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Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

BlackStar and Comcast’s Xfinity Join Forces to Launch First-Ever Philadelphia Filmmaker Lab Cohort

BlackStar and Comcast’s Xfinity Join Forces to Launch First-Ever Philadelphia Filmmaker Lab Cohort

Philadelphia, PA

BlackStar Projects, the premier organization celebrating visionary Black, Brown, and Indigenous film and media artists, and Xfinity, home of the Black Experience Channel and the most comprehensive library of diverse entertainment available to customers via its X1 and Flex devices, today announced the inaugural class of their new Philadelphia Filmmaker Lab.

The year-long fellowship supports and uplifts Black, Brown and Indigenous emerging and mid-career artists and filmmakers in the Greater Philadelphia area by providing access to equipment, funding, and mentorship, over the course of a year. BlackStar will act as an executive producer on the short films created during the Lab, providing feedback on works in progress and advice for working with crew, while Xfinity provided a major portion of the funding for production. The films will premiere at the next BlackStar Film Festival in August 2022 and will be featured on the Black Experience on Xfinity Channel. Additionally, shortlisted candidates who did not receive a fellowship this cycle will receive one-on-one consultation from industry representatives courtesy of Kickstarter.

The 2021 Philadelphia Filmmaker Lab fellows are Bettina Escauriza, Jasmine Lynea, Julian Turner, and Xenia Matthews.

Bettina Escauriza’s project, Tonight, We Eat Flowers, will center on a person who sells hold music to companies, employing magical realism and the absurd to disrupt expectations. Jasmine Lynea’s hybrid film, The Love Machine, will be set in 2036 North Philadelphia in a predominantly Black neighborhood, and will focus on cultivating a new perspective on love. Julian Turner’s short The Big Three, will engage a conversation surrounding Black representation and artistic ownership through a musical setting. Xenia Matthew’s film Ourika! will utilize surrealism, animation and multimedia elements to further the ongoing conversation on the colonization of Black women’s bodies in art and material culture.

“I am really impressed by the sheer diversity and boldness of this year’s applications.” said Maori Karmael Holmes, Artistic Director and CEO of BlackStar, “Our finalists represent just a fraction of the incredible talent in our city, and we are thrilled to be able to support their vision for new work in this way.”

The program is open to both emerging and mid-career filmmakers seeking to create short-format projects. Applications for next year’s Philadelphia Filmmaker Lab will open in August 2022.

“At Xfinity, we strive to facilitate the discovery of diverse emerging content creators like the filmmakers in this lab and provide a platform for them to showcase their talent,” said Keesha Boyd, Executive Director, Multicultural Video & Entertainment, Xfinity Consumer Services. “We’re thrilled to work with the BlackStar team to further our company-wide mission of investing in and showcasing authentic culture driven stories.”

After they premiere at the BlackStar Film Festival, the films will be featured prominently on Black Experience on Xfinity, a first-of-its-kind destination of Black entertainment, movies, TV shows, news and more. It features high-quality content from many of Xfinity’s existing network partners, while investing millions of dollars in fostering and showcasing emerging Black content creators like the filmmaker lab participants. The channel is the only one of its kind endorsed by the African American Film Critics Association (AAFCA), the world's largest group of Black film critics that gives annual awards for excellence in film and television.

About Bettina Escauriza

From Asunción, Paraguay, Bettina Escauriza is a filmmaker, writer, artist, and actor living in Philadelphia. She is a natural storyteller from a family of frustrated mystics, spectacular liars, ill-fated thieves, and awful politicians. Her work deals with Indigenous knowledge, colonization, immigration, and exile. Her aim as a filmmaker is to tell stories about Indigenous people and people of color that are lush, sensual, thrilling, and complex. Her desire is to tell the truth about the communities she comes from by centering narratives of joy, defiance, and resistance in the face of oppression.

About Jasmine Lynea

Jasmine Lynea is an artist and educator focused on composing avant-garde short films as a director, editor, and cinematographer. In an effort to preserve Black history through cinema, Lynea's work explores ways in which Black people "safely" maneuver through this world by capturing fictional stories with a layer of realism, often rooted in Jasmine's own experiences as a