Harlem International Film Festival

Harlem International Film Festival
announces line-up for 16th edition
(May 6-9)Opening Night in-person celebration features World Premieres of
Tarabu Betserai Kirkland’s 100 Years from Mississippi,
and Glenn Osten Anderson’s Coogan’s Way, and the
North American premiere of Anne Via McCollough’s Full Circle.


100 YEARS 2

New York, NY (April 23, 2021) – The 2021 Harlem International Film Festival (Hi) today announced official selections for its 16th edition – a hybrid event taking place May 6-9. The film festival will open with an audacious presentation of two triple-header screenings at the AMC Magic Johnson Harlem 9 Theaters (2309 Frederick Douglass Blvd) featuring the world premieres of Tarabu Betserai Kirkland’s 100 Years from Mississippi, and Glenn Osten Anderson’s Coogan’s Way, as well as the North American premiere of Anne Via McCollough’s Full Circle.

The red carpet in-person event will kick off the film festival’s celebrated showcase of relatively undiscovered international cinematic gems and local New York filmmaking talent and lead into virtual screenings of 71 films and more (31 features, 32 shorts, 2 VR/360 projects, and 6 webisodes) representing over 17 countries. Other feature films making their world premieres include; Avril E. Russell’s All on a Summer’s Day; Shonnese C. L. Coleman’s Radio Theatre for Your Soul, A Docu-Story; and Ílker Savaskurt’s Reflection (Ákis). Making its North American premiere is McArthur Alejandre’s Crossroads (Tagpuan).

Harlem International Film Festival’s Program Director, Nasri Zacharia, said. “We are thrilled to return to the theater, have a red carpet welcome for our filmmakers, live audiences and Q&As, and experience the magic of film festival discovery in the company of one another the way we did prior to the pandemic. At the same time, we will also utilize the virtual presentations to not just introduce our audiences throughout the state of New York to films from around the world, but also to interact and connect with filmmakers from all over the globe. And, of course, we’ll continue our efforts to truly showcase the filmmakers and the setting of our beloved home neighborhoods of Harlem, Upper Manhattan and the Bronx, which we call the HUB.”

Opening on Thursday, May 6, the Harlem International Film Festival will return to theaters with a vengeance by presenting two separate triple features. Three of the films are documentaries making their world and North American debuts. Tarabu Betserai Kirkland’s 100 Years from Mississippi, about the return of a proud son and his mother to the state she had narrowly escaped as a child over one hundred years earlier, after the filmmaker discovered that the stories he had accepted as family folklore for decades were actually true. Glenn Osten Anderson’s Coogan’s Way tells the story of the iconic Washington Heights bar and restaurant that welcomed all races, religions, and interests becoming a force for good in the community in the 80s and 90s. Anne Via McCollough’s Full Circle celebrates Helen Hays’ Great Gull Island Project, a 50-year quest to save two species of threatened seabirds, the Roseate and Common Terns.


The second Opening Night trio features films making their New York premieres including; Voodoo Macbeth, a film project from the University of Southern California Graduate students collective, about the first all black cast (in 1936 Harlem) to perform Shakespeare’s MACBETH, directed by a young and arrogant Orson Welles; Rebecca Heidenberg’s Queens of The Revolution, a Cuban documentary which is a moving portrait of Mejunje, a cultural center in Santa Clara that paved the road for LGBTQ+ rights in that county, highlighting the bravery of people who have fought for their lives and identities for decades; and Celine Parrenas Shimizu’s The Celine Archive, which looks at the remarkable story of Celine Navarro, who was buried alive by her community in 1932. The story exposes issues that still haunt Filipinax American communities today.


Two international films making their world premieres are Avril E. Russell’s All on a Summer’s Day, a British psychological thriller about a woman whose car breaks down on the infamous Highway of Tears, and Ílker Savaskurt’s Reflection (Ákis), a Turkish tribute to William S. Burroughs about guests in a hotel in Istanbul soon to have an otherworldly experience. Also making its world premiere is Shonnese C. L. Coleman’s Radio Theatre for Your Soul, A Docu-Story, about the making of an internet radio show, featuring the fascinating minds and hearts of storytellers from all genres at the Accelerated Radio Studios in Inglewood, CA. McArthur Alejandre’s drama from the Philippines, Crossroads (Tagpuan) will make it’s North American premiere at the Harlem International FilmFestival. The story connects three lonely souls whose chance encounter will change their lives.

The Harlem International Film Festival will also offer its signature curated presentations of curated Harlem Uptown and local New York produced and themed short films preceding each of the features screening during the Opening Night event.

