THE 2019 HARLEM INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL announces line-up for 14th edition highlighted by double features on Opening and Closing Nights (May 16-19)

  • Shaan Couture’s NEW YORK SCHERZO and the NYC Premiere of Paul Starkman’s WHEELS share Opening Night 

  • Al Cohen’s WHEN HARLEM SAVED A KING and the World Premiere of Festival alumnus Robert Rippberger’s STRIVE screen back-to-back as the Closing Night selections

  • James Wvinner’s THE CRIP WHO LOVES YOGA, Chris Brandt’s THE ILLUMINATION OF JIM WOODRING, Mike Majoros & Bestor Cram’s THE LAST AMERICAN COLONY and Gabor Gasztonyi’s NO WAY OUT also set to make World Premieres

The 2019 Harlem International Film Festival (Hi) has announced official selections for its 14th edition taking place May 16-19Shaan Couture’s NEW YORK SCHERZO and Paul Starkman’s WHEELS will combine for an Opening Night double feature on Thursday, May 16, with Harlem filmmaker Al Cohen’s WHEN HARLEM SAVED A KING and the world premiere of Robert Rippberger’s STRIVE going back-to-back for a Closing Night double feature on Sunday, May 19.  The AMC Magic Johnson Theatre Harlem 9 (2309 Frederick Douglass Boulevard) will host both events comprised of films in or about Harlem, Upper Manhattan and the Bronx (HUB).
The international four-day film festival will showcase 124 films (24 features, 88 shorts), webisodes, music videos, experimental films and six VR/360 projects representing over 30 countries. James Wvinner’s THE CRIP WHO LOVES YOGA, Chris Brandt’s THE ILLUMINATION OF JIM WOODRING, Mike Majoro & Bestor Cram’s THE LAST AMERICAN COLONY and Gabor Gasztonyi’s NO WAY OUT, as well as 9 short films will also make their world premieres at the Festival.
“Each year, we are overwhelmed by the sheer number of films dealing with pressing issues from an unseen angle as well as those that are pushing boundaries culturally and socially. This year is no exception and our choices were from numerous films worthy of gala status,” said the Festival’s Program Director, Nasri Zacharia. “In 2019 we maintain the fresh assortment of world cinema that we have become known to showcase over the years, but this edition signals an important moment in the cinema of Harlem, Upper Manhattan and the Bronx, which we call “the HUB”.  The sheer volume and quality of work being produced by local talent is at an all time high since we started the festival a decade and a half ago. The opportunity of Opening and Closing with two double features thrilled us, because we are filmmakers first and film lovers foremost, so being capable of having all four Opening Night slots taken by local cinema is a milestone we only dreamt of reaching. The goal of immersing New York City, especially Upper Manhattan, with vibrant local and international cinema is why we have been putting on this film festival for 14 years now…we have made it our mission to assist, encourage and support the local artist and the development and distribution of their work.”
Zacharia also emphasized the festival’s pride in consistently having a powerful contingent of undeniable female writers, directors and producers – more than forty films are directed by women this year, including some returning alums of the festival. “Art doesn’t come easily. Like anything else, it takes fortitude, blood, sweat and tears and then as much support as humanly possible in order for it to flourish and thrive.  At this time in our world we need much, much more of it, not less.”
Opening Night will feature Couture’s NEW YORK SCHERZO and Starkman’s WHEELS. Couture’s NEW YORK SCHERZO focuses on 3 classically-trained musicians struggling to make it in New York City, while living and studying in an ever-changing Harlem. Having come there from Seoul, Pars, and Nashville, the trio faces the crossroads artists often do – can they sustain themselves and make a living while they try to make their art. The film will be preceded by the world premiere screening of Alexander Frasse’s music video, ICE MOON, featuring the band, The Next Great American Novelist.
Starkman’s WHEELS is a coming of age story about a 19-year-old from Brooklyn who wants to be a well known DJ, while maintaining the role of sole provider for his sick grandmother. However, his already tenuous situation becomes more complicated with the push and pull of his brother’s return from prison and the encouragement of a manager at a dance studio who pushes him to strive for more in his life. The film will be preceded by a special demonstration by the artist credited with introducing the scratch technique, Theodore Livingston aka Grand Wizzard Theodore, and followed by the world premiere screening of Cortez McKay’s ITCHING FOR A SCRATCH, which recreates Livingston’s discovery and his development of the elements of this revolutionary technique.   


Closing Night offers a brand new version of Al Cohen’s WHEN HARLEM SAVED A KING and the world premiere of Festival alum Robert Rippberger’s STRIVE. WHEN HARLEM SAVED A KING takes a look at the 1958 stabbing of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by a mentally ill woman, early in the Civil Rights leader’s career. King Jr. received life-saving treatment at the Harlem Hospital, and the Civil Rights Movement, was saved as well.
Written by Harlem native Sha-Risse R. Smith, Rippberger’s STRIVE is about a teenage girl from the projects who works and struggles to get a college education, and achieve a better life despite the number of obstacles facing her and her family. The film will be preceded by Lynn Dow’s STILL HARLEM, which looks at Harlem’s gentrification through the relationship between a Columbia University student and the man who rents her a room.

