The BFI launches the biggest UK celebration of black talent on screen with the BLACK STAR season

At a special event held at BFI Southbank in London with comedian Gina Yashere and DJ Norman Jay MBE, the BFI today launched what is being billed as the UK’s biggest ever season of film and television dedicated to celebrating black talent: BLACK STAR.  Appropriately, this launch coincides with the UK premiere of Amma Asante’s London Film Festival opener A United Kingdom, which stars David Oyelowo in a Botswana-set true story. The landmark film season at BFI Southbank, programmed by Ashley Clark, will run from 17 October – 31 December.

David Oyelowo also was a key speaker at the Black Star Symposium Speech, marking the launch of the season. In a forthright speech, Oyelowo criticised the fact that black and minority talent was not “baked in” to the British way of film and TV production, and pointed out that his painful awareness of this fact had driven him to feel that “I had to leave” [he now resides in LA]. “Please stop the talent drain”, he urged.

Heather Stewart, Creative Director of the BFI said: “Imagine cinema history without Paul Robeson, Dorothy Dandridge, Sidney Poitier, Pam Grier, and Samuel L Jackson – some of the greatest actors to light up our screens with their charisma and talent. Now imagine how much richer our shared memory would be, had the opportunities available to black actors matched their abilities. With BLACK STAR we are celebrating great performances and bringing them back to the big screen for everyone to enjoy. And we are also asking searching questions, of our industry and of ourselves, driven by a passion to meet the expectations of audiences who rightly expect to see their stories and aspirations reflected on screen.”

BLACK STAR will spotlight:

  • The leading men of classic Hollywood cinema; from Harry Belafonte and Sidney Poitier to Jamie Foxx and the hugely popular Samuel L Jackson.
  • The star as political activist; the great Paul Robeson and Lena Horne through to Danny Glover and Beyoncé.
  • Stars who have gone on to be major power players, who can open films, get films made, from Oprah Winfrey and Will Smith to Denzel Washington.
  • Powerful and glamorous female stars who have created memorable big screen icons, from Dorothy Dandridge to Oscar®-winning Halle Berry.
  • British home grown talent with star power who have gained international acclaim and found significant leading roles in the US: Idris Elba, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Sophie Okonedo and David Oyelowo.
  • The star names who have dominated music and film stories, from Sammy Davis Jnr through to Diana Ross and Motown, to Ice Cube and Hip Hop.
  • The stars who have created a powerfully subversive take on the black star as entertainer; comedians including Richard Pryor, Whoopi Goldberg and Eddie Murphy.
  • Black rebels and Blaxploitation icons; Mario van Peebles, Fred Williamson and Pam Grier.
  • A story of new and emerging talent, John Boyega, Michael B. Jordan, Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Lupita Nyongo’o.
  • Pioneering Afro-Caribbean stars who transformed the face of British film and television, like Earl Cameron, Carmen Munroe, Norman Beaton and Lenny Henry.
  • And celebrating the stars emerging out of the fast-growing film industry and new star system of Nollywood, including Nse Ikpe-Etim.
  • BLACK STAR won’t just celebrate the cream of the crop when it comes to black film and TV talent, it aims to address the controversies over why opportunities to shine on screen have been historically limited for black actors. Via celebration of the diversity of roles and talent, the hope is that this season will reposition black stars and their performances in the collective memory.

BLACK STAR will be available to audiences everywhere in the UK; in cinemas including BFI Southbank, on BBC Television, on DVD/Blu-ray and online via BFI Player from 17 October – 31 December, with further projects planned to celebrate the contribution of black practitioners working across film and TV in the coming years.

Highlights of BFI BLACK STAR include:

• The release of two major films into cinemas across the UK (with a third to be announced soon):

– John Singleton’s game-changing, Oscar®-nominated BOYZ N THE HOOD (1991), starring Ice Cube, Cuba Gooding Jr., Morris Chestnut, Laurence Fishburne, Nia Long and Angela Bassett, will be re-released during the season in association with Park Circus and Sony Pictures

– Park Circus will re-release Norman Jewison’s multi Oscar®-winning IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT (1967), starring Sidney Poitier, Rod Steiger and Warren Oates

• Over 275 bespoke screenings and events in over 90 different locations right across the UK, delivered through the BFI Film Audience Network (BFI FAN) and its partners

• A new audience-led poll to discover the British public’s Best Black Screen Performances of All Time, with two of the top films brought to major, independent and community cinemas across the UK, through a partnership with the Independent Cinema Office (ICO)

• BLACK STAR events at BFI Southbank include a special on-stage reunion with Trix Worrell, the creator of Desmond’s and members of the cast including Carmen Munroe and Robbie Gee

• An agenda-setting Symposium event at the BFI London Film Festival (LFF) – the UK’s leading film festival – bringing together leading international filmmakers and industry professionals from both sides of the Atlantic to question why opportunities for black actors to shine on screen in the US and the UK remain limited and ask what more can be done to effect positive change

• NET.WORK@LFF – the BFI’s intensive four day professional development programme for exciting UK-based writers and directors, which takes place at the BFI London Film Festival will be focused on supporting BAME filmmakers for its 2016 edition

• Landmark two-month film season at BFI Southbank, programmed by Ashley Clark, exploring the rich history of ‘transatlantic stardom’ and focusing on key historical moments and important stars for British audiences

• A major multi-channel editorial partnership with BBC Radio and TV, including BLACK STAR Movie Night on BBC Two in November, films on BBC iPlayer, and a broadcast of a Paul Robeson documentary

• New BFI Blu-ray and DVD releases including the first ever Dual Format Edition of The Crying Game (Neil Jordan, 1992), and Blu-ray release of Carmen Jones (Otto Preminger, 1954); Dual Format Editions of Odds Against Tomorrow (Robert Wise, 1959) and Paris Blues (Martin Ritt, 1961); DVD release of The Glass Shield (Charles Burnett, 1994); separate Blu-ray and DVD box sets of Pioneers of African-American Cinema

• A new BFI book, the BLACK STAR Compendium, from a hand-picked selection of outstanding cultural writers, investigating the history and responding to the theme of black stardom in film and TV, to be published on 17 October

• An extensive collection of over 50 titles made available online to audiences through BFI Player

• An education programme in partnership with Into Film which includes a dedicated strand at the Into Film Festival, featuring contemporary black British talent and a BFI Schools event with Floella Benjamin

The BFI launches the biggest UK celebration of black talent on screen with the BLACK STAR season
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