Between July 12 and 17, The Newark Museum of Art welcomed back The Newark Black Film Festival (NBFF), the longest-running Black film Festival in the United States, after a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic.

Since 1974, NBFF has presented the work of young, independent, Black filmmakers, showcasing early films by the likes of Spike Lee, Ayoka Chenzira, and Warrington and Reginald Hudlin. Other luminaries who have participated in the Festival over the years include James Earl Jones, Danny Glover, Pam Grier, Donald Bogle, Richard Wesley, Euzhan Palcy, Ava DuVernay, and S. Epatha Merkerson.

Emerging from the last two years of pandemic isolation, characterized by the resurgence of intolerance in our society, and by the threat of war overseas, this year’s edition of the Festival introduced a new generation of filmmakers exploring themes of gentrification, gender inequality, and oppressive societal structures. From Ethiopia to the Bronx, from New Orleans to Miami, the films selected for the festival in the words of Richard Wesley, Chair of The Newark Black Film Festival, “told the stories of a world that has changed and of the lives and experiences of millions of African and African-descended people striving daily.” Ludi, winner of the best film category, features a hardworking and exhausted nurse, who learns her self-worth while she chases the American Dream in Miami’s Little Haiti neighborhood.

Leslie Harris, director of Just Another Girl on the I.R.T. with selection committee members Ayana Stafford‑Morris and Yvonne Michelle Shirley. © Chrystofer Davis 

With a focus on younger filmmakers, this year’s NBFF selection committee included three new members: director Ayana Stafford-Morris and The Newarkive co-founders, Yvonne Michelle Shirley, and LeRon Lee. After receiving more than 150 submissions, the committee was joined by partner organizations—New Negress Film Society and Black Public Media—to curate the series.

The Festival also experimented with a new format. Instead of presenting films once a week over the course of the summer, the Festival took place over six consecutive days. Celebratory opening and closing events aligned the NBFF to traditional presentations such as the Montclair Film Festival and the Tribeca Film Festival. Over six days, we welcomed nine hundred people of different age groups and from all over New Jersey, demonstrating the importance of cinema to tell powerful stories that resonate across age and ethnicities.

The 2022 NBFF also included a special 30th anniversary screening of the film Just another Girl on the I.R.T., followed by a Q&A with director Leslie Harris. The film, currently being nominated for the National Film Registry of works of enduring significance to American Culture at the Library of Congress, was originally presented at the NBFF in 1992 and was one of the first coming-of-age films from a young black woman’s point of view.

Please join me in supporting the nomination of this groundbreaking film to the Library of Congress by clicking on the link here (valid until August 15) and by congratulating all the winners and participating filmmakers from the 2022 Newark Black Film Festival.

Let’s movie together!

Linda C. Harrison
Director and CEO
The Newark Museum of Art