Fros And Films: 21 Portraits Of Black Excellence At Sundance
Photo Credit: S & A
Festivals , Film

Fros And Films: 21 Portraits Of Black Excellence At Sundance

Historically, the number of Black folks attending Sundance Film Festival each year has been few and far between. However, 2018 was a watershed year for creators of color and people who just wanted to check out all of the programs, films, panels, parties, and events that were spread over the 10-day fest.

Blavity & Shadow and Act teamed up with photographer and creator Ashley Coffey for the stunning series, Films & Fros. With Park City, Utah as our backdrop, Coffey approached Black people at the film festival — capturing them in the midst of the snow, chaos, and euphoria. She learned why they were attending, what films they were most excited to see, what their experience had been thus far, and what they’d wished they’d known before making the trip.

Check out Films & Fros ’18

Akua || Instagram: @oouuks

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I’m here at Sundance working with their “Special Events” department. Since I work in “Special Events” it’s only until “B Week” that I get a chance to actually jump into any of events or panels. So far it’s been great. There’s been a lot of Black Girl Magic and I got to meet Jada Pinkett-Smith, Octavia Spencer and Issa Rae. I always wish I had insight on the weather. The weather is always unpredictable and last year was crazy.

Nanica || Instagram: @reactorgirl71

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I’m a volunteer and this is my 12th year working the festival. I love films, mostly independent films and documentaries so I volunteered to help out and get an inside look at the festival. There’s a lot of good films, but I definitely want to see Yardie and Monster. Since Sundance has improved on inclusion, I want to try my best to see any films with women and people of color. Oh, and then, of course, I want to check out Blackhouse. It’s good when they get to come back. 

Even though it’s been 12 years every year seems to be different. I have a family here, but at the same time it keeps adding on and adding on. It’s still independent, but yet there are more people coming. Some people, like myself, thought it wasn’t open to everyone, but it really is. You don’t realize that until you attend that it is.

Honestly I wish I knew about the additional apps to help you. I’m on the Sundance app, but you still need to go on the Blackhouse app and many others so that you get an inside tip on everything that’s going on.

Latoya || Instagram: @madamerogers03

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We’re here for Sundance for a girl’s trip so we’re just seeing what it’s all about. I’m actually excited about the Blackhouse event with Angela Rye because I watch her on CNN. Besides being cold, Sundance has been an amazing experience. We have met a lot of cool people from around the world. I wish I had known to register for events early before they fill up.

Marshea || Instagram: @marshea7

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Sundance has been a bucket list trip for me since I’m an actress. There isn’t one [film] in particular, but I just wanted to kind of experience the festival and the people. It’s been cold, but it’s been really nice meeting new people. We saw a film yesterday in Salt Lake City called Minding the Gap and it was really interesting.

Curtis || Instagram: @curtisscook  

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I have a film that’s premiering here that is premiering here that I’m acting in. It’s called Madeline’s Madeline as is a part of the Sundance Next program. I want to see Qasim’s film, A Boy. A Girl. A Dream and I also want to see Renaldo Green’s film, Monsters & Men

I love Sundance a lot. My experience so far is that I just got here *laughs*. So it’s starting to snow and it’s starting to look like that iconic Sundance with those white flakes coming down from the sky. I just love the atmosphere out here you know what I mean? And it’s beautiful to see more people of color walking these streets. It’s my sixth time out here at Sundance and each time there are more of us. I’ve been here before so I knew what to expect and knew how I might not get into certain things so I already prepared myself. I told myself, Curtis, just get prepared to have a good time.

Mel || Instagram: @mellymel_jones

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I have a series at Sundance called Leimert Park. All of the Blackhouse stuff has been awesome and I’m really excited for the Color of Change panel. There’s also a few at MACRO that I want to see like the panel Tessa Thompson is on then I want to see Monsters & Men. I also want to see Q’s film, A Boy. A Girl. A Dream, Colette and Franchesca Ramsey’s episodic.

This is the Blackest Sundance I have ever seen. I hope it continues. This year there are two places for us. Normally, there is only Blackhouse. So you went to Blackhouse, you saw your friends and you went into Sundance feeling like you were a speck. Now, I’m walking down the street saying, “hey!” to every Black person I meet. But, now there’s MACRO who’s having a party tonight and it’s full in there and full in Blackhouse. The vibe is right.

Well, you get F.O.M.O because you can’t get to everything. But, I do wish I knew how lit The Chi party was going to be because I wanted to conserve my energy, but then I was really mad because everyone said it was so much fun.