Among the other films making their world premieres include festival alum Jim Wvinner’s THE CRIP WHO LOVES YOGA, which originally premiered at Hi as a short film several years ago and now returns as a full length version. A street smart gangster and an outlaw biker from an Indian reservation completely turn their lives around. Experts explore how yoga is being effectively used to fight the problem of over-incarceration in the merciless for-profit prison system.  
Chris Brandt’s THE ILLUMINATION OF JIM WOODRING, profiles the famed cartoonist known for creating beautiful, nightmarish wonderlands based on his haunting childhood hallucinations. Woodring’s artwork and stories breach the veil of mundane perception, and reveal deeper dimensions beyond, as Woodring discusses his career and process while revealing a wealth of artwork, some of which has remained private to this day.
Mike Majoro & Bestor Cram’s THE LAST AMERICAN COLONY brings to life the unbelievable true story of Juan Segarra, a Harvard student who abandons his career to set off on a treacherous path to fight for Puerto Rico's independence—a struggle that he rightly assumes will lead to either jail or death.
Gabor Gasztonyi’s NO WAY OUT traces the lives of two middle-aged couples, who have been long term users of heroin and cocaine. They began using the substances in their youth and their miraculous longevity is a shocking testament to the power of the human body and mind. Interspersed with Gasztonyi’s B & W images of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, each person in the film tells their unique story of survival in an environment of physical and psychological adversity.
The Harlem International Film Festival will once again feature webisodes and VR projects as part of the film festival, with highlights including the North American premiere of Ace Kim’s webisode series Facility 003, which will screen the first episode in the series where four characters share their last moments before the self-destruction of Facility 003. Outside of the Facility, the rain and red atmosphere transform those who choose to step out into blanks. Kathy Smith’s VR project Slippages/Grace will also have its North American premiere. Set against the austere landscape of the Australian bushland, overlapping images of ever increasing clarity inform a woman’s consciousness as she moves toward the end of her life. Proof of her existence through the many experiences take on a personal symbology, including kittens, stolen houses, car rides, cockatoos and horses.
Film festival passes and tickets are on sale. For more information on the Harlem International Film Festival go to

2019 Harlem International Film Festival official selections
Director: Shaan Couture
Country: USA, Running Time: 90 min
NEW YORK SCHERZO is a feature documentary that follows the lives of three diverse classically trained musicians as they try to make it in New York City. Originally from Seoul, Paris and Nashville they are passionate about their art but struggle to make a living, and face a crossroads where they must decide if they can sustain a career doing what they love.
Preceded by
ICE MOON                                                                               World Premiere
Director: Alexander Frasse
Country: USA, Running Time: 6 min
WHEELS                                                                                  New York City Premiere
Director: Paul Starkman
Country: USA, Running Time: 80 min
WHEELS is a coming of age story about Max, a 19-year-old from Brooklyn who wants to be a well known DJ. He has been the sole provider for his sick grandmother, DJing parties for Oscar, a neighborhood shark. Things shift when Max's brother Terry returns home after three years in prison, forcing Max to reconcile their relationship. Max gets close to Liza, the manager of a dance studio who inspires him with her work ethic and determination. Max finds himself at a crossroads between family obligation, the streets, and pursuing his dream.
Preceded by
ITCHING FOR A SCRATCH                                                      World Premiere
Director: Cortez McKay
Country: USA, Running Time: 8 min
An eleven-year-old Djay prodigy from The Bronx accidentally scratches a vinyl record. Theodore Livingston aka Grand Wizard Theodore went on to change the face of music forever and to influence countless artists the world over in the process.
WHEN HARLEM SAVED A KING                                              
Director: Al Cohen
Country: USA, Running Time: 90 min
Unraveling the 1958 stabbing of late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by a mentally ill woman named Izola Ware Curry with a letter opener. After being rushed to Harlem Hospital, had Dr. King nearly sneezed before they were able to remove the dagger from his aorta, he would have died and the Civil Rights movement as we know it today would have never happened.
Preceded by
THE POWER OF WRITING                                                       World Premiere
Director: Nancy Donnelly
Country: USA, Running Time: 6 min
When an innocent man is thrown in prison for a murder he didn't commit, he finds an escape in writing. Criminal justice reform advocate Derrick Hamilton shows us how he used the power of words to write his way to freedom.
Preceded by
Director: Maori Karmael Holmes – Hi Alum
Country: USA, Running Time:
A girl. A boy. A camera. Official music video for India.Arie's single "That Magic" exploring a new love that was nearly missed.
STRIVE                                                                                    World Premiere
Director: Robert Rippberger (Harlem International Alum)
Country: USA, Running Time: 82 min
Written by Harlem native Sha-Risse R. Smith, this is a story about a teenage girl from the projects who pursues her dream of a great education, and a better life despite the odds.
Kalani (Joi Campbell), is a teenager living in Harlem with her older brother Jacob, and her younger sister, Bebe, while her mother struggles to make ends meet. Her college counselor Mr. Rose (Danny Glover) sees great promise in her educational future. As Kalani's siblings get caught in a myriad of hardships, Kalani teeters on the brink of ruin as she struggles to keep both her family and her dream intact.
Preceded by
Director: Lynn Dow
Country: USA, Running Time: 18 min
Following the incoming wave of gentrification, Becky moves to New York City to attend Columbia University and ends up renting a room from a man who yearns for Harlem’s past.

