Race in film has become one of the film industry’s biggest talking points in the last few years. The hashtag #OscarsSoWhite was first coined by New York journalist April Reign in early 2015, and since then, the Academy Awards have been boycotted by Will Smith, Spike Lee, Michael Moore and others, provoking a national discussion about what it means to be black (and Hispanic, Asian, and any other minority), and what more can be done to create more roles for actors from ethnic minorities. The debate may have been less high-profile in the UK, but the inequality is just as pronounced, which is why the BFI has decided to stage Black Star, a season of events dedicated to actors and actresses of colour.
Following on from the London Film Festival, which concluded triumphantly in mid-October, Black Star’s programme spotlights everyone from Paul Robeson in The Proud Valley—a 1940 film about an African-American miner who found himself working in Wales and singing in the local men’s choir—to Chiwetel Ejiofor in 12 Years a Slave. Also featuring Sidney Poitier, Spike Lee, Wesley Snipes, Halle Berry and Pam Grier among others, the season celebrates the creative and cultural impact of black actors, screening some of the best-loved and critically acclaimed films of modern history, from The Last King of Scotland and Prince’s Purple Rain, to Foxy Brown and The Colour Purple. With a broad range of topics dissected on screen—incuding some race-related, like the Blaxploitation wave of the 1970s, to hip-hop music to slavery—the programme also includes 275 bespoke panels, screenings, and even sing-a-longs, in 70 locations across the UK.—Thomas Barrie
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