The BlackBox Film Festival is a Boston event that’s been a long time coming. Hosted by Boston University’s Black student film organization, the first annual festival “aims to showcase the talents of Black student filmmakers in the Greater Boston area, celebrating Black voices in cinema.”
Black student filmmakers were invited to submit short films to the festival, and on Friday, the films that made the final cut will be judged by a panel of industry experts including producer DeMane Davis (“Queen Sugar”); president and founder of the Secret Society of Black Creatives, Vladimir Minuty; Boston University cinematography professor Tunji Akinsehinwa, who is also BlackBox’s faculty adviser; and BU film production coordinator Jamie Companeschi.
The Globe spoke to BlackBox cofounders Lynn Asare-Bediako and Lydia Evans, both BU juniors majoring in film and the film society’s respective president and vice-president. Evans is also a Boston.com correspondent.
Q. How would you describe BlackBox?
Lynn Asare-Bediako. I got the idea to start this club during the BU Black Media symposium last year. A lot of Black alum talked about how, when they were here, they had a Black journalism club and Black film societies as well. But those had fizzled out. A few weeks later, I talked to Lydia and said we should just start a film club.
Q. You’re film majors. Are you also filmmakers? What part of that process are you most interested in?
Lydia Evans. Lynn and I have worked together a few times. I think we both consider ourselves writers and producers mainly. We’re both working on a sitcom pilot episode of a script I wrote over the summer called “Strictly Political,” which is really fun. [It’s about student government candidates trying to win reelection by any means necessary.]
LAB. For the honors thesis class BU provides for seniors, I submitted a script with one of my director friends, Andrew Paul Logue. We are shooting and producing a film called “Me and Mr. Bolt” this semester. The logline is: A small-town girl spirals as she prepares for a life-changing audition with her music teacher.
Q. Did you notice that Black students, who are in the minority at BU, were not getting the same amount of attention as others vis-à-vis mentorship and so on?
LAB. I would definitely say yes, especially within the film major itself. You have to seek out other Black people to work with, because you don’t see them in your classes. We also have only one Black film professor. So, a lot of times when you are pitching ideas, it can feel awkward because you’re pressured to explain what certain things mean in Black culture.
Q. Whereas folks with a similar background already have a kind of shorthand, so no explanation is necessary.
LE. We don’t have to prove that the ideas are worthwhile. We can just jump right into the work and make something really special.
LAB. BlackBox is a safe space where you can create things with people who have a similar understanding. We also [highlight] access to resources and events people may not have known about because they are not promoted to Black students. That’s what BlackBox brings to the table.
Q. How did you go about getting submissions for the festival, and how many did you receive?
LAB. We received around 15 submissions. All short films about four to 12 minutes. We reached out to colleges in the greater Boston area. At the festival, we’ll be screening the six finalists.
Q. Will there be a second annual BlackBox Film Festival for your senior year? Any plans to leave your legacy for the next generation of BU students?
LAB. Yes. We’re hoping to broaden the festival to Black students in the greater New England area and seeing how many submissions we can get from there.
Q. One last question: At the Toronto International Film Festival, I saw “American Fiction,” a hilarious satire mocking how Black art that traffics in hood stereotypes is what white consumers love most. This was based on a Black author’s book and adapted by a Black director. But some of my Black colleagues were uncomfortable at how hard the mostly white audience was laughing. Do you feel that Black artists are held to a higher standard because there’s concern about the reaction from non-Black audiences?
LE. It’s hard when you’re working in entertainment, because the purpose is to entertain. And when you’re making something that needs to be commercially valuable, you have to start thinking about a wider audience beyond just yourself or the people who are in your culture.
But then I think about Issa Rae being asked to add white characters to “Insecure” . . . in order for white people watching to buy into the story. And I’d say you don’t need that. Because Black people — people of color in general — have been watching movies and television shows that had nothing to do with them for ages.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
BLACKBOX FILM FESTIVAL
The first annual BlackBox Film Festival kicks off at 7 p.m. Friday at Boston University’s College of Communications in Room 101. Register by Sept. 21 at eventbrite.com.
Odie Henderson is the Boston Globe's film critic.