Additional Feature Films
THE CRIP WHO LOVES YOGA                                                            World Premiere
Director: James Wvinner
Country: New Zealand, Running Time: 73 min
An urban Crip gangster and an outlaw biker from an Indian reservation turn their lives around with yoga. Experts explore how yoga is being used to fight the problem of over-incarceration in the merciless for-profit prison system.
DECADE OF FIRE                                                                                
Directors: Gretchen Hildebran, Vivian Vazquez
Country: USA, Running Time: 75 min
In the 1970s, the Bronx was on fire. Abandoned by city government, nearly a half-million people were displaced as their close-knit, multi-ethnic neighborhood burned, reducing the community to rubble. While insidious government policies caused the devastation, Black and Puerto Rican residents bore the blame. In this story of hope and resistance, Bronx-born Vivian Vazquez exposes the truth about the borough’s untold history and reveals how her embattled and maligned community chose to resist, remain and rebuild.
Director: Sonny Calvento
Country: Philippines, Running Time: 93 min
At a time when newly-elected president Rodrigo Duterte threatens to sever ties with the United States of America, an American expat in the town of Masapang is accused of killing his Filipina wife.
Director: Lynsey Miller
Countries: UK, Running Time: 87 min
A young Romanian woman is snatched from a London street in broad daylight, trafficked to Ireland and used as a sex slave in a series of pop-up brothels. Her shocking true story offers a tense and thought-provoking thriller exposing how, in modern Britain, slavery can hide in plain sight.
Directors: Cynthia Biestek, Ruben Gomez
Countries: Cuba/Mexico/France/USA, Running Time: 100 min
The film is a portrait of a poor country musician playing on the streets of Eastern Cuba and striving to meet the challenge of spreading his beloved traditional music around the world, who eventually finds success as an original member of the world-famous Buena Vista Social Club.
EMMETT                                                                                  New York Premiere
Director: Bridget Stokes
Country: USA, Running Time: 94 min
Emmett is a 12-year-old prodigy and junior at Heart High. After his older brother is accused of the thefts happening at school, Emmett must do everything he can to prove him innocent. He enlists the help of local crime novelist, Mary, to find the real culprit.
Director: Lance Steagall
Countries: UK/France, Running Time: 63 min
Litefeet legends Larry Smoove, Kidd Patt, and Jayy Black try to make a legitimate career of their dance ambitions. By day, they play a cat-and-mouse game with the police, piecing together a living dancing on the subway. By night, they live the plight of inner-city youth, with poverty, violence, and drugs on all sides.
Director: Dominik Locher
Country: Germany, Running Time: 86 min
When Jessy tells David she’s pregnant, he panics. A few days later, the two are assaulted in the city train, and when David realizes he is unable to protect his girlfriend, his fears of inadequacy as a man take hold. Frantic, he resorts to steroids and begins with excessive strength training. Initially, the muscles give him self-confidence, but at what price?
Director: Jesus del Cerro
Country: Germany, Running Time: 116 min
Andrei and his father Vasile live in communist Romania. Unexpectedly, they receive news from Petrus, Vasile ́s brother who was assumed dead after his escape attempt years before. Petrus was living in Hawaii the whole time and on his death has left Andrei and Vasile a large legacy. They cannot inherit it, however, as the concept of private property does not exist in the eyes of the law. The alternative is to claim their inheritance in another country – easier said than done.
Director: Jawad Sharif
Country: Pakistan, Running Time: 76 min
Pakistani folk artists talk about their struggle to keep a fading art form alive and remind the world what they are about to lose.

THE ILLUMINATION OF JIM WOODRING                                World Premiere
Director: Chris Brandt
Country: USA, Running Time: 97 min
Drawing from haunting childhood visions, cartoonist Jim Woodring reveals a beautiful, nightmarish wonderland.  His artwork and stories breach the veil of mundane perception, and reveal deeper dimensions beyond, as Woodring discusses his career and process while revealing a wealth of artwork, some of which has remained private to this day.
Directors: Mirko Bischofberger, Dario Bischofberger
Countries: Italy/Switzerland, Running Time: 84 min
Katrina wishes to have children, but her boyfriend Louis doesn’t. She falls in love with his best friend Ron, who becomes the man of her life. One night, returning drunk together from a birthday party, the two friends are involved in a car accident in which Ron loses his head and Louis his body. Thanks to a head transplant the two men survive, merged into one person. Katrina must now deal with the body and mind of two men to fulfill her dream.
THE LAST AMERICAN COLONY                                              World Premiere
Director: Mike Majoro & Bestor Cram
Countries: Puerto Rico/USA, Running Time: 90 min
In September 2017, Hurricane Maria pummeled the island of Puerto Rico, but it isn't the forces of nature that have done the most damage to the 3.5 million American citizens who live here.  A history of economic exploitation, forced dependency, and systemic racism coming from the US government have all wreaked havoc on an island that many see as the last colony in the western hemisphere. The film traces the life of Juan Segarra, who graduates from Harvard and sets off on a treacherous path to fight for Puerto Rico's independence—a struggle that he rightly assumes will lead to either jail or death.
Director: Cam Cowan
Country: Madagascar, Running Time: 84 min
Three resilient women fight for better futures for their children in one of the most misunderstood countries in the world - Madagascar - a beautiful African island nation crippled by decades of political instability and crushed by international sanctions imposed in 2009.
Director: Jonathan Seaborn, Emily de Santos
Country: USA, Running Time: 69 min
Texas is now one of only 4 states that charges 17 year olds as adults. Current Texas sentencing laws ignore recent scientific evidence on adolescent development and neuroscience, and the state’s current parole system provides no viable mechanism for reviewing a case after a young person has grown up and matured. Can we morally keep sending our youth to adult prisons?
NO WAY OUT                                                                          World Premiere
Director: Gabor Gasztonyi
Country: Canada, Running Time: 85 min
This film traces the lives of two middle-aged couples over five years. They began using injection drugs such as heroin and cocaine since childhood their survival is a testament to the power of the human body and spirit. Interspersed with Gasztonyi’s black and white images of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside each person in the film tells their unique story of survival in an environment of physical and psychological adversity.
Director: Sophia Tewa
Country: USA, Running Time: 78 min
Yacahudah Harrison and his wife Danetia Harrison have chosen to abandon their lives as working people with steady jobs to live on a street corner in upper Manhattan. As gentrification brings an invasion of new faces, the duo are sent on a journey of discovery, living and loving out of their van on Seaman Avenue and 207th Street.
WE ARE THANKFUL    (SIYABONGA)                                     New York Premiere
Director: Joshua Magor
Country: South Africa, Running Time: 94 min
WE ARE THANKFUL, named after main character Siyabonga Majola, is a South African docu-fiction film. Siyabonga, a young man from the township of Mphopomeni, one day hears that a movie will be made in a nearby town and makes it his mission to be a part of the film. A film based on real events, re-enacted by those who lived through them, we follow this extraordinary man as he does all he can to take control of his fortune.
Director: Dariun Robinson
Country: USA, Running Time: 77min
Sisters Elliott and Kara return to their hometown to arrange the burial of their abusive Uncle. Unfortunately, some memories don’t die easily.