Cynarra  || Instagram: @narra_tweed

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I came here with a friend in search of a restoration. I also like being around conversations around storytelling for people who live on the margins of identity.I’m really interested in Blackhouse events as well as Monsters & Men. I also want to see Sorry to Bother You with Tessa Thompson and Lakeith Stanfield because I’m “stanning” over Lakeith Stanfield.

This is my first Sundance and so far it’s good. I’ve been hanging out with dope people who have been here several years in a row so they know the lay of the land. I’m also originally from a place with high altitude so I’m enjoying being back in this climate. Also, people are friendly like when we see other people of color of people we gravitate toward each other, which is nice.

I wish that I would have packed a little differently. I wish I had more layers, maybe I would have given myself different alternatives with my coats.

Name: April || Instagram: @reignofapril

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This is my first time at Sundance and I am here as a consultant and influencer working directly with Sundance so it’s been fantastic. I was really impressed with the Angela Rye moderated panel hosted by Color of Change that featured Tessa Thompson and Debra Lee. My experience has been very welcoming and inviting. I hope to have the opportunity to come back again soon. 

Name: Donna Marie || Instagram: @DM_baptiste

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I’m here because our project was part of the Sundance Documentary Film program. So we’re here to attend workshops, network and meet as many people that we can.  I’ve seen some really good films, but I’m very interested in seeing Yardi because I’m Caribbean. I’m also interested in seeing Sorry to Bother You by my friend Boots Riley. 

Name: Ural || Instagram: @uralg323

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I’m working with the Black Eyed Peas on their Masters of the Sun VR project that premiered as part of the New Frontier project. It’s probably one of the most ambitious projects in tech and art that I have ever seen. It’s cool to be a part of it. I want to see Lakeith Stanfield movie, Sorry to Bother You as well as Monster and the M.I.A. documentary.

I’ve been working a lot so I haven’t been able to really enjoy it. I’ve been doing social media for Masters of the Sun (@mastersofthesun) so I haven’t had much time outside of work to do anything except for read and sleep. 

I wish I would have known the scope because it feels like SXSW where every single shop or store has something going on. Plus, I didn’t know how much it feels like a filmmakers retreat.

Name: Azikiwe || Instagram: @_azikiwe

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I’m here at Sundance shooting photos for Sundance Institute. I’d say I’m most excited to see Yardie and that’s about it. I also definitely want to check out Blackhouse of course. It’s been great so far. This is my fourth year and Sundance has always been a great opportunity for me to connect with people especially this year because I get to document the Black experience at the festival. I feel pretty prepared because it’s my fourth year. 

Name: Neil || Instagram: @creque

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I’m here for Sundance’s Creative Producing Fellowship with a film called Miss Juneteenth that I’m developing alongside a writer/director named Channing Godfrey Peoples. There are so many great things here, it’s hard. I didn’t get to do everything I wanted to do. The MACRO lodge was pretty awesome, but I didn’t get to spend as much time there as I wanted too. Blackhouse was also awesome. As for films, I’m excited for Monsters, Sorry to Bother You and Never Goin’ Back, which some friends of mine made. I’m also here for the community and the filmmakers to be inspired as well as network.

It’s just been crazy and hectic because of the Fellowship. They have us running around doing a lot of work. We have meetings, we have screenings we have to watch and tomorrow we start our case studies where we sit with the producers after the films. So we get to understand the process was like and what they were looking for in films and all of that.

That’s a tough one. But, there’s definitely some F.O.M.O. But, I came here knowing there were things I wasn’t going to get to go to. I was here last year, so I knew about the weather. But, this year I was like, I’m just gonna roll with whatever comes my way.

Ahuya || Instagram: @sojournerfalse

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I’m a Night Foundation Fellow so I’m an emerging filmmaker working on a comedic web series about four Black trans women in Detroit.  I definitely want to check out Francesca Ramsey’s docuseries. So far it’s been refreshing, new, exciting and enriching. I wish I knew how cold it was going to be here even though I’m from Detroit. I also wish I would have been more familiar with some of the films here.

Jamari || Instagram: @jperryfilms

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I have a film here. I’m a producer on a film called, War Paint, which is a short film about a 14-year-old girl who, on the eve of 4th of July, realizes what it’s like to be both Black and female. I’m an avid film viewer so I love watching films about underprivileged and marginalized communities. While I’ve been here I’ve seen Blindspotting, Sorry to Bother You and Generation Wealth. I also want to see Leimert Park because I live there now.

