. 14 showing, and the “Blood Brothers” premiere will include interviews with the daughters of Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali.


Muhammad Ali (left) and Malcolm X (second from right) in "Blood Brothers: Malcolm X & Muhammad Ali." NETFLIX

Festival attendees this year are expected to include Oscar-winning director Spike Lee, Academy Award-winning actress Regina King, and Kenya Barris, the award-winning director and producer of the ABC sitcom “Blackish.” Musician Questlove, former mayor of New Orleans Marc H. Morial, Congresswoman Barbara Lee, reporter April Ryan, and “Fashion Queens” television personality Bevy Smith will also be in attendance.

Facebook serves as the social media platform for this year’s festival, hosting original festival content on the MVAAFF Facebook page.

Following all COVID guidelines, the event space at the Martha’s Vineyard Performing Arts Center at 100 Edgartown Road in Oak Bluffs, will be at half capacity. Attendees will be asked to mask up.

Official programming begins at 11 a.m. on Aug. 6 with a series of short films and documentaries. The day will end with a premiere of ABC’s “The Wonder Years.” The festival concludes on Aug. 14 with FOX’s “Our Kind of People,” inspired by Lawrence Otis Graham’s book “Our Kind of People: Inside America’s Black Upper Class.”

Onsite registration for the festival opens at 10 a.m. on Friday, Aug. 6. You can purchase your tickets in advance on Eventbrite or in person, as long as space is available.


For more information on the MVAAFF and a complete schedule of screenings and special events, visit www.mvaaff.com.