Salem Film Fest 2020 started this weekend. Over the next few weeks, Salem Film Fest will present 80 features and short films for streaming as part of the virtual film festival.
Included in this year’s festival is RETROSPECTIVE: BLACK IN AMERICA, a selection of films that have screened at past editions of Salem Film Fest and have shed a light on the African-American struggle in the United States, including SFF 2012 Audience Award winner ALL ME: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF WINFRED REMBERT by Vivian Ducat and THE BLOOD IS AT THE DOORSTEP by Erik Ljung, which won the Michael Sullivan FRONTLINE Award for Documentary Journalism at SFF 2018.
All festival profits from ticket sales for films included in the retrospective will be donated to organizations and individuals dedicated to combating racism and creating opportunities for African-Americans in the arts.
Here are 10 Films Available from Salem Film Fest Week 1
With his intensely autobiographical paintings depicting the day-to-day existence of African Americans in the segregated South, Winfred Rembert has preserved an important, if often disturbing, chapter of American history. His indelible images of toiling in the cotton fields, singing in church, dancing in juke joints, or working on a chain gang are especially powerful, not just because he lived every moment, but because he experienced so much of the injustice and bigotry they show as recently as the 1960s and 70s. Now in his sixties, Rembert has developed a growing following among collectors and connoisseurs, and enjoyed a number of tributes and exhibitions of his work. In “ALL ME: The Life and Times of Winfred Rembert,” the artist relives his turbulent life, abundantly visualized by his extensive paintings and, in a series of intimate reminiscences, shows us how even the most painful memories can be transformed into something meaningful and beautiful.
Winner of the Audience Award (SFF 2012)
At the intersections of commerce, racial identity, and historical narrative, BLACK MEMORABILIA follows the propagation of demeaning representations of African Americans. Moving beyond perverse attractions to collectibles and antiques that serve as reminders of America’s troubled racial history, the film combats stereotypes and presents a poetic portrait of the people who consume, manufacture and assume the identities of these objects.
Official Selection (SFF 2018)
After Dontre Hamilton, a black, unarmed man diagnosed with schizophrenia, was shot 14 times and killed by police in Milwaukee, his family embarks on a quest for answers, justice, and reform. Filmed over the course of three years as the investigation unfolds, this intimate verité documentary offers a painfully realistic glimpse inside a movement born out of tragedy.
WINNER OF THE MICHAEL SULLIVAN FRONTLINE AWARD (SFF 2018)
After a school fight lands 17-year old Daje Shelton in a court-supervised alternative high school, she’s determined to turn things around and make a better future for herself in her rough St. Louis neighborhood. But focusing on school is tough as she loses multiple friends to gun violence, falls in love for the first time, and becomes pregnant with a boy, Ahkeem, just as Ferguson erupts a few miles down the road. Through Daje’s intimate coming-of-age story, FOR AHKEEM illuminates challenges that many Black teenagers face in America today, and witnesses the strength, resilience, and determination it takes to survive.
Special Screening (SFF 2017)
Told through the charismatic voice of inmate Kenneth Reams, FREE MEN is a film about human resilience. At age 18, Reams was convicted for capital murder without firing a bullet, becoming the youngest inmate on Arkansas’ death row. Surviving decades of solitary confinement, he has pushed back the walls of his cell to become a painter, a poet, the founder of a non-profit, and an art event organizer – all while fighting for justice and freedom. As Arkansas rushes to execute ten inmates in ten days – an American record – Kenneth and Isabelle, a French artist who wants to become his wife, struggle against all odds to find justice while there’s still time.
Official Selection (SFF 2019)
Following Ai Weiwei’s detention at the hands of the Chinese authorities, the outspoken artist and activist transformed the former island penitentiary of Alcatraz into an artistic platform with the remarkable exhibition @Large: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz.
Trace was one of the eight new artworks that comprised the @Large exhibition. Made entirely from LEGO bricks, the work depicts the faces and names of 176 brave individuals who were incarcerated or exiled due to their beliefs, affiliations, and nonviolent expressions of dissent. The work’s companion piece, Yours Truly, invited visitors to compose messages of hope to many of the prisoners seen in Trace. The film follows these postcards around the globe—from Alcatraz Island to Beijing, Washington, D.C., and Cairo—as Director Cheryl Haines meets with former prisoners of conscience and their families to discuss their impossible choices and the comfort they found in messages sent by people they would never meet.
High above the streets of Central Havana, some of its poorest citizens are forced into makeshift rooftop homes by a chronic citywide housing shortage. With stunning cinematography and a dazzling soundtrack, Director Pedro Ruiz captures the lives of 11 of these rooftop dwellers. From their perch atop the city, they bear witness to a society that is once again in the process of a major historical transformation after more than 60 years of revolutionary government.
Betty Reid Soskin is a steadfast African-American woman who became a National Park Service Ranger at the ripe age of 85. Now at 98, she has been described as “Bette Davis, Angela Davis, and Yoda all rolled into one.” From her simple wooden stool at Rosie the Riveter WWII Home Front National Historical Park, Betty tells an authentic story of what it is to be black and a woman in the United States. The great-granddaughter of a slave, Betty has lived a life filled with painful and often humiliating memories… yet she remains a defiant voice of hope.
Twenty years after a beloved local fisherman, Richie Madeiras, goes missing off the shores of Martha’s Vineyard, a distant cousin finds Richie’s kind, indelible spirit in the stories of family, friends, and the sweeping sea which has defined their lives. A stirring, lyrical journey swims beneath the brusque, reticent surface of this New England fishing community.
Filmed over the course of three years, THE GOOD DAUGHTER offers an intimate, unflinching account of Azhe as she confronts discrimination in Taiwan for being a foreign bride and works two back-breaking jobs to support both of her families — all the while fighting back against feeling victimized by her utter lack of options. In the process, the film bears witness to an essential contradiction in the lives of migrant women like Azhe: As her children grow older and their financial needs increase, can Azhe continue to devote herself unconditionally to her struggling family back home, or must she now focus solely on the new family she created in Taiwan? And, in the process, how can she realize her dream that her daughters might have a more hopeful future than her own?
Sally Wu was the inaugural winner of The Doc-a-chusetts Pitch (SFF 2016) and served as co-producer of THE MOSUO SISTERS (SFF 2013).