SF Black Film Festival gathers big names and fresh talent for Juneteenth celebrations

The San Francisco Black Film Festival starts Thursday, June 13. For four days, it celebrates the art of Black filmmakers from all over the country.

With Juneteenth right around the corner, it’s a great week to celebrate Black stories, with the festival bringing in big names and opening the door to fresh talent to the Bay Area.

The festival kicks off Thursday with Dwayne Wiggins of Tony! Toni! Toné!’s film "Timeless" at the African American Arts and Culture Center in the Fillmore district.

It lasts through Sunday, presenting more than 70 films of varying genres.

This year, Mario Van Peebles will be playing three of his movies: Panther (1995), Armed (2018), and new release Outlaw Posse (2024). 

The festival also provides exposure to rising talent, like SF Film School student Tadessa Imobersteg, who entered her first film ‘ABSENT,’ about a young woman meeting her father for the first time.

"The beauty in this is that the film was very healing for me, and not only it did well on this film festival, but it’s just what it did for me," said Imobersteg.

She said this is the ninth film festival her film has been selected for. She credits her faith for the opportunity.

"I am just happy that God is moving through it and being faithful through this whole journey," said Imobersteg.

The San Francisco Black Film Festival began in 1998, when the current Executive Director Cree Ray’s grandmother, Ave Monague, decided to expand her black-owned VHS rental shop into a black film event.

The festival is always around Freedom Day to coincide with the Fillmore Juneteenth celebrations. Now, Ray carries the torch.

"I like being that platform for black people to be able to tell their story, but like past their story. It's more like our story and like where we have come from, to kind of break all of those negative stereotypes that we have," said Ray.

Tickets are still on sale, with events ranging from $5 to $35. The film festival goes from Thursday to Sunday.