Director: Michael Schaubach
Country: USA, Running Time: 10 min
Each episode of this mockumentary series captures a slice of life for a different well-intentioned, yet often misguided, individual (or group) hoping to find success and respect in the music business. From a 35-year-old cruise ship diva who hoped for something more, to a tech whiz who's created a truly awful personalized music app, Downbeat reveals the heartbreaking and hilarious truths these characters refuse to recognize.
FACILITY 003                                                                          North American Premiere
Director: Ace Kim
Country: USA, Running Time: 4 min
Roseanne, Daniel, Christopher and Elizabeth share their last moments before the self destruction of Facility 003. Outside of the Facility, the rain and red atmosphere transform those who choose to step out into blanks. This episode is the beginning of a series, which starts off at the climactic ending.
Director: Jess Dunn
Country: USA, Running Time: 47 min
Bobby Braxton deeply connects with Valerie Derly, a mesmerizing woman who is arrested on their second date. In Episode 5, Bobby pairs with Valerie’s disgruntled feminist roommate, Lana, to determine the validity of Valerie’s murder charges. Their efforts are stalked by Valerie’s suspect lawyer, Justin. In tracing her footsteps, Bobby begins to feel the trauma of Valerie’s past.
Director: Jamie Effros
Country: USA, Running Time: 18 min
In the near future, a weekly meeting of Device Addicts Anonymous (DAA) is the refuge for six strangers consumed by their virtual worlds. But when a new member joins the group, bringing with him something beyond addiction, they all begin to realize that their connection to the virtual and to each other may be far more than coincidence.
Director: Julien Lasseur
Country: USA, Running Time: 7 min
A wild child, Swissy, returns to a desert town to steal a rabbit foot briefcase from her former captors. Quickly using up her connections she turns to a motorcycle riding mercenary, Palomino, with a complicated past. She’ll have to trust him with her life and hide her dark past - especially the “Lucy” necklace she’s hiding - the only thing in the world she won’t let go of.

Virtual Reality (VR)

CONSCIOUS EXISTENCE/A JOURNEY WITHIN                      North American Premiere
Director: Marc Zimmerman
Country: Germany, Running Time: 13 min
We are gifted every moment with life’s most precious achievement: A conscious mind, enabling us to sense and hold within, the universe's boundless beauty - a source of infinite inspiration that fuels our inner space. Being aware of and grateful for the invaluable fortune of a conscious existence is vital for a life in harmony and enables us to use our precious gift within to sense that beauty in every little thing.
Director: Justiniano Mickael
Country: France, Running Time: 3 min
It's the end of the world, as we know it. But in this post apocalyptic town, there's a strange party going on... and on... and on...
Director: Chuck Cummings
Country: USA, Running Time: 12 min
A VR exploration of the 1895 Atlanta Cotton States and International Exhibition.
Director: Carlos Oceguera
Country: Canada, Running Time: 9 min
Five vignettes where death and horror lurk around every bend. Each a tale of tragedy in downtown Vancouver, recounted by a narrator that believes them to be connected by their dereliction. At its core, the piece asks you to take a moment to stop and acknowledge just a few of the lives of more than 2000 people living without homes in Vancouver, people you may not notice in your daily commute. Will you notice when there’s a killer about?
Director: Tyler Huyser
Country: USA, Running Time: 8 min
WALK IN MY SHOES is a package of virtual reality experiences that enables diversity training programs to humanize the experience of prejudice. By allowing individuals to walk in the shoes of minorities and experience racism, sexism, homophobia, and classism firsthand, we aim to build trust between team members and boost productivity in diverse environments, specifically workplaces, universities, and police departments.
Director: Hanna Vastinsalo
Country: Finland, Running Time: 6 min
WOMBSONG is a virtual dance experience in which a pregnant dancer leads the audience to an imaginary world inside the womb.

Short Films

3AM ON FRENCHMEN             
Director; Zachary Bako
Country: USA, Running Time 47 min
A rising New Orleans street performer explores the heart of his musical practice among his city's nightlife and its bohemian community of local musicians.
83 DAYS                                                          
Director: Andrew Paul Howell
Country: USA, Running Time: 29 min
83 Days is the story of the youngest person in US history to be put to death by electric chair. In 1944, in the segregated southern town of Acolu, SC, a 14 year old black boy George Stinney Jr. fights for his life after being wrongly accused of the murder of 2 young white girls.

120 YEARS                                                                             New York Premiere
Directors: Lukas Cox, Matt Nadell
Country: USA, Running Time: 37 min
120 Years tells the story of Scott Lewis, a citizen of New Haven, Connecticut who was sentenced to life in prison for a crime he never committed. Over the course of two decades, Lewis built his case from behind bars, poring over legal texts, writing to attorneys, and holding out hope that one day he might walk free. This story traces the ramifications of his wrongful conviction on a family that lost 20 precious years together, on a community shaken by corruption, and on an exonerated man desperately making up for lost time. Through the lens of Scott Lewis' story, 120 Years offers a glimpse into the lives of the individuals our criminal justice system leaves behind—and the extraordinary fight it takes to reverse their fates.

Director: Dean Winkler
Country: USA, Running Time: 6 min
What happened to the future we were promised? We got Twitter instead of intelligent media that enhances society. Enabled by our 'smart phones' we are trapped like the prisoners in Plato's cave - detached from reality and unaware.  This theme is illustrated by abstract imagery, referencing everything from Aboriginal art to 1940s/1950s television to EDM/Rave culture.

Director: Khinmay Lwin van der Mee
Country: USA, Running Time: 23 min
Respectability politics invades the African American community. A civil divide underlies those who believe respectable "social values" are more defining of social ills than systemic racism. In solidarity with the marginalized, USC Law Professor Jody David Armour grew a large afro to illustrate a point against the politics of respectability. His social achievements did not deter LAPD from handcuffing and holding him at gunpoint in front of his home, nor did it prevent him from being targeted as homeless and almost ejected from the JW Marriot Hotel lobby in downtown Los Angeles. His 1997 book, “Negrophobia & Reasonable Racism: The Hidden Costs of Being Black in America”, details the “Black Tax” all African Americans must pay. Over twenty years later, that tax still plagues Black America.
A STEP WITHOUT FEET                                                                      
Directors: Jeremy Glaholt, Lydia Schamscula
Country: USA, Running Time: 45min
Within the backdrop of Berlin’s beautiful, winter landscape, the documentary captures the daily lives of seven extraordinary Syrians exiled from their home country.

AN ACT OF TERROR                                                               Harlem Premiere
Director: Ashley Paige Brim
Country: USA, Running Time: 16 min
The true story of Virginia Christian, a 16-year-old African American girl accused of murder in the Jim Crow South.

