The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) showcased more than 80 films at its inaugural African American Film Festival October 24-27. The festival celebrated both emerging and iconic directors whose stories reflect various perspectives of the African American experience and represent the past, present, and future of Black cinema.
Here are our top 10 feel-good moments at the African American Film Festival:
1) Dr. Rhea L. Combs at the podium
Every time Dr. Rhea L. Combs, supervisory curator of photography and film, stepped to the podium, we knew we were about to experience something special. She gave the welcoming comments for every major event at the festival and headed the team responsible for putting on this biannual event.
2) The color-coordinated cast of If Beale Street Could Talk
Anyone who has seen Barry Jenkins’ Oscar-winning film Moonlight knows the director uses color like a character in his films. There’s no exception in his latest masterpiece If Beale Street Could Talk, which features an orange color palette. The cast arrived on the red carpet color-coordinated with each other and their film, like a beautiful fall harvest. We see you Regina King, Stephan James, and Kiki Layne and we feel the love.
3) The inspiring pioneer filmmaker Madeline Anderson
When the pioneer filmmaker Madeline Anderson, who is 91 and was honored at the festival, she told Shadow &Act that, when she did not receive the funding she needed to make her first pivotal films in the ’60s, she was faced with two choices: “not make films or find a way to make films.” Guess what? She found a way. And we thank her.
4) Quincy Jones as living history
At the post-screening reception for Quincy, the legendary musician Quincy Jones relaxed on the VIP couch flanked by two dapper Tuskegee Airman giving lives-well-lived vibes.
5) Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther costume on display
What better home for iconic designer Ruth E. Carter‘s Black Panther costume than the NMAAHC? The Black Panther suit from the record-breaking film fits right into the collection of artifacts of our culture.
6) Black women supporting Black women
Emerging filmmaker Tchaiko Omawale premiered her film Solace in the Oprah Winfrey Theater. At a Q&A after the screening, she stated, to big applause, that she received the most support from Black women in ensuring that her film made its way to the big screen.
7) The Pretzel Wall
While attendees were dining at the festival’s evening celebration, Night at the Museum, there was a delightful display of pretzels as wall art, offering a powerful reminder to attendees that we have been and continue to make art out of every single thing surrounding us. Creativity and good food know no bounds.
8) Self-Care as a radical act
Jenn Nkiru, the Director of the experimental short film, Rebirth is Necessary, spoke during a panel at the event called Black Radical Imagination. She said that “tending to ourselves, through introspection, self-love, and self-work, all from a perspective of abundance,” is the way to imagine a radical future. Snaps for that.
9) Coming Through the Fire
There was a small fire at the NMAAHC on the last day of the festival but no one was harmed and nothing was damaged. It did cause some events to be moved to the Air and Space Museum at the last minute. But the quick and orderly way in which this setback was handled embodied one of the festival’s–and Black people’s–themes: making a way out of no way.
10) When Regina King’s look on the closing night of the festival after the screening of Beale Street expressed the mood of the entire festival