Merely Films 21 I Missed Out On At BFI Blackstar

Late last year, something absolutely wonderful happened.

From October to December, BFI Black Star created a season of film full of Black talent. Week after week I camped out at Southbank, seeing a massive variety of Black films. It was such a glorious thing to have Black faces dominating the screen for weeks and months at a time.

BFI Trailer:

Unfortunately I still managed to muck it up. There was a lot of films I regret missing during BFI Black Star Season. Some by accident, through overwhelming choice, through timing, being broke, ticket deals that don’t loner cinephiles are allowed to use; at one point where I was going to buy 10 tickets I only gotten 2. Hoping BFI improves on this in the future. I really did see a f*ckton of films. And yet during the late autumn I met so many POC who hadn’t heard of Black Star, or only saw one film, or knew about Film Africa, come to the BFI and still completely miss out on Black Star.

Forever more I will be a strange mixture of smug-strated that I got to be in an audience of 30 people for the UK premiere of Lime Kiln Club, the oldest surviving film with an all black cast, dated 1913 with a display of carefree Blackness and humour. This film could easily have been one of the biggest events of the season, backed up with talks and panels and gif workshops. Instead it was scheduled at 18:15 on a Friday night in one of the smaller screens against Boyz in the Hood with director John Singleton doing a Q&A. I’m pretty sure everyone involved did not mean for it to happen, but it happened. And who knows when the next time this film (in the care of MOMA’s vaults) will be seen in the UK again?

So below, see a list of the top ten films I regret missing so you don’t have to. I urge you to look up these films. Their stories are wonderfully varied, and feature star turns from Black actors throughout the history of cinema, that can only benefit anyone who engages with their work, who don’t see their lives or faces reflected:

  1. In the Heat of the Night
    Voted greatest Black Star performance of all time. I can also recommend an amazing book about the creation of modern cinema through inception and production of the 1967 Oscar Best Picture Nominations: Pictures at a Revolution: Five Movies and the Birth of the New Hollywood by Mark Harris (thoroughly, gorgeously researched, written and presented)
  1. Robeson films (The Proud Valley, Song of Freedom, Show Boat)
    Paul Robeson is most likely a literal superhero and mainstream missed out because like, racism. I was very overwhelmed by choice in this one.

  1. Stormy Weather
    I want to see this performance on the big screen!

  1. Devil in a Blue Dress
    I have heard that Don Cheadle is a BOSS in this

  1. Imitation of Life (1959)

  1. Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit – this is one of my favourite films ever, I have watched it at least 20 times. It was scheduled against Desmond’s with cast and director Q&A and the Beyonce Symposium on the same Sunday afternoon .

  1. To Sleep With Anger plus Danny Glover in conversation.
    Shame on me to miss on events when there’s live talks with legendary actors. Not that I really understood how badass Danny Glover is.

  1. House Party

  1. and 10. Sweet Sweetback’s Baadassssss Song & Foxy Brown.
    Again with scheduling – you could see one but not quite both on the same night. And then I was double booked with other things.

Best of the Rest…

  • Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai

  • Within Our Gates

  • New Jack City

  • Bush Mama + Child of Resistance + Diary of an African Nun
    – Because LA Rebellion movement films are very rarely screened!

  • Black Christmas
    – A 1977 BBC TV movie starring Norman Beaton and Carmen Munroe. I fear I will never have a chance to watch again unless I screen it myself :/

  • Playing Away
    – A film that plays on my nostalgia of when the West Indies cricket team would kick arse epically. At least this one is available on BFI Player

  • Secrets and Lies

  • Nothing But a Man

  • Claudine

  • Beverley Hills Cop

  • Waiting to Exhale

    Can’t lie, literally for this GIF:


    This, unbelievably, is not an exhaustive list. Did y’all go to Black Star and only see one film? Do you even know what I’m talking about? Let me know, let’s chat!