Director: Kendra Brown
Country: USA, Running Time: 12 min
An in-depth, behind the scenes look at the impact of the mixtape on Hip-Hop and pop culture.
BEAUCOEUR                                                                          World Premiere
Director: Mozell Miley-Bailey
Country: France Running Time: 20 min
Two young women in Paris – a French/Fiipina fashion model and a Filipina mother who works as a maid to support her children back home – are thrust together unexpectedly by a storm that comes from far away.
Director: Gregor Wilson
Country: USA, Running Time: 30 min
A famous jazz vocalist falls victim to dementia. Isolated from his wife and musical partner by the condition, he is thrown into a state of depression and anxiety, until a young musician reveals to him the power of music to recall emotion and restore dignity. Starring Keith David (PLATOON, THE THING) and Maria Howell (THE COLOR PURPLE, HIDDEN FIGURES).
CARRO                                                                                    New York Premiere
Director: Gustavo Rosa
Country: USA, Running Time: 12 min
An undocumented Brazilian immigrant living in the Boston area decides to buy a car in an effort to better his life before returning home.
CHEVERE CON SALSA                                                           World Premiere
Director: Gio' Crisafulli
Country: USA, Running Time: 30 min
On the hottest day of summer, Yesenia, a disgruntled Washington Heights native, struggles to keep herself cool as she navigates the sexual politics of her home, the city streets, and her dating life. After having her morning thrown into a frenzy by her mother’s nagging, she escapes the confines of her oppressive home to the more carefree demeanor of her best friend Carlos. Together, they venture down St. Nicholas in search of Dominican shaved ice to cool off, only to find themselves in a heated debate about the toxic masculinity in their culture, the gentrification of their hood, and Yesenia’s dating habits.
Director: Blair Getz Mezibov
Country: USA, Running Time: 16 min
Now the largest and highest-performing public charter school network in New York City, Success Academy was founded twelve years ago by a woman determined to close the educational gaps in the American public education system. The film follows four members of Success Academy’s first college-bound class, highlighting the aspirations, sacrifices, and achievements of exceptional students.
THE COMPANY YOU KEEP                                                     New York Premiere
Director: Adrian Liang
Country: USA, Running Time: 8 min
In 1984, a man shoots four black teenagers on a New York City subway train.
Director: Gauri Adelkar
Country: USA, Running Time: 14 min
When her best friend is taken away during an immigration raid on the day of the Pope's visit to their city, Adriana decides to take matters into her own hands.
DO WE BELONG?                                                                   Harlem Premiere                                
Director: Sofian Khan
Country: USA, Running Time: 14 min
An Indian immigrant in Kansas is shot and killed in a senseless hate crime, leaving his wife to grapple with the question of whether America is truly her home.
DOMINGUEZ VS. DOMINGUEZ                                                            
Director: Tracey Anarella
Country: USA, Running Time: 15 min
Michael Dominguez is a 61 year-old former championship boxer. The film explores why and how Michael, a former championship boxer went through his entire life as a boxer and later in life not ever learning how to read or write. Dominguez is a 61-year old boxer who won the 1981 Golden Glove 132-lb Open Championship and was also a member of the USA boxing team with Gold medalist Mark Breland. Two opponents that Dominguez was never able to beat are achieving literacy and himself. The film feature, Gold medalist, Mark Breland, his sister, singer/songwriter Brenda K Starr and Golden Glove Trainer, Willie Dunne.
EDGE OF DAYBREAK                                                             New York Premiere
Director: Alix Lambert
Country: USA, Running Time: 10 min
The re-release of an acclaimed soul album made in prison in 1979 and the men who made it – one of whom ended up buying the record store that used to send music to him in jail.
Director: Zack Morrison
Country: USA, Running Time: 14 min
A musical comedy about a recent graduate at the onset of her quarter-life crisis and her existential journey through the various stages of anxiety in song and dance.

THE FATHER’S LOVE BEGOTTEN                                          North American Premiere
Director: Ian Thomas Ash
Country: Japan, Running Time: 17 min
A young man speaks of the abuse he suffered at the hands of his priest and its lasting effects.
Director: Lorena Duran
Country: Dominican Republic, USA Running Time: 11 min
Celida, the leader of a group of fisherwoman, tries to seek the help of local fishermen after her fish farm gets poisoned by a male competitor.
FOR THE WOMAN ON THE FLOOR                                         Harlem Premiere
Director: Livia Ihinosen Ohihoin
Country: USA, Running Time: 8 min
After a traumatizing assault on her body, a woman hides within a quiet world of clean sheets. Ms. Yarn must reveal the pain she has buried deep within.
Director: Frank Donnangelo
Country: USA, Running Time: 3 min
Max, an amateur photographer, overcomes having her heart broken by her girlfriend, Jess, with competing thoughts of cherishing the love she had.
FROM HAARLEM TO HARLEM                                                 East Coast Premiere
Directors: Barbarella Fokos, David Fokos
Country: USA, Running Time: 19min
Fatigued by incessant news of unarmed black people being shot and killed by cops, and with the last election as the final straw, artist Alanna Airitam decided to create a body of work to portray her people as she knows them to be, which is far from the media's persistently negative narrative.
Director: Samantha Farinella
Country: USA, Running Time: 18 min
In early 2016, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio announced his plan for the Brooklyn-Queens Connector (BQX), a streetcar that would run a 16-mile waterfront route from Astoria, Queens to Sunset Park, Brooklyn. The announcement arrived with a publicity campaign that claims the BQX would be a transit option that will, amongst other things, serve the low-income communities along the corridor. A closer look at the forces pushing the plan, and how it will be funded, reveals the displacement of the very communities they are currently trying to sell it to.

Director: Julio Yurnet
Country: USA, Running Time: 18 min
The descendants of Leroy Green and his archenemy Sho'nuff are the new heirs to The Glow, a level of mastery shared only by the great Bruce Lee. Destiny will bring these forces to battle once again.
Director: Romina Romero-Hermoso
Country: USA, Running Time: 12 min
Rous is a determined 25-year-old woman from Mexico who signed up with a U.S. placement agency to work as an au pair for a year. Attracted by the agency’s focus on “cultural exchange,” she imagined growing her English skills, making American friends, and getting to share her culture with her host family. As she lives and works for a family of five in Seattle, however, her hopes and dreams are put to the test.

