The 11th annual Twin Cities Black Film Festival opens tonight with the first two of 28 screenings.
The film “In Search of the Black Knight” is a lighthearted look at a red-hot topic among black professional women — a perceived shortage of suitable black men. The documentary sets the tone Thursday for the Twin Cities Black Film Festival.
While this year’s fest runs the gamut from a Civil War-era drama to present-day violence in Chicago, a strong focus on relationships runs throughout, said organizer Natalie Morrow.
“Love, romance, infidelity, we’ve got it all,” said Morrow, a Minneapolis event planner who started the festival 11 years ago because “I wanted a real showcase for African-Americans in film.”
The 28 films, a mix of shorts and feature-length dramas and documentaries, are being screened at Showplace Icon Theatre at St. Louis Park’s West End complex through Sunday.
The lineup includes five films shown at the Sundance Film Festival. “The Retrieval” (3:35 p.m. Sunday), about a Southern teenage boy who falls in with bounty hunters tracking runaway slaves during the Civil War, has won several awards on the fest circuit. “Middle of Nowhere” (9:45 p.m. Sunday), about a woman who gives up med school after her husband goes to prison, features up-and-coming Hollywood actor David Oyewolo and won a directing award at Sundance in 2012.
“The Suspect,” one of the newest dramas to be shown, stars Sterling K. Brown (“Army Wives,” “Person of Interest”) and prime-time TV veteran Mekhi Phifer (“ER,” “White Collar”) as social scientists who conduct a racial-dynamics experiment in a small town by posing as bank robbers. Brown will be at the screening (7:30 p.m. Saturday).
The fest gets some local flavor from a short doc called “Firsts: Minnesota’s African-American Groundbreakers” (11:30 a.m. Saturday), which precedes a program of shorts made by Minnesota directors, most of whom will attend.
Not all of the filmmakers in the lineup are black.
“This is a multicultural festival,” Morrow said. “We have a diverse group of filmmakers, but the films are about the African-American and African experiences.”
Two moving selections shot in Africa are the half-hour doc “Small, Small Thing” (2:05 p.m. Saturday), the powerful story of a Liberian girl who was raped at age 5 and died from her injuries several years later, and “30%” (4 p.m. Saturday), a look at women’s efforts to influence politics in Sierra Leone.
The festival has a strong social element as well, with parties Thursday, Friday and Sunday at the theater’s lounge and a Saturday-night fashion show to be held at Faces Mears Park in St. Paul themed around Kerry Washington’s hit TV show “Scandal.”
Kristin Tillotson • 612-673-7046