Additional highlights also include; Kelly Walker’s My Fiona, about a woman drawn into an intimate – and potentially catastrophic – relationship with the widowed mother of her best friend following her suicide; and Joseph E. Austin II’s Sundays in July, which follows the love story that develops when a woman meets a man after she returns to New York from L.A.

For Film festival passes, tickets, and more information on the Harlem International Film Festival go to https://HarlemFilmFestival.org



2021 Harlem International Film Festival official selections

Opening Night Triple Features Selections
100 Years From Mississippi                                               World Premiere
Director: Tarabu Betserai Kirkland
Country: US, Running Time: 59 min
Mamie Lang Kirkland was seven years old when she fled Ellisville, Mississippi in 1915 with her mother and siblings as her father and his friend, John Hartfield, escaped an approaching lynch mob. John Hartfield returned to Mississippi in 1919 and was killed in one of the most horrific lynchings of the era. Mamie’s son, Tarabu, had grown up hearing stories of John Hartfield but didn’t know if his mother’s stories were fact or folklore until one day in 2015. Tarabu discovered an article describing Hartfield’s murder before a crowd of 10,000 spectators. For over 100 years Mamie vowed never to return to Mississippi. Yet with Tarabu’s remarkable find, he urges his mother to finally confront her childhood trauma by returning to Ellisville.

The Celine Archive                                                               New York Premiere
Director: Celine Parrenas Shimizu
Country: US, Running Time: 69 min
Adulteress, traitor, heroine, or prey? In 1932, Celine Navarro was buried alive by her community in Northern California. The filmmaker, a grieving mother, with a long-term commitment to exploring race, gender and immigration, digs up Celine Navarro’s story, exposing silences that haunt Filipinax American communities today, along with Celine Navarro’s family, community members and scholars who know different details about this largely untold event in American history.

Coogan’s Way                                                                       World Premiere
Director: Glenn Osten Anderson
Country: US, Running Time: 67 min
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, NYC’s Washington Heights neighborhood was considered the epicenter of America’s crack cocaine epidemic. Amid gang wars, street riots, and growing tensions between citizens and police – the community needed a safe space, a political hub, a cultural center, and a home-away-from-home. Coogan’s Way is the story of how a small bar and restaurant that welcomed all races, religions, and interests became a force for good in the community. And how decades later, when the owners were faced with the challenges of a rapidly changing NYC real estate market, their diverse and dynamic clientele fought for this beloved institution.

Full Circle                                                                              North American Premiere               
Director: Anne Via McCollough
Country: US, Running Time: 86 min
This stunning documentary celebrates one woman’s triumph in conservation, the Great Gull Island Project, Helen Hays’ 50-year quest to save two species of threatened seabirds. During her long term study, she vastly increased the numbers of nesting Roseate and Common Terns on a small, uninhabited island in Long Island Sound. As well as revealing the nesting season of the terns up close the film highlights the myriad of volunteers inspired by Hays over the decades; her extensive collaboration with scientists in Argentina, Brazil and the Azores; and also her remarkable & heartwarming connection with a small fishing village on the north coast of Brazil.

Queens of The Revolution                                                  New York Premiere                    
Director: Rebecca Heidenberg
Country: Cuba, Running Time: 78 min
This moving portrait of Mejunje, a cultural center in Santa Clara that paved the road for LGBTQ+ rights in Cuba, highlights the bravery of people who have fought for their lives and identities for decades. Meandering through the streets of Santa Clara, into the homes of drag performers and on to the stage, the film tells the story of Mejunje through a chorus of voices.

Voodoo Macbeth                                                                  New York Premiere
Director: University of Southern California Graduate students collective
Country: US, Running Time: 108 min.
In 1936 Harlem, the first all black cast to perform Shakespeare’s MACBETH, directed by a young and arrogant Orson Welles, battles to make it to opening night.


All on a Summer’s Day                                                        World Premiere
Director: Avril E. Russell
Country: UK, Running Time: 74 min
On the way to a final gig before she joins the rat race, Nicky’s car breaks down on a quiet country lane off a motorway locally known as the Highway of Tears.  When a Samaritan stops to offer help, she is unsure whether to trust him in this homage to British 70s psychological thrillers.

Cecily and Lydia at the Waypoint                     
Director: Juliette Strangio
Country: US, Running Time: 74 min
On a lush, but lonely earth, Cecily walks. Alone in her house, Lydia waits. One balmy afternoon, the two women finally meet.

Crossroads (Tagpuan)                                                        North American Premiere
Director: McArthur Alejandre
Country: Philippines, Running Time: 107 min
In a world where people wander the globe for survival and no place can any longer be called home, three rootless lonely souls try to connect. Allan is a rich businessman who hides his empty life in the guise of success. One night he has a chance encounter with Tanya, a sexy and mysterious Filipino-Chinese woman in Hongkong.  It will change his life forever.

