Better than ever

Celebrate the brilliance of Black film at the 20th annual Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival.


The 20th annual Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival (MVAAFF), an Oscar-qualifying film festival in the short film category, opens with an impressive slate of independent films, featured documentaries, panel discussions, and exclusive events. The celebration begins Friday, August 5, and continues through August 13.
This year’s festival features an impressive variety of talent including Tyler Perry, Spike Lee, Michael Ealy, and Patina Miller, as well as the cast from Peacock’s “The Best Man: The Final Chapters.”

“Each year we are beyond thrilled to have support from industry partners with content from and a dedication to creators of color. It is our mission to amplify these storytellers in a meaningful and safeguarded way. We have done this for 20 years, and will continue to do so,” said Floyd and Stephanie Rance in a press release from the festival. They are the founders of Run&Shoot Filmworks, and producers and founders of the MVAAFF.

Kicking off opening night is “Descendant,” one of the newest titles from Netflix, Participant Media, and Higher Ground, President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama’s production company. The film will screen on Friday, August 5, at 8 pm at the Martha’s Vineyard Performing Arts Center. According to the release, the documentary film follows members of Africatown, a small community in Alabama, as they share their personal stories and community history as descendants of the Clotilda, the last known slave ship to illegally transport human beings as cargo from West Africa to America. Immediately following the screening, there will be a moderated discussion featuring director Margaret Brown and producers Ahmir (Questlove) Thompson, Tariq (Black Thought) Trotter, and Essie Chambers.

Kasi Lemmons will receive the Legacy Spotlight for her classic film “Eve’s Bayou,” which celebrates its 25th year. Lemmons will talk about her pathway to success, and past and upcoming projects. This event is sponsored by New York University’s Office of Global Inclusion, Diversity, and Strategic Innovation, and Lionsgate. The screening and conversation are set for August 6 at noon.

On Saturday, August 6, BRON Life presents “Loudmouth,” a film by Josh Alexander, featuring the Rev. Al Sharpton’s portrait of activism, protest, and power. A conversation with Sharpton will follow.

Tyler Perry and Netflix will present Tyler Perry’s “A Jazzman’s Blues” clips and conversation also on Saturday, August 6, at 8 pm. Set from 1937 to 1987, the release says that the film follows an “investigation into an unsolved murder, unveiling a story fraught with forbidden love, deceit, and a secret that has been held for 40 years.” Perry will host a spirited conversation following the presentation.

On Sunday, August 7, at 7 pm, Netflix’s limited series “From Scratch” will screen the season’s first episode with a moderated talkback featuring co-creators and sisters Tembi Locke and Attica Locke.

Additional screenings and panel discussions will be updated throughout the festival. All screenings and events will take place at Martha’s Vineyard Performing Arts Center unless otherwise noted.

There are several events that happen in conjunction with the MVAAFF, one of them being AdaChic’s pop-up sale at the Eisenhauer Gallery on Sunday, August 7, from 6 to 8 pm. This Black female-owned business features a collection of high-end leather products made by women entrepreneurs in Ethiopia. Co-owner Nicole Thompson explained that AdaChic has come to the festival for years, but this time will bring their bags and accessories made “with a purpose.”

“We’ve enjoyed coming to the Vineyard for years,” Thompson said. “This year we’ll curate a collection that speaks to Vineyard life and what that feels and looks like for us. We’ll be bringing some of our favorite pieces.”

AdaChic is co-owned by Thompson and her cousin Meredith Lilly, and while the two women work in other professions, Thompson said travel and fashion are things they both have a passion for. Thompson said she went to Africa for the first time in 2016 with her daughter, who was 17 at the time. That experience inspired Thompson to provide dignified work opportunities for women in East Africa. AdaChic will bring its “girl about town collection,” bright and bold colorful bags, all-leather bags, and everything from wallets to small bags and totes. “We welcome everyone to come hear our story about why we’re a handbag company with a mission,” Thompson said.

There will be opportunities for shopping with other vendors at the MVAAFF, and time to hang out at the Vineyard Lounge as well.

The MVAAFF organizers note that all screenings and events are subject to change without notice. Registration begins at 10 am every day, and festival organizers recommend purchasing tickets online to be sure they’re available.

For more information on the MVAAFF and a complete schedule of screenings and special events, visit