It’s not all Black Panther on the screen this weekend. There’s another way to celebrate African-American cinema, as the Black Bottom Film Festival — three days of film screenings, discussions and guest speakers — returns this weekend to the August Wilson Center, Downtown. Production designer Wynn Thomas, who has worked on nearly a dozen Spike Lee films and the recent hit Hidden Figures, is this year’s recipient of the festival’s Cinematic Excellence award.
At this fest, dubbed “Cinema for the Soul,” check out three new feature films. Dominoes turn deadly in Ernest Dickerson’s new drama, Double Play; producer Lisa Cortes will attend. The new dramedy The Magnificent Life of Charlie will be presented by director Bobby Huntley. And Michael Phillip Edwards will be on hand to introduce his film, Last Life, about reincarnated lovers.
Some older films also get a focus: Robert Wise’s 1959 searing crime drama, Odds Against Tomorrow, which forefronts racism, and stars Harry Belafonte (who also co-produced); the period boxing drama Cinderella Man (2005), featuring the design work of this year’s honoree; and the 1997 rom-com Love Jones (co-star Khalil Kain will attend).
On Sun., Feb. 25, patrons can catch a U.S. premiere of documentary Betty Davis: They Say I’m Different, about the pioneering funk artist from Pittsburgh; director Phil Cox will attend. Another doc, 1995’s A Litany for Survival: The Life & Work of Audre Lorde, about the influential poet, also plays that day.
But wait, there’s more: two short films, one about Pittsburgh attorney and activist, Wendell Freeman, and another from actress Gabourey Sidibe, making her directorial debut. And appearing as part of the ongoing Truth Sayers speaker series will be April Reign, creator of the #OscarsSoWhite campaign. Plus workshops on writing and acting for the screen.
It’s a packed weekend, so check the website for screening times and the complete schedule.