Virtual reality

M.V. African American Film Festival may be online this year, but the films still share messages that resonate.


Like many events these days, the Run & Shoot Filmworks’ Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival (MVAAFF) will be taking place virtually this year, but everything you’ve come to expect from the annual festival — screenings, panel discussions, and more — will be available online. So even if you’re back home after your Vineyard visit, or if you’ve never been able to attend before, you can watch all of the programming from the comfort of your home.

All of the festival’s events will actually be happening live at a dance studio in Denver and streamed through Facebook, and organizers anticipate that more people than ever will be able to enjoy the festival.

Highlights from the 2020 festival include a screening of “John Lewis: Good Trouble” followed by a discussion with director Dawn Porter, an HBO MAX screening experience featuring a prerecorded panel conversation in support of “Charm City Kings,” produced by Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith, and starring Meek Mills, and “(In)Visible Portraits,” a feature documentary that shatters the too-often-invisible “otherizing” of women who identify as African American. Other feature-length films of note include “The Sit-In: Harry Belafonte Hosts the Tonight Show” and two Christmas-themed narrative films. The lineup will feature both documentaries and feature films.

Scheduled talks include a panel discussion titled “Ladies of the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” — a conversation with Daphne Maxwell Reid and Karyn Parsons-Rockwell, who starred in the popular ’90s sitcom, and a presentation with award winners of an HBO film competition.

Among the numerous short films featured at the MVAAFF is one by Cintia Cabib that features a few scenes of Oak Bluffs from early in the last century. “Kindred Spirits: Artists Hilda Wilkinson Brown and Lillian Thomas Burwell” centers on the relationship between Brown, an acclaimed African American artist and educator active during the 1930s and ’40s, whose work is included in the collections of the Smithsonian and the Metropolitan Museum, and her niece, Burwell, a successful painter and sculpture who, at 93 years old, provides the narrative for the film. The documentary also focuses on communities like Oak Bluffs, which attracted affluent African Americans at a time when beaches across America were often restricted to whites only.

According to a press release, “Run & Shoot Filmworks is committed to supporting filmmakers, content creators, and artists of color, who are the fabric of the festival and the industry at large. This year’s festival aims to bring original content from amazing storytellers to an audience eager to connect; pushing boundaries is core to the mission of the festival, and connecting with the audience is crucial. This online program is the most recent iteration of that commitment, and will highlight specific programming that has a broad impact.”

MVAAFF will take place virtually from Oct. 6 through Oct. 10. A variety of all-event and single-day festival passes are available for purchase. Links to the films that will be streamed exclusively on Facebook will be available to attendees via the festival’s official Facebook page and the website,