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Black to the Future Film Festival

April 27 - 29, 2023

The Black to the Future film festival celebrates the rich history of films that center stories from the African diaspora. It includes a silent film, modern experimental shorts, classic feature films, a sing-along musical, discussions, and more.

The festival is supported by the Park Foundation, the Learning Farm, Khuba International, CAN Cooperative Media, and Tompkins Community Bank. This program is also made possible in part with funds from the Statewide Community Regrants program from the New York State Council on the Arts, with the support of the office of the Governor and NYS Legislature, administered by the Community Arts Partnership of Tompkins County.

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Festival Schedule

Thursday, April 27

7 pm: Black to the Future Shorts (screening and discussion)


This selection of short films from Africa, the UK, and the US was curated by Ithaca College film faculty member Shola Ajayi and will be followed by a Zoom conversation with several of the filmmakers. There will be a bubbly toast to launch the festival, courtesy of Red Feet Wine Market & Spirit Provisions.

Friday, April 28

7 pm: Within Our Gates (1920, silent) with live musical accompaniment followed by a champagne reception

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This American silent film by the director Oscar Micheaux portrays the racial situation in the United States during the early 20th century. It is the oldest known surviving film made by an African-American director. Ithaca College vocalist Aalanys Alfred and pianist Megan Donahue have created an original score that they will be performing live. Note: The film portrays racial violence under white supremacy, and the lynching of black people.

Saturday, April 29

11 am: Sing Along with The Wiz (1978) (rated G) with song leader SingTrece

The Wiz was an adaptation of the 1975 Broadway musical of the same name, which in turn was a soul/R&B reinterpretation of L. Frank Baum's 1900 novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. The film’s all-star cast includes Michael Jackson, Diana Ross, and Richard Pryor. SingTrece, an Ithaca-based recording artist and soul singer, will lead the sing-along. Dressing up is encouraged.

2 pm: Juice (1992) (rated R) with screenwriter Q&A 

Juice is an American crime thriller film directed by Ernest R. Dickerson and written by Dickerson and Gerard Brown. It stars Omar Epps, Tupac Shakur, Jermaine Hopkins, and Khalil Kain. The film focuses on the lives of four black youths growing up in Harlem, following their day-to-day activities and their struggles with police harassment, rival neighborhood gangs, and their families. Writer Gerard Brown will join by Zoom after the screening. 

5 pm: Posse (1993) (rated R)

Posse is an American Western directed by and starring Mario Van Peebles. Featuring a large ensemble cast, the film tells the story of a posse of African-American soldiers and one ostracized white soldier who are all betrayed by a corrupt colonel. This film was the first film to be released by Gramercy Pictures. The director’s father, Melvin Van Peebles, recorded a new song, “Cruel Jim Crow,” for the soundtrack.

7 pm: Waves (2019) (rated R)

Set against the vibrant landscape of South Florida, Waves traces the epic emotional journey of a suburban African-American family led by a well-intentioned but domineering father as they navigate love, forgiveness, and coming together in the aftermath of a loss. Directed by Trey Edward Shults and starring Kelvin Harrison Jr., Taylor Russell, Lucas Hedges, Alexa Demie, Renée Elise Goldsberry, and Sterling K. Brown, Waves is a heartrending story about the universal capacity for compassion and growth even in the darkest of times.

9:30 pm: The Players Club (1998, rated R)

The Players Club is an American comedy-drama-thriller written and directed by Ice Cube in his feature film directorial debut. It also stars Bernie Mac, Monica Calhoun, Jamie Foxx, John Amos, A. J. Johnson, Alex Thomas, Charlie Murphy, Terrence Howard, Faizon Love, and LisaRaye McCoy in her first starring role. The Players Club is a favorite of festival curator Kenneth McLaurin, who will be on hand to introduce it. Note that there is a rape scene. 

9:30 pm: Blacula (1972, rated PG)

Blacula is an American vampire horror film directed by William Crain. It stars William Marshall in the title role about an 18th-century African prince named Mamuwalde, who is turned into a vampire (and later locked in a coffin) by Count Dracula in the Count's castle in Transylvania in the year 1780 after Dracula refuses to help Mamuwalde suppress the slave trade. Blacula was released to mixed reviews in the United States, but was one of the top-grossing films of the year. It was followed by the sequel Scream Blacula Scream in 1973 and inspired a wave of Black horror films.

Planning Committee


The Black to the Future film festival was the brainchild of Story House Ithaca advisory board member Kenneth McLaurin. Kenneth is a comedian, filmmaker, and arts entrepreneur. Among his productions are the album “Cuttin Up Comedy at the Shop,” the Kitchen Theatre show “Southern Fried Ithaca,” and the Zoom show “So You Think You’re Anti-Racist Competition.” His “10 Short Films About Race” was featured in the Spring Writes Literary Festival.


M. Nicole Horsley is an assistant professor in the Center for the Study of Culture, Race and Ethnicity at Ithaca College. She specializes in African American and African Diaspora Studies, Black Feminism, Black Queer Theory, Black Music Videos, Black Female Sexuality, Visual and Sonic Culture, Taste Culture, and Film and Media Studies. She received a PhD in African American and African Diaspora Studies from Indiana University.


Olubusola (Shola) Ajayi is a Nigerian-American filmmaker and faculty member at The New School and Ithaca College. She received an MFA in Film Production from Boston University and a Masters in Media Studies from Parsons. Her film and new media projects explore social issues among people of color and present Africa and Africans in innovative ways.

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