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Local organizations celebrate Black History Month through second annual film festival

The Irvine Auditorium on the Middlebury Institute for International Studies campus in Monterey. The front rows are empty, but the back rows are relatively full with a crowd of about 50. At the podium is speaker Nicholas McCreary, who is introducing the movie on the projector screen, Bamako (2006).
Janelle Salanga
Nicholas McCreary, the first institutional justice, equity, diversity and inclusion officer of the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, introduces Bamako (2006) at the opening night of the Black History Month Film Festival on Jan. 31, 2024.

Each Wednesday this month, community members can see a different film about Black experiences in the U.S. at the Irvine Auditorium in Monterey.

The film festival is a collaboration between the Black Leaders and Allies Collaborative, or BLAAC, and Middlebury Institute of International Studies, also known as MIIS.

BLAAC held the area’s first Black History Month Film Festival last year at the Lighthouse Theatre in Pacific Grove.

Dirrick Williams, who hails from Pacific Grove, said the films screened cover a wide variety of topics, so people can develop a more nuanced understanding of Black history.

“There are so many stereotypes and misnomers,” he said. “So choosing films that would educate, and at the same time, break down those barriers and those thoughts of fantasy and fear — that’s the basis of why the movies were chosen.”

On Jan. 31, the film festival kicked off with Bamako, a 2006 film set in the capital of Mali during which African community members put Western financial institutions on trial for the crimes of colonialism in an apartment complex.

The next film on the schedule is Daddy Hunger, which will be shown at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 7. Made in the late 2000s, it’s a series of reflections from Black people who grew up without their biological fathers.

Ray Upchurch, the film’s creator, says it’s an issue that hits close to home for him due to his own family background.

“I've never wanted to demonize Black men,” he said. “What I wanted the message to be … [is] here is what happens to us, your children, when you're not in our lives.”

Upchurch will host a Q&A after the screening of Daddy Hunger on Wednesday.

On Feb. 14, the featured movie is Boss: The Black Experience in Business. Black Boys and Making Black America: Through the Grapevine will be screened in the coming weeks, on Feb. 21 and Feb. 28, respectively.

Black Boys will also be followed by a Q&A with its producer, Chad Williamson.

The showings all start at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are available on Eventbrite or at the door. BLAAC suggests a $20 donation for each ticket and encourages at least a $10 minimum donation, with proceeds going toward planning next year’s festival.

Janelle Salanga is a reporter for KAZU. Prior to joining the station, they covered Sacramento communities and helped start the SacramenKnow newsletter at CapRadio.