Gary International Black Film Festival looks to grow stature

For its seventh year, the Gary International Black Film Festival hit a small milestone.

As volunteer organizers built relationships with aspiring filmmakers, they have shifted from seeking submissions to accepting them.

This year, all of its nearly three dozen screenings including short, animated, documentaries and full-length feature films are directly submitted — following a practice of larger festivals.

“It’s more of a manifestation of growing roots,” said founder Karen Toering, a 1976 Emerson High School graduate.

Films begin screening from Friday to Sunday at Indiana University Northwest’s Bergland Auditorium in Gary.

ArtHouse, 411 E. 5th Ave., hosted a pre-festival event Thursday with a performance by actor and poet Saul Williams that included a screening of the film, “DREAMSTATES,” by Anisia Uzeyman.

“With independent films, everybody asks us, ‘So what’s coming?'” Toering said.

“The truth is, even if I told you the title of the movie, you wouldn’t know it, because these are filmmakers that are emerging,” she said. “Primarily, the content of the festival is not easily (commercially) identifiable.”

Friday includes screens like “90 Days,” of a woman living with HIV, and “Tales From Shaolin: Pt. 1 Shakey Dog” — a “Shakespeare-meets-Tarantino” dark comedy inspired by Wu-Tang Clan lyrics.

Saturday includes a youth film showcase with animated films. It also features “Color Me Pretty” about a girl moving to a new school struggling with beauty and self-image issues.

A documentary showcase starting at 2 p.m. Saturday includes “Against All Odds: The Fight for the Middle Class,” and “Blueprint for Bronzeville” on Chicago’s failed 2016 Olympics bid. “Whose Streets” examines struggles of African-Americans to gain and stay in the middle class.

Short feature films including “black enuf*,” and “Word is Bond” that explores the lyricism of hip hop start at 5 p.m. Saturday.

Sunday screenings start at noon; a…

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