THE HIGH BRIDGE                                                                  New York Premiere
Director: Benedict Campbell
Country: USA, Running Time: 9 min
A Bronx teenager reluctantly confronts fatherhood when his young daughter visits her doctor.
Director: Juan Pablo Aries Munoz
Country: Chile, Running Time: 21 min
A father takes his young son on a hunting trip with the intention of teaching him how to be a 'real man.' After hearing something other than prey lurking in the forest, the boy must put his identity into play if he wants to live up to his father's boorish demands.

Director: Seyi Peter-Thomas
Country: USA, Running Time: 5 min
A visual poem that depicts the the dramatic highs and lows of one boy’s childhood, exploring the precarious balancing act that parents of black children must practice in today’s uneasy social and political climate.  Based on the poem by Cortney Lamar Charleston, the film juxtaposes moments from the life of a boy named Malik and his mother.
Director: Alexis Ostrander
Country: USA, Running Time: 11 min
An intense psychological thriller about bystander effect, gender inequality, and rape in America after a bus ride home for the holidays goes terribly wrong.
Director: Michael Martin
Country: USA, Running Time: 27 min
Mike Martin, age 19, faced challenges growing up. At 17, he tagged along with friends who committed a felony. Unable to post bail, he was sent to Rikers Island, one of the country’s most violent prisons. Mentored by filmmakers Chiemi Karasawa and Hollis Meminger, Mike shines a light on the juvenile justice system, while providing a message of hope and encouragement to others.

IAGO                                                                                       New York Premiere
Director: Amit Bhalia
Country: USA, Running Time: 21 min
Los Angeles, 1969. Authorities have laid siege upon the Black Panther Party and killed General Othello’s most trusted lieutenant. The painful loss pushes the valiant leader to broker a truce with the police and direct his troops to serve their community. In aid of this peace, Othello appoints Cassio his new second-in-command, passing over Iago, and leaving himself vulnerable to a secret campaign to reignite the violence. Boiling with jealousy and power-hungry narcissism, Iago sets in motion a devilish plan to undo Othello, Cassio and Othello’s secret wife, Desdemona.

Director: Anton Evangelista
Country: USA, Running Time: 40 min
The unique American story of Edward Jackson, from his youth in a predominantly Italian-American neighborhood in the Bronx of the 1950's, to becoming an educator in the NY City Public School System and prominent cultural figure of Italian biculturalism and bilingualism.
JAZZ IN WAKANDA                                                                 World Premiere
Director: Djaka Souare
Country: USA, Running Time: 10 min
Julie, a French & African immigrant, and her daughter Jazz, are on their way to see the Greek tragedy "Antigone." As they stop by to get a milkshake, the cashier points out Julie's slight accent. The comment not only causes discomfort to both mother and daughter, but triggers a much deeper conversation around Jazz's recent awakening to the pervasive legacy of slavery.
Director: Lukas Korver
Country: USA, Running Time: 14 min
Kenny was one of the first NFL players to begin kneeling in protest of racism, inequality, and social injustice back in September 2016. He continues that protest today.  This film explores the “why” behind his actions, his league-leading commitment to bettering the world around us through activism, and the extensive work he does in communities in need all around the country.
KOKA, THE BUTCHER                                                             New York Premiere
Director: Bence Máté
Countries: Egypt/Germany, Running Time: 38 min
A respected figure in Cairo’s pigeon fighting world is leading his area into a decisive battle. Under immense pressure from his conservative community to quit his passion and marry, he is faced with the possibility that the upcoming race will be his last one.
Director: Angela Atwood
Country: USA, Running Time: 16 min
Three best friends, on a weekend retreat to the Adirondacks, learn a heinous gang rapist has been released from prison nearby. Dangerously curious, with their hearts set on retribution, the women accidentally kill the criminal, only to learn his cronies are still on the loose. Incensed by the atrocious nature of the crime against a teenage girl, and incarceration of only one of the perpetrators, the three suburban moms find themselves novice killers and self-appointed arbiters of justice.

Director: Ramesh Jai
Country: Ghana, Running Time: 4 min
Once the only hope of his loved ones back in the village in Accra, Ghana, Kweku struggles to make ends meet in the city and loses the faith of his family.

LIFE IS WHAT YOU MAKE IT                                                   New York Premiere
Director: Jhett Tolentino
Country: Japan, Philippines, Singapore, USA, Running Time: 39 min
The 3-time Tony Award® and Grammy Award® winning broadway producer details his inspiring rise from an impoverished childhood in the Philippines to a successful New York musical theater producer.

Director: L. Marcus Williams
Country: USA, Running Time: 17 min
She is a woman in despair who calls a suicide hotline — not for help, but to say goodbye. He is the operator who takes her call, who must do everything he can to keep her on the line.

Director: Stefanie Plattner
Country: The Republic of Congo, Running Time: 16 min
This fable from the rainforest in the Odzala National Park in the Republic of Congo is creatively retold by the children of the Sanza Mobimba Kindergarten using props made from the natural environment.

LOST IN LAUNDRY                                                                  World Premiere
Director: Jeffrey Lewis
Country: USA, Running Time: 4 min
A young Harlem man enters an alternate universe on what he thought was going to be an ordinary day at the cleaners.

LUCKY DAY                                                                             Upper Manhattan Premiere
Director: Hyo Jin An
Countries: South Korea/USA, Running Time: 17 min
Ali, an immigrant New York City cab driver, strives to reach the American dream for his wife and son. To get there, Ali has to deal with a shady taxi dispatcher, two crooked cops, and a businessman who gets into his cab with a 9mm pistol, a briefcase full of stolen money, and a gunshot wound.

Director: Andrea Trivero
Country: Italy, Burkina Faso  Running Time: 19 min
Daniel Balima is a senior horticulturist from Tenkodogo, a small Sub-Saharan African town in Burkina Faso.  As a child he fell ill with polio and, although growing without the use of his legs, he was able to follow his father in the family nursery, by walking on his hands. In over fifty years of working like this, he has planted more than a million trees. Because of the drought, his country needs much more so he does not stop, and dreams of giving life to another million.

