When Karen Toering’s contract work with what is now called the Seattle Black Film Festival prompted her to start the Gary International Black Film Festival, many people questioned the endeavor.
“I had built relationships with filmmakers and had just seen the amazing storytelling that was coming out of these emerging filmmakers and was like, ‘Gary should have this,’” said Toering, founder and director of Gary International Black Film Festival.
“I got together with some old high school buddies. We did our first film festival. After that we literally came home that Monday and incorporated and said, ‘This is real. People love this. We’re going to do it.”
The 12th annual Gary International Black Film Festival, which features selections from nine countries including Nigeria and three continents including South America, is set for Oct. 7 to 9 at Indiana University Northwest in Gary.
“There’s some incredible storytelling,” said Toering, who graduated from Emerson High School in Gary and attended Purdue University in West Lafayette.
“With so much content out there that has historically misrepresented Black folks both intentionally and unintentionally, to have stories by and about Black people gives folks a sense of connection, a sense of pride and a deeper understanding about our culture that is told by us.
“Some of these stories are powerful and tragic. Other stories are just about everyday folks living everyday lives. I think people come because they get a big dose of that and they’re able to have conversations about it.”
Among the likely conversation starters at the festival is “Playing Through,” which was directed by Balbinka Korzeniowska, written by Curtis Jordan, and stars newcomer and golfer Andia Winslow as the late Ann Gregory, who was the first Black woman to play in a U.S. Golf Association championship.
“It’s a story that very few people in Gary know about someone who’s from Gary. She did some very important things right here in Gary. It’s yet another first that came out of Gary,” said Toering about Gregory who was once denied access to Gary’s South Gleason Park Golf Course.
“There is this basically everyday woman whose husband was away at World War II who took up golfing and became a champion and broke the color barrier on the very golf course that is connected to the campus of Indiana University Northwest where we’re screening the films.”
The fest partners with Urban League Young Professionals of Northwest Indiana for a tribute to Gregory via an Opening Night Red Carpet exhibit and a screening of “Playing Through,” which won Vienna Independent Film Festival awards including Grand Prix, best feature film and best director.
In addition to that special event at 6 p.m. Oct 7 at Savannah Hall, that venue hosts The Reel Rundown at 1 p.m. Oct. 8, which features short films by 18 of Gary’s emerging filmmakers from the fellowship program done virtually with Gary native and filmmaker Deon Taylor.
“He has over a dozen Hollywood films that he’s done. We worked with Taylor and his company, Hidden Empire Film Group, to do our first fellowship, which was a six-week intensive with emerging filmmakers who had a chance to talk with working professionals in Hollywood about their craft,” Toering said.
“Taylor literally brought a boatload of talent to speak with these folks who want to get a start in the industry.”
Other Gary International Black Film Festival highlights include Drive In Movie Night featuring “Akilla’s Escape,” which stars Saul Williams, at 6 p.m. Oct. 8 at the North Parking Lot (33rd Avenue).
After presenting an all-virtual fest in 2020 due to the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic and doing in-person and virtual offerings in 2021, the festival again offers a hybrid format in 2022.
“We learned a lot from doing that first hybrid and realized that we were reaching audiences globally and that we were also reaching a wider scope. Accessibility just went through the roof,” said Toering, who grew up in Gary and now lives in Seattle.
“People enjoy watching at home just as much as they enjoy coming out so this year we’ve cemented that folks that can’t make it out or are still challenged because COVID is still here can know that everything we’re showing in person at Indiana University Northwest will be available online.”
Gary International Black Film Festival
When: Oct. 7-9
Where: Indiana University Northwest, 3400 Broadway, Gary
Tickets: $10 adults and $7 seniors or students for single film and shorts packages; $25 opening night; $100 all-access passes; $75 virtual-only pass
Information: 219-200-4243; garyblackfilmfest.org
Jessi Virtusio is a freelance reporter for the Post-Tribune.
#Gary #International #Black #Film #Festival #returns #Oct
Leave a Reply