Nearly 10 years into its history, the Harlem International Film Festival, aka HI, was held this September throughout various venues in the area, including Maysles Cinema, Columbia University and City College. In the festival’s own words: “Celebrating the art of cinema in the home of the Harlem Renaissance, The Harlem International Film Festival (HI) inspires and entertains by honoring films that offer honest, thought-provoking portrayals of our world. HI is committed to exemplifying the eminence that Harlem represents.” The list of their board of advisers is a prestigious one and includes Susan Sarandon (Academy Award winner), Keith David (Emmy Award winner) and Mira Nair (Academy Award nominee), among other notable contributors, most of whom are Harlem based. Some of this year’s winners included “Kamkam” (Best Film), “The Cooler Bandits” (Best Documentary), “Children of the Light” (Audience Award), and “Le Gouffre” (Best Animation).
One of the highlights of the festival was the documentary “Tamara W,” directed by Marko Vuorinen. It profiles the actress/dancer/rapper Tamara Williams, best known from the hit Web series “No Shade.” This powerful film relies on Tamara’s dialogue about her journey in her teenage years as a trangender woman in the Bronx, the experiences of moving around at 17 years old and how she survived. Her thoughts are intercut with various video images of the Bronx borough and are like a painting brought to life: a new, innovative way of directing (kudos to Mr. Vuorinen). “Tamara W” received the Best NY HI-Lights Award at the ceremony.