Director: Cesare Bedogne
Countries: Italy/Greece, Running Time: 38 min
This experimental film is based on documentary material but is not, strictly speaking, a documentary film. Nor is it a work of fiction. It appeared like a dream, not a nocturnal dream, but one which unfolded day by day while shooting. The film is also a meditation on the elements, Water and Fire, Wind, Earth and Skin.

MIXTAPE (REWIND)                                                                 World Premiere
Director: John Hulme
Country: USA, Running Time: 6 min
The filmmaker was substitute teaching at a high school in New Jersey and overseeing the student radio station when a group of young rappers asked if they could record in the studio. Inspired by their creative hunger, he agreed to let them sneak in after school, in return for helping him create a gift for an old friend of his - Grammy nominated country artist Tift Merritt.
MOON RABBIT                                                                        East Coast Premiere
Director: Kae Ho
Countries: Japan/UK, Running Time: 14 min
Seven-year-old Rio visits her grandparents in Japan for the first time. She observes the beauty and unfamiliarity of the household, but senses a distance between her American family and her Japanese relatives. When her mother, Seiko, reveals an open secret, the children are excused from the room and something happens behind closed doors.
MORSE                                                                                    New York Premiere
Director: Tom Bessoir
Country: USA, Running Time: 3 min
A brief animated history of Morse code from the first message transmitted in 1844 by Samuel Morse himself, to the last official use of International Morse Code by the French Navy in 1997.
Director: Timothy Rauch
Country: USA, Running Time: 14 min
Two friends locked in a love-hate relationship bury a dead frog as rain begins to fall. They make a fateful decision to wait out the storm under a tree, but wake up in a world quite unlike the one they left behind.
MUTE                                                                                       North American Premiere
Director: Jamie Rafn
Country: UK, Running Time: 15 min
Daniel is a teenage student whose selective mutism has been brought on by the many challenges he faces in his home life for one, Daniel struggles with the knowledge that his stepfather is abusing his sister. Tormented, Daniel’s only answer is silence until he discovers his new friendship with JJ isn't what it seems.
MY ISLAND (MI ISLA)                                                              World Premiere
Director: Hiba Dlewati
Countries: Puerto Rico/USA, Running Time: 27 min
Toa Baja, Ezequiel Ferrer’s hometown in Puerto Rico, was devastated by Hurricane Maria, and after months without electricity, clean water, school or a solution in sight, his parents send him to live in New York City with his uncle. Joining generations of Puerto Ricans in the diaspora, Ezequiel finds his place at El Maestro, a boxing gym in the South Bronx run by community leaders involved with the Puerto Rican independence movement. As Ezequiel prepares for the gym’s annual boxing match, he grapples with larger questions about his identity, his future - and that of his island.
NOBLE SISSLE’S SYNCOPATED RAGTIME                           East Coast Premiere
Directors: Daniel Leonard Bernardi, David De Rozas
Countries: France/USA, Running Time: 23 min
Combining unseen period footage with original scores from the era, Syncopated Ragtime tells the story of Noble Sissle’s incredible life journey encompassing the Harlem Hellfighters of World War I, Broadway Theatre, the Civil Rights movement, and decades of Black cultural production.
Director: Gabriel Bagnaschi
Country: UK, Running Time: 9 min
A teenage boy living in a tough Edinburgh neighborhood has to figure out how far he’s willing to go to save his breakdancing crew when his best friend starts pushing for a street gang.
OUR ALBERTINA                                                                     North American Premiere
Director: Chantel Clark
Countries: South Africa/USA, Running Time: 21 min
South Africa, 1990. When the crumbling regime affords Marie Abrahams an opportunity…
Director: Zachary Bako
Country: USA, Running Time: 47 min
In the aftermath of a hate crime, a Sikh American man grapples with his fears and anxieties as he attempts to celebrate the 4th of July with his wife and infant son. As tensions rise through various racially charged encounters, he makes a tragic decision that changes his identity forever.
PA’LANTE                                                                               HARLEM SPOTLIGHT
Director: Kristian Mercado
Countries: Puerto Rico/USA, Running Time: 9 min
Pa'lante is the story of an estranged working class family trying to reconnect in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. Starring Mela Murder (The Florida Project) as Milagros and Kareem Savinon as Manuel. Nuyorican identity and Puerto Rican identity are at its core.
Director: Gustaf Lindstrom
Country: UK, Running Time: 5 min
In Plankton we get a glimpse of the ideas and aspirations that float around at the bottom of the food chain through casual and improvisational sounding comedic dialogue.
THE POWER OF WRITING                                                       World Premiere
Director: Nancy Donnelly
Country: USA, Running Time: 6 min
When an innocent man is thrown in prison for a murder he didn't commit, he finds an escape in writing. Criminal justice reform advocate, Derrick Hamilton, shows us how he used the power of words to write his way to freedom.
Director: Alix Lambert
Country: USA, Running Time: 3 min
When an innocent man is thrown in prison for a murder he didn't commit, he finds an escape in writing. Criminal justice reform advocate, Derrick Hamilton, shows us how he used the power of words to write his way to freedom.
Director: Lyndon J Barrios
Country: USA, Running Time: 6 min
An animated portrait depicting three days in the life of heavyweight champion Jack Johnson, battling his fiercest opponent – racism.
Director: Federico Spiazzi
Countries: Greece/Italy, Running Time: 10 min
Life goes slowly by through the windows of a small Greek bakery. Refugees wait in line, tourists wander and locals browse shop windows. When a storm strikes, everybody rushes to the bakery for refuge.
Director: Abe Abraham
Country: USA, Running Time: 6 min
Dance-film set to the seismographic recordings of the earth's vibrations.
Director: Seok Wun Au Yong
Country: USA, Running Time: 26 min
A young international film student from Thailand discovers her sexuality in a 21st century U.S college.
Director: Jhosimar Vasquez
Country: USA, Running Time: 22 min
A story of jealousy, greed, death and revenge. The perfect killer sits on death row awaiting his fate. But when someone from his past pays him a visit, The Scorpion realizes that when debts are owed, someone must pay.
Director: Shawn Antoine II
Country: USA, Running Time: 15 min
Darius and Hakeem dance on New York City trains to earn money and escape the crime-riddled streets. A woman sees Darius’ skills and offers him an opportunity to audition for a Juilliard travel dance team. Hakeem is jealous that Darius may pursue this chance and begins to sell drugs with the neighborhood goon TJ. Darius is faced with the decision to pursue this life-changing path or help keep Hakeem out of trouble.
Director: Atieno Nyar Kasagam
Countries: Kenya/USA, Running Time: 16 min
A love story of Black land reclamation told in ritual between Detroit, Alabama and Kenya, following one family on Detroit’s East Side as their story of urban farming unfolds into a spiritual journey of discovery, loss and re-indigenization. By digging up familial and land roots across the diaspora, the film illuminates all that is sacred in the land and encourages a radical reconsideration of how we view the earth immediately below our feet.
Director: Filipe Melo
Country: Portugal, Running Time: 15 min
The film adaptation of the graphic novel of the same name, by Filipe Melo, illustrated by Juan Cava, edited in 2017 by Granta Magazine in Portugal. It's a free essay and reflection on the death penalty.
Director: Kim Barr
Country: Canada, Running Time: 10 min
The young black girl is having a hard day at school. She’s not able to pronounce the days of the week in French, and her classmates are enjoying themselves at her expense. And then she sees it, falling outside the classroom window – SNOW.
Director: Jamaal Bradley
Country: USA, Running Time: 5 min
Based on true events, Jason, the oldest of two boys loves his home, but battles between wanting to change the deteriorating community and the desire to leave it behind. Tension turns to anger as Jason and his brother John battle over the decision to embrace the drug culture while simultaneously endangering John's daughter.
Director: Erin Pollock
Country: USA, Running Time: 15 min
Animated clay sculptures battle their egos and struggle to communicate. They may suffer physical and emotional imperfections but, like humans, they’re in a constant state of transformation. Destroying and rebuilding, again and again, this mud grows into ever new iterations. The process can be cruel and absurd, but empathy always creeps in to allow for tender moments of connection.
Director: Maori Karmael Holmes
Country: USA, Running Time: 5 min
TIGHT SPOT                                                                            New York Premiere
Director: Kevin Haefelin
Countries: Switzerland/USA, Running Time: 9 min
While polishing the shoes of a walk-in customer, the shoe shiner discovers his client’s dark secret.
TRUE STORIES BY JOE                                                         New York Premiere
Director: Joe Zito
Country: USA, Running Time: 8 min
Joe tells funny and true stories about growing up in Italian Harlem in the 1940’s.
Director: Froilan Cuesta
Country: USA, Running Time: 14 min
The MOVE organization led by John Africa, a philosophical, magnetic and mesmerizing man, was able to lead a community with the hopes of achieving the ultimate humanistic utopia - connecting as one with nature and ridding the land of racism and police brutality.  On May 13, 1985 the city did the unthinkable and firebombed the MOVE home in West Philadelphia destroying 60 houses and killing 11 people; including John Africa, five other adults and five children.
Director: Tyrone L. Robinson
Country: USA, Running Time: 6 min
A young Black Man is stopped one evening by two police officers. The encounter escalates quickly and when it reaches a crisis point he receives help from an unexpected place.
WE THE CHILDREN                                                                 HARLEM SPOTLIGHT
Director: Jamal Joseph
Country: USA, Running Time: 22 min
Sparked by the 2016 elections results, a group of children, ages 7 to 11, at a democratic school in Harlem, New York City, voice their concern about the direction their country might take. Through an ongoing journey that involves their own civic law education, community involvement, and activism, they ultimately question the general perception of children’ s limited role in politics and open the door for further discussion.
Director: Richard Joseph
Country: USA, Running Time: 12 min
An inner city Brooklyn teenager juggles fear, anxiety and his friends’ bad advice before he loses his virginity.
Director: Marie Alarcon
Country: USA, Running Time: 30 min
An experimental documentary about Bartram Village and Gardens, this contemplative collage of audio interviews and slow-motion video, explores relationships between place and self, and the multifaceted narratives of home, joy, and struggle.
WOMAN OF LIFE                                                                     World Premiere
Director: Alif Areca Sankey
Country: UK, Running Time: 12 min
A dramatic experimental film about the struggle of a woman on her life's journey.

