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Cut to Black

Organizers ramp up plans for Richmond’s inaugural Afrikana Independent Film Festival.

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If there's one thing the sharp-edged film "Dear White People" demonstrates, it's that even in a purported post-race world we have a ways to go.

Need proof? If you can't name a director of color other than Spike Lee, you're missing out on a world of up-and-coming black cinema.

Taking a cue from Philadelphia's Black Star Film Festival and the Martha's Vineyard African-American Film Festival, Richmond has begun the journey to an Afrikana Independent Film Festival. Slated for late 2015, it intends to highlight the fullest spectrum of black independent filmmaking.

To begin introducing the community to black-made films and their makers, the festival holds a monthly Noir Cinema Series at art galleries across town. On the third Thursday, a short film is premiered by a filmmaker and followed by a question and answer period.

"The Q and A's have been so engaging," festival founder Enjoli Moon says. "I had questions ready for the first one, but I didn't need them. We've had to wrap things up because discussion has been so robust."

Moon chose art galleries because she sees a mutually beneficial relationship. "It allows the galleries to see a whole other world of art appreciators out there and allows a community of people who don't often frequent those spaces to know they're on the radar," she says. "The goal is making sure that the art scene accurately portrays the diversity of Richmond."

But as local film lovers can attest, far too many films opening in major cities never make it to Richmond. Part of the festival's mission is to bring in black-made films that didn't screen here during original run.

Such is the case with "Finding Fela," about pioneering Nigerian musician Fela Kuti, a movie that had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in January. It will show at the Byrd Theatre and be followed by an Afrobeat party next door at the New York Deli.

"This is about year-round engagement, not just the festival," Moon says. "We bring in notable people from the film industry to our monthly events and hope to hold workshops for the community. All of the events are designed to get people interested in black film." S

"Contamination" with filmmaker R. Shanea Williams screens Nov. 20 at 7 p.m. at Candela Gallery, 214 W. Broad St. "Finding Fela" screens Nov. 23 at 7:30 at the Byrd Theatre, 2908 W. Cary St. "Seventh Grade" with writer and director Stefani Saintonge screens Dec. 18 at 7 p.m. at Artisan Café, 9200 Stony Point Parkway. afrikanafilmfestival.org.

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