Director: Slavek Horak
Country: Czech Republic, Running Time: 102 min
Inspired by the life of Vaclav Havel, prominent Czech playwright and dissident turned president.  The film focuses on Havel’s transformation from successful, then banned, playwright of the late 1960s into human rights organizer during the 70s leading to his presidency in the late 80s. The drama revolves around a self-doubting intellectual torn between his passions and his self-imposed duties to the greater good while struggling to prove his worth to himself.

Kalel, 15
Director: Jun Robles Lana
Country: Philippines, Running Time: 105 min
Kalel knows a thing or two about secrets.  His mother has an ongoing affair with a married man.  His sister had an abortion at a young age and he is the son of a priest. Insecure about his past, he searches for love and validation from complete strangers he meets online, but his own secret is becoming unbearable to hide.

Lust Life Love
Directors: Stephanie Sellars, Benjamin Feuer
Country: US, Running Time: 100 min
When a bisexual, polyamorous sex blogger falls madly in love with a monogamous man, she comes face to face with the frightening truth about herself.

My Fiona                                                                                New York State Premiere
Director: Kelly Walker
Country: US, Running Time: 86 min
Following the suicide of her best friend, Jane finds purpose in helping her friend’s wife with their child. In doing so, she becomes inadvertently drawn into an intimate relationship bound by grief that’s potentially catastrophic to the healing for all those involved.

Reflection (Ákis)                                                                         World Premiere
Director: Ílker Savaskurt
Country: Turkey, Running Time: 108 min
A hotel in a remote, but popular area of Istanbul, finds new guests arriving in search of rest and relaxation after their travels.  But the attendant checking them into their rooms has something more in store for the night in this strangely otherworld Turkish tribute to William S. Burroughs.

Sundays In July                                                                            NY Premiere
Director: Joseph E. Austin II
County: US, Running Time: 85 min
When fiercely independent Monika moves back to New York from Los Angeles determined to make it this time completely on her own, the last thing she ever expected was to meet Trent with an open heart and open arms.  An intimate look at two lovers navigating the minefield of their egos, fears and flaws to dive into the most foreign and uncharted territory – true love.

The American King                                                                            
Director: Adah Obekpa
County: US, Running Time: 75 min
In the year 2020, a mysterious High Priestess arrives in the United States to fulfill a 400-year-old Prophecy: to choose an American to become King of an ancient African kingdom, one who would rebuild this ancient kingdom into a global superpower again.

Director: Sevgi Hirschhäuser
County: Turkey, Running Time: 106 min
Toprak is the dramatic story of a simple family in rural Turkey dealing with poverty, family traditions, and religious heritage. Since the death of his parents, the teenage Burak has lived with his uncle Cemil and grandmother in a remote Turkish village. The small family unit has been trying to make a living by selling fruits. While the religious Cemil is satisfied to live his life in poverty, Burak struggles to leave for the city and attend university. When grandmother falls sick, both Burak and Cemil have to make tough decisions that will change their lives forever.

Almost Naked                                                                                                                      
Director: Liang Mai
County: China, Running Time: 63 min
A Chinese artist finds his voice when he discovers photography, and learns that his ultimate subject is himself. The result is a series of naked self-portraits made over many years and the creation of a body of work that not only challenges his own boundaries but also the cultural norms of both East and West.

Director: Liz Ortiz
County: US, Running Time: 76 min
This is what happens when a casting director who has spoken up for over 20 years about disability inclusion to no avail, and a performer with a disability whose talents were under-utilized due to typecasting, join forces to make a documentary.

Breathtaking: K2 – The World’s Most Dangerous Mountain                   
Director: Adrian Ballinger
Country: US, Running Time: 46 min
“K2 is a savage mountain that tries to kill you.” That is how climber George Bell described the infamous peak after the first American expedition in 1953–forever giving the mountain its nickname–The Savage Mountain. Sixty-six years later, Eddie Bauer mountain guides Adrian Ballinger and Carla Perez aim to summit the 8611-meter peak and join a community of explorers fewer in number than those who have been to outer space. Even more incredible, they both will attempt the feat without the use of supplemental oxygen. Every step of the way the team faces hazardous conditions, terrifying setbacks, and crushing misfortunes.

Chasing Childhood                                                                                     
Director: Eden Wurmfeld, Margaret Munzer Loeb
Country: US, Running Time: 85 min
Overprotected and over-directed, American children are wilting under the weight of well-meaning parents. In the pursuit of keeping them safe and creating an impressive resumé of extracurricular activities to wow admissions boards, over-parenting smothers children across socioeconomic classes and leads to anxiety and depression. Chasing Childhood follows education professionals and reformed helicopter parents who seek and offer solutions for developing more confident, independent young people while restoring some joy and freedom to childhood.

