The event is dedicated to bringing national and worldwide attention to Atlanta as a film and film production center for people of color and showcasing them in an in-person and virtual setting.
By Allison Joyner
The Bronzelens Film Festival (BLFF) returned to an in-person format on Tuesday, premiering this year’s selections throughout the city after a three-year virtual stint.
“I’ve been seeing a few of the festivals add on a virtual [showing] because the whole world saw our work and nobody wants to go back to that space in it anymore,” said Kathleen Bertrand, Executive Producer of BLFF.
The President of the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau, William Pate, conceived the festival in 2009 with the goal of focusing on films made by African Americans.
Pete appointed his then Sr. Vice President, Bertrand, to lead this project and screened several films and hosted several workshops and panels the following year.
Now in its 13th year, the BLFF is highlighting over 120 films at several theaters across Atlanta as well as virtually for the new audience they gained while Covid protocols were enforced.
SEE MORE: Bronzelens Film Festival – Opening Night, Women Superstars Honors, Award Shows – Aug. 23-28
Celebrity guests including Regina Hall and Sterling K. Brown from the film “Honk for Jesus, Save Your Soul,” opening in theaters in September.
“The basic premise of why we do what we do is because we get a chance to let the world know what we look like but more importantly, I think it is the fact that when you watch enough of our films, you’ll see that there are universal themes,” Bertrand said.
She also told SaportaReport that the festival has gained international attention. Film enthusiasts from parts of Europe and New Zealand experienced their previous selections and appreciated the artistry that came from these filmmakers.
“I owe it to my filmmakers to expose them to as much of the world as possible,” Bertrand said.
“As an African American filmmaker, this is what we look for in a film festival and a film festival that an African American woman created,” said David Wooley, director of “Dionne Warwick: Don’t Make Me Over.”
In a documentary about the multi-Grammy award-winning singer, “Don’t Make Me Over” tells the story of her meteoric rise from local gospel choir member to international cross-over superstar.
“Once you see that Dionne is a transformational figure, you will understand that if Dionne can do it, so can everybody else; that’s the empowering. I don’t care if you’re a man, if you’re a woman, everybody will be touched,” Wooley said.
At a small viewing, Bertrand first watched “Don’t Make Me Over” and said the film brought her to tears. After that, the fellow singer, Bertrand, knew she wanted to have this film at this year’s BLFF.
“You’re gonna submit your film because I want it to happen,” Bertrand told Wooley. “And by the time we talked a little more, I knew it would be good for opening night.”
This year’s BLFF also marked the largest submission of films produced in Georgia.
“When we first started, we would maybe have one or two but the quality of filmmakers has been elevating over years that we’re so pleased that we get to show homegrown talent,” she said.
The virtual screening of the Bronzelens Film Festival begins today. Log onto their website to register. “Dionne Warwick: Don’t Make Me Over” will premiere on New Year’s Day on CNN.