The series runs throughout February at Arthouse at Blue Star and includes films from working Texas filmmakers in addition to Hollywood classics.
SAN ANTONIO — By early November, Ada Babineaux, Barbara Felix and Angela Martinez hadn’t connected, let alone collaborated.
But now, just three months later, their partnership has led to “Beautifully Black,” a showcase of films by African-American filmmakers taking over Arthouse at Blue Star for Black History Month.
Felix, a San Antonio artist who has dabbled in watercolor, collage, and even video, is always looking to expand her palette. So when she was approached by Martinez through a mutual connection to potentially schedule a series dedicated to black storytellers, she was eager for the challenge.
“I feel like I always have multiple projects and I could have referred her to someone else,” Felix said. “But I said, ‘That sounds like fun, I’m going to say yes. I’m going to say yes to this because it’s a really cool opportunity.
She then put together “a huge spreadsheet” of potential films, but ultimately felt they needed to add a third voice to the mix. Felix fostered a network of Alamo City-based creatives over the years, and there had to be someone in town with experience in the film industry who could help build the program.
Who better than the founder of the San Antonio International Black Film Festival (SABIFF)?
“By the time she got to my house, she had this huge array of movies that she had been researching. I had seen a majority of it,” said Ada Babineaux, who left her hometown to study cinema before returning in 2014. “So I came, really, to compliment her. I was really impressed with her, her attitude and her spirit. It’s easy to get involved with someone who has so much energy.
Babineaux came on board in December, and from then on the three worked to refine their selections. The resulting slate is an eclectic mix of noir stories, established classics (“Do The Right Thing,” “City of God”) and Oscar-winning dramas (“Moonlight,” “Black Orpheus”) at genre (“Us,” “The Wiz”) and indie masterpieces (“Killer of Sheep,” “Daughters of the Dust”).
But the team behind “Beautifully Black” has expanded their reach even further by including a local approach and a kind of reminder that the greatest directors started somewhere.
“We are here at the Blue Star Arts Complex; it is a space for creativity. People come here to see art and all kinds of creative things,” said Felix, who has taken full advantage of his connections to the arts community. “I wanted to showcase Texas talent and cinema. I wanted to keep it open and wide, but show the work and also let people know who these people are.
That’s why the first thing visitors will see when they enter Arthouse at Blue Star this month is a wall covered in the names and faces of Black Texas filmmakers working today – including Ya’Ke Smith. , Hallease Narvaez, DeAnna Brown and Cedric Thomas Smith – and how to connect with them. It’s also why the program kicks off with two days of short films from these directors and why the walls of the room are adorned with paintings by black artists, turning “Beautifully Black” into a multimedia showcase elevating new voices.
It was this same initiative that motivated Babineaux to create SABIFF in 2019, after discovering filmmakers like Charles Burnett, Julie Dash and Euzhan Palcy, whose groundbreaking works never translated to mainstream status.
“These are my heroes and heroines, and their movies (are the ones) people probably haven’t even heard of. You really don’t see black indie films unless you go to film festivals. I wanted to bring that to San Antonio,” she said. “When you pinpoint things and say, ‘These people are making movies in your backyard, they’re making movies here’, it gives more pride and encouragement to children, students and viewers. The talent is there. The potential is there. »
Proof of his point, “Beautifully Black” was sponsored by Icon Talks, a Washington D.C.-based organization founded by four friends from San Antonio that strives to cultivate diverse leadership while providing underprivileged youth with resources and empowerment. connecting them with those who have overcome adversity.
He is also the producer of the documentary “I Am a Dreamer” – an examination of today’s world through the lens of social injustice and socio-political advocacy – which will premiere on the afternoon of 19 February as part of the “Beautifully Black” slate.
“The boys from San Antonio made this movie,” Felix said. “These are our boys, our men. It’s truly inspiring that we have people from San Antonio doing such great things and making an impact.
Echoing the inclusive spirit with which Félix, Babineaux, and Martinez approached “Beautifully Black,” the series also features films by high school and UTSA students, as well as short filmmakers who are just getting started. explore the medium. Also on the program is “Walk on the River,” which bills itself as a “black history of the town of Alamo” and delves deeper into the local ethos of the program.
“It means so much to us to be able to shine a light on local filmmakers,” said Martinez, who opened Arthouse at Blue Star last summer as a subsidiary of Slab Cinema, the company she runs with her husband. “We try to do that in this space. It means so much to us to really do what we can in the community.
“Beautifully Black” also comes as Babineaux – herself an independent filmmaker – prepares to ramp up preparations for the 2022 edition of SABIFF, which, barring a prolonged pandemic, could once again become an at least partially in-person event. after going virtual in 2020 and 2021.
The call for entries is now open for the next few months, with the festival set to run from October 6-9, and Babineaux intends to attract even more young animation-focused filmmakers.
“This year is so much about attracting kids — kids from the east and the west who have no idea of the possibilities of where life can take them,” she said. “Doing things locally is so important. It can change lives and let you know what is possible in the world.