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Roxbury International Film Festival's 25th Anniversary


The 25th anniversary of the Roxbury International Film Festival exceeded all expectations, delivering a diverse range of films that explored themes of life, community activism, and even ventured into the realm of science fiction. Among the standout films was "Welcoming the Embrace," a poignant portrayal of the profound love shared by Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King during their time in Boston. The film revisited the historic moment when Dr. King picked up Coretta Scott King in front of the New England Conservatory of Music for their first date, highlighting the enduring monument of their love.


The sculpture of this iconic moment between Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King is a powerful symbol, one that encourages reflection and conversation. It's a testament to the enduring impact of their love on our collective consciousness.


Another remarkable film, "Boston Photograph," offered a unique perspective on the city of Boston, focusing on the vibrant Roxbury community and its influence extending to the South End. This film showcased how Roxbury and the South End served as incubators for black artists, musicians, and theater luminaries, including jazz legends like Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, and Charlie Parker, as well as Roxbury's own Roy Haynes. Theater great August Wilson also honed his talents in this vibrant community before making his mark in New York. Boston's soul emanated from Roxbury and the South End, nurturing the growth of these talented individuals, who went on to become national icons. This rich cultural history includes luminaries such as Phyllis Wheatley, W.E.B. Du Bois, Bill R. Bivens, and Big Puppy, who all had roots in this vibrant community.


As festival organizer Lisa Simmons aptly stated, "This is our city; black artists, dancers, and sculptors have been an integral part of Roxbury since the 1920s and continue to enrich our community." The Embraced monument, situated at the heart of Roxbury, serves as a focal point around which the essence of the community thrives. From 1951 to 1953, Boston produced leaders and giants who played pivotal roles in shaping black America, many of whom emerged from the South End and Roxbury.


"Great Day in Roxbury and Highland Park" was another film that celebrated community resilience and the people who have sustained it. Despite facing challenging times, Roxbury's Highland Park endures. The film pays tribute to those who have made sacrifices to keep this community intact, including respected figures like Mel King, Lloyd King, and Chuck Turner, who worked tirelessly to prevent a highway from dividing the Roxbury community. Edward L. Cooper, a pioneer who founded a youth gardening program in Highland Park, is also remembered through the Edward L. Cooper Community Center. This nonprofit initiative has long championed social and economic justice, making it Boston's oldest gardening program. The Roxbury Action program, led by George Morrison and George Rayner, also played a significant role in creating homeownership opportunities for Highland Park residents.


The film "Mattapan" shed light on the origins of this unique community, highlighting the Indigenous Native American heritage often overlooked. Mattapan, whose name means "Good place to sit or good place to eat" in 1630, was where settlers first arrived. Teens from the Mattapan Teen Center dedicated themselves to creating this informative film, which featured interviews with longtime community residents. These residents shared stories of their enduring connection to Mattapan, including their love for the Mattapoisett River and the joy of hanging out at the new juice bar, Juice Up. The film uncovered the hidden art and culture of Mattapan, demonstrating that there is much more to this community than meets the eye.


The festival also featured compelling script readings, including "Lena and Leonard," a touching tribute to Lois P. Roach's parents that delves into their love story and the challenges they faced during segregation. "Love Of A Lifetime" is another powerful reading, exploring the complexities of grief, love, and healing. It follows Darius as he copes with the loss of his wife, Angela, and embarks on a journey of self-discovery.


"The Deal" offers a dramatic examination of power dynamics and betrayal in the entertainment industry. It centers around a young actor and his manager, Chuck, who wields influence through secrets and deception. As tensions rise and a tragedy unfolds, Sam Scott realizes the extent of Chuck's betrayal and resolves to seek justice through a thorough contract review.


These excerpts only scratch the surface of the outstanding films showcased during the Roxbury International Film Festival's 25th anniversary. Year after year, the festival continues to elevate the voices and talents of filmmakers of color, and it remains a source of pride for all who appreciate their work.


Save the date for the next Roxbury International Film Festival, taking place from June 20th to June 28th, 2024.

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