Penn Live Arts Blog / Tagged / Film

Film returns this fall

Posted September 10, 2021


Cactus Flower (2017)
Our fall 2021 film series features work responding to pressing concerns: the impact of climate change and shifting political alliances on our environment as well as the effects of the global pandemic.

In September, our On the Environment films address climate change from a variety of perspectives and locations. In Landfall (2020), we examine what happens when recovery efforts and global capitalism collide in Puerto Rico while in Titixe (2018), we witness the deep links between the loss of a beloved family member, the loss of cultural tradition, and consequently, the deterioration of an agricultural environment. Two short films, The Lake and The Lake (2019) and When the Lionfish Came (2015), highlight the impact of the obliteration of cultural and environmental resources. Read more...

Recent Highlights: Apr – Jun 2021

Posted June 23, 2021


Kun-Yang Lin performing The Wind in our Zellerbach Theatre, Apr 22, 2021
As our country began to see a light at the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, arts lovers were eager to process feelings and emotions through music and dance performances. The final weeks of our spring season offered up just such an opportunity through a host of evocative programs. Here are some highlights.

Rennie Harris Puremovement gave us a powerful, message-driven performance, including works about police violence and the Black male experience. In its review of the performance, The Philadelphia Inquirer said, “His narrative voice is as compelling here as it is in his storied contemporary dance career with Philadanco and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.” Viewers commented that it was “mesmerizing” and “showcasing community pain.” Learn more about Philadelphia-native Harris in our 5 Questions article or this Philadelphia Tribune profile. Read more...

Recent Highlights: Jan – Mar 2021

Posted March 30, 2021


Photo courtesy of HopeBoykinDance
Powerful. Stunning. Inspiring. These are just a few of the words our audiences have shared with us since the spring digital season began in early February. It’s always great to hear such praise for the artists who have given a superlative performance. But in the past year, as we transitioned to livestreamed performances, it is particularly meaningful. And when we read that “the production team stars along with the dancers,” we get excited at the thought that perhaps that invisible barrier, across the virtual divide, just might be dissolving, bringing our virtual audiences so much closer. As one of only a couple of venues in the Philadelphia area to stream live performances in real time, this is a wonderful affirmation of the artists and their art and our staff learning to work in completely new ways. Here are a few highlights from the first weeks of our spring season.

Preserving the live experience has been our overriding goal for our 20/21 season. For debut artists, the dramatic tension of the live experience lends an extra level of energy, even in a virtual setting. For the audience, hearing new artists such as rising jazz stars Samara Joy and Pasquale Grasso gives a peek into the future of the art form. These fresh voices and musicians were a great kickoff to the spring season. You can read more about Samara Joy and her connection to Philadelphia in The Philadelphia Tribune and hear from both artists on our blog in our 5 Questions series. Read more...

Dance, Romance, and Gender Fluidity: Aviva Film Discussion

Posted November 23, 2020


“Sometimes you’re interested in a film because it’s trying to do something, even if it doesn’t quite work.” This was Maori Holmes’ rationale for selecting Aviva, an experimental dance film directed by Boaz Yakin (2020) for the Annenberg Center’s Homecoming @ Home programming. Holmes, Artistic Director and CEO of BlackStar Film Festival, is the newly appointed Curator-at-Large for Film at the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts and the Mediamaker-in-Residence at the Annenberg School for Communication. Aviva chronicles the long-distance romance between Eden (a New Yorker) and Aviva (a Parisian videographer), as they attempt to merge their lives in New York City. The pair ultimately marry, then split, all the while confronting the ghosts of relationships past and charting new futures, professionally and romantically. Read more...

Our fall 2020 digital season takes the performance to you

Posted September 1, 2020


Martha Graham Dance Company, Photo by Hibbard Nash Photography
We are excited to announce our fall 2020 digital season! Curated and created just for our patrons, our exclusive live performances will bring some of the best dance and music artists from our stage to your home. Also, new for this season, we are pleased that films will be returning to our line-up, broadening our programming and supporting independent film on campus and in West Philadelphia.

Each one-night-only music and dance performance will be broadcast live from our theatre and be followed by a Q&A with the artists. Viewers will have the opportunity to chat live with each other and the performers, forging connections at a time when we all feel so apart. Read on to discover what’s coming to our virtual stage! Read more...

5 Questions with Maori Karmael Holmes

Posted August 13, 2020


Get to know Maori Karmael Holmes in just five questions. Maori founded the BlackStar Film Festival and currently serves as its Artistic Director & CEO. We are a proud presenting partner of the Festival (August 20-26), and recently announced the appointment of Maori as our new Curator-at-Large for Film. She’s also serving as Mediamaker-in-Residence at the Annenberg School. Read on to find out what we can expect from Maori!

1. There is a lot of great film, discussion, events in the BlackStar Film Festival this year. What one thing should we not miss?

That’s always a hard question to answer. The entire festival is carefully planned by all of us and we want folks to participate in everything!

2. What’s your process for evaluating and selecting films?

This year, we started working with a crew of a dozen student reviewers (many of whom attend Penn) who watched the films in full and made notes. Read more...

BlackStar Film Festival

Posted August 12, 2020


BlackStar Film Festival, the prestigious celebration of the visual and storytelling traditions of the African diaspora and of global communities of color, is the only event of its kind in Philadelphia. Since 2012, when the multi-day festival was founded by Artistic Director & CEO Maori Karmael Holmes, this showcase of work by Black, Brown and Indigenous film and video artists has brought together filmmakers, patrons and enthusiasts from around the world. The Annenberg Center is a producing partner of the Festival, which runs August 20-26.

Due to COVID-19, BlackStar has gone digital for this year. More than 80 films representing over 20 countries will be shown, including 24 world premieres. Among the highlights are the world premiere of The Ancestors Live – 50 Years of Kùlú Mèlé African Dance & Drum Ensemble (August 22), which honors Philadelphia-based Kùlú Mèlé’s 50th anniversary and the making of Ogun & the People (which was commissioned by the Annenberg Center and received its world premiere on our stage in November 2019), and Legendary: 30 Years of Philly Ballroom, an inside look at the preservation of Philadelphia’s ballroom scene, a Black and Latinx LGBTQ safe-space that has endured for 30 years (August 22). Visit the BlackStar website for the full schedule of feature films, documentaries, shorts, live panel discussions and special events. Read more...

Koresh Dance Company uses film to respond to our current times

Posted August 4, 2020


Koresh Dance Company recently expanded its digital reach with the release of “Hide Your Face/Unmask Your Heart.” Subtitled A Trilogy of Yearning for Normalcy, Justice and Peace of Mind, the short film trilogy is a specially curated project by founder Roni Koresh intended to refocus and reimagine new ways of dance expression during times of uncertainty and fear. Each film features words or poetry by Karl Mullen, a Philadelphia-based specialist in non-traditional art and music making, and were edited by fellow Philadelphian Sandy Mitchel, a sought-after videographer for her work in capturing dance. “Hide Your Face/Unmask Your Heart” provides relevant commentary to our current times and elevates voices of our Philadelphia arts community. 

The first film, 6 feet apart, was a response to social distancing performed by the dancers of Koresh Dance Company. The second, The Elephant is in the Room, featured esteemed dancers Rennie Harris, Raphael Xavier and Zane Booker (all of whom are also natives of the Philadelphia area) in a response to social justice and systemic racism against Black communities. Read more...