Video Installation

Director: Vito A. Rowlands
2 min
"A man struggles with his faith and is caught between ascension and fall.”
CHAIRS                                                                                   North American Premiere                   
Director: Avner Pinchover
12 min
A man hurls chairs at a wall for 12 minutes in what seems to be a holy-rage attack. This expressive performance-for-camera fluctuates between satisfaction and futility while simultaneously creating compositions of destructive beauty.

Director: Phil Gries
50 min
What was it like to live in Harlem, New York in 1970 and attend elementary school?
Directors: Leonhard Mullner, Robin Klengel
16 min
While walking through the post-apocalyptic city, issues such as architecture history, urbanism and the game developer’s interventions into the urban fabric are being discussed.
Director: Chantal Feitosa
7 min
This film merges techniques in performance and video to examine the nuances of colonialism and racial hybridity through the retracing of one’s cultural history as a first generation Afro-Latina.
SLIPPAGES/GRACE                                                               North American Premiere
Director: Kathy Smith
10 min
Set against the austere landscape of the Australian bushland, overlapping images of ever increasing clarity inform Grace’s consciousness as she moves toward the end of her life.
Celebrating the art of cinema in the home of the Harlem Renaissance, The Harlem International Film Festival (Hi) inspires and entertains by honoring dynamic films by anyone about anything under the sun. Conceived from the belief that we all have unique experiences and perspectives to share, the Festival actively seeks and exhibits fresh work. Hi is committed to exemplifying the eminence that Harlem represents and is dedicated to bringing attention to the finest filmmakers from Harlem and across the globe.