Madan Sara                                                                                       
Director: Etant Dupain
Country: Haiti, Running Time: 51 min
The women known as Madan Sara in Haiti work tirelessly to buy, distribute, and sell food and other essentials in markets throughout the country.  Despite the obstacles faced by the women working in a sector that lacks investment, infrastructure and state assistance, the Madan Sara continue to be one of the most critical parts of the Haitian economy and society. This is the story of these indefatigable women who work at the margins to make Haiti’s economy run.

Negra                                                                                        Harlem Premiere             
Director: Medhin Tewolde Serrano
Country: Mexico, Running Time: 72 min
When the film’s director was seven years old she remembers the first time she was referred to as “negra” (black). At first she looked around, not realizing the person was even referring to her. “That day I understood I was black, and the laughter it caused among the people nearby made me think being a black person wasn’t that great.” The film is an honest examination of inhabiting Mexico as a black woman. It tells the story of five afro-descendant women from southern Mexico, exposing racism, resistance and processes of self-acceptance, strategies for transcending stereotypes, and the celebration of their identity.

Radio Theatre for Your Soul, A Docu-Story                         World Premiere                         
Director: Shonnese C. L. Coleman
Country: US, Running Time: 100 min
Radio Theatre for Your Soul, A Docu-Story reveals the making of an internet radio show, featuring the fascinating minds and hearts of storytellers from all genres, including music and poetry. Creator, Producer & Host, Shonnese C. L. Coleman, inspired by the benefits and healing properties of storytelling, weaves a journey of wellness as she celebrates over 100 Broadcasts at the Accelerated Radio Studios in Inglewood, CA. Providing a platform, a global stage, and a supportive environment for people from all walks of life, with a passion to share their stories, their adventures and indeed their soul.

Director: Allegra Pacheco
Country: Japan, Costa Rica, Running Time: 79 min
A salaryman in Japan is a white-collar worker that devotes his life to his employer. Salarymen’s relentless work ethic helped build the country into the global superpower it is today. It’s 3 am, the last trains have left and the loud hustle and bustle of Tokyo has turned quiet. Costa Rican artist Allegra Pacheco walks through the neon city to find it littered with drunk men in suits sleeping on the street. Some are curled up on sidewalks, others rest their heads on briefcases used as pillows. Only to her foreign eyes this every-day scene seems off, as if she were the only witness to a massacre.  Her artistic practice takes her into a deep exploration that follows the lives of the men and women that work to live, or live to work?

Sky Blossom: Diaries of The Next Greatest Generation                        
Director: Richard Lui
Country: US, Running Time: 88 min
As young as eleven years old, they are taking care of parents and grandparents who are battling sickness. We call them Care Heroes. And there are five million of them in America.

Truth to Power: Barbara Lee Speaks For Me                                       
Director: Abby Ginzberg
Country: US, Running Time: 82 min
The inspirational story of Representative Barbara Lee, a steadfast voice for human rights, peace and equality in the U.S. Congress who cut her teeth as a volunteer for the Black Panther Party and was the lone voice in opposition to the broad authorization of military force after the September 11th attacks. In 2001, she issued a prescient warning in the House of Representatives: “Let us not become the evil we deplore,” and she continues that clarion call today.

Vinyl Nation                                                                                                    
Directors: Kevin Smokler, Christopher Boone
Country: US, Running Time: 92 min
A deep dig into the crates of the vinyl record resurgence to discover what an old technology says about our relationship to music and each other during a divided time in America.

Yer Old Faither                                                                                             
Director: Heather Croall
Country: Australia, Running Time: 85 min
A letter to my father. An elegy for a man, a town and a dream. Set in the industrial town of Whyalla, this is an intimate portrait of John Croall, a Glaswegian immigrant to Australia, and the father of Heather Croall. John Croall delivered three generations of babies and planted thousands of trees in the town. He was also a great letter writer, and this very personal documentary uses these letters as its point of departure. Heather Croall films with her father as a way of coping with his approaching death and reflecting on the close, and often very funny, relationship between them. This opens up an exploration that transcends individual grief and loss, to encompass the broader issues raised by a man’s life.

Youth V. Gov
Director: Christi Cooper
Country: US, Running Time: 110 min
This is the story of America’s youngest citizens taking on the world’s most powerful government.  Twenty-one courageous youth lead a groundbreaking lawsuit against the U.S. government, asserting it has willfully acted over six decades to create our climate crisis, thus endangering their constitutional rights to life, liberty, and property.  If these young people are successful, they will not only make history, they’ll change the future.

Comment (0)


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here