This is my fourth time at Sundance and this time I’m coming as a filmmaker so it’s really exciting to see people’s reactions to the film. It’s also really exciting just to be here and sit at the table because I don’t think there are enough opportunities for us. So, it’s great that Sundance provides us with opportunities to be in the room with other filmmakers and create a diverse perspective. I also had six members of my family come and support my film so it’ll be something I remember for the rest of my life. I wish I knew what films would be distributed. I haven’t been able to keep up with it as much as I normally do.

Twilla || Instagram: @twillaamin

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I actually have a film here that I produced called War Paint that’s in the shorts program. Listen, the panels at the Blackhouse have been life. They have been so amazing because when people of color come together and gleam from these industry professionals who are doing it, it’s great. I’ve really, truly, enjoyed seeing more diversity.

This is my first Sundance ever so to have a film here my first time has been a bit overwhelming, but exciting. It’s a very small community that’s supportive so you run into other filmmakers who are just cheering you on. You also run into people who encourage you so like I said, it’s overwhelming, but I’ve been supported along the way.  

One thing I wish I knew other than more layers is just understanding that this is an opportunity as a filmmaker to do business and network as well. I also wish I knew who was here to get those meetings.

Jason || Instagram: @jasoncozier

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I’m a programmer at Slamdance, a Sundance showcase for innovative filmmakers.  I want to see all of the shorts because that’s what I program and that’s what I love. So far it’s been cold and in the beginning there’s a lot of partying, but it’s necessary because you need a community out here. You really get to know a lot of lifelong friends and people who are series because it’s not cheap coming out here.

I wish I had done research on everyone and knew the history of various directors whose work I’ve been a fan of for years. There were times where I didn’t know until after I met people that they directed some of my favorite work

Nyah || Instagram: Nyahhh

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I’m here because of a film I scored. I also have my EP coming out this month and it will be on all platforms so I’m excited to share that with the people of Sundance. HBO had a great panel about Martin Luther King that I really enjoyed. It’s been great I’ve been able to check out a lot of amazing events like the closing night of Blackhouse we’re at right now. I probably wish I knew more about the music sector of the festival since I’m a film composer. I wish I could have prepared better for those.

Garrett || Instagram: @evanbane

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I’m a producer and I’m supporting a friend at the festival with a film called, Search. I saw an amazing film called, King in the Wilderness about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the last few years of his life. This is my sixth straight year at Sundance and I always come to Blackhouse. It’s always such a great creative place to be, which is why I come every year whether I have a film here or not. I wish I knew which parties to get into so I didn’t have to wait in long lines.

Kwame || Instagram: @cue_st.stephen777

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I’m here for networking. I’m a filmmaker, writer, producer and actor, but next year I hope to have something at the festival. I wanna see any and everything Black. So far it’s been beautiful and I’ve met a lot of major people in the business. Far from the fact that it’s freezing and snowing, there are a lot of beautiful people. I’ve been having a blast.  I wish I knew I needed to register early for the panels and films. But, I’ll be ready next year.

Makiah || Instagram: @makiahisms

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I’m here with MACRO. We have two films at the festival, which are Sorry to Bother You and Leimert Park. I’ve been running around so much with MACRO so the only other film I’ve seen is Come Sunday. I was really interested in it ever since I read the script and learned the story about the pastor’s life trajectory.

Oh my God it’s been crazy to be up until 5am every night. It’s just been amazing to connect with creatives of color especially this year. There are so many projects here that are highlighting Black stories in varying forms. I’ve been so inspired to go home and create.  

Honestly, I came with the attitude of going with the flow and it’s been that since I’ve been here. It’s been delightful. Honestly, there isn’t anything I would change.

Rahan || Instagram: @rahanboxley

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I’m doing some work with Stella Artois and supporting my friend who is DJ’ing tonight at Blackhouse. I really enjoyed Monster & Men and it was really cool to see John Legend, Spike Lee and his wife. I was also able to hang with Ethan Hawke’s crew at a cast party for their film Blaze, so that was a highlight. My Sundance experience has been eye-opening actually because it’s my first time coming to an event centered around the arts in this way. There are a lot of creators and makers who want to build together. No one is pretentious and everyone is just here to enjoy art.

I wish I knew just how many awesome Black people would be here. By that, I’m just being real. Seeing Black creatives and how ready they are to build has been cool.

Sundace Film Festival 2018  ran from January 18-28 in Park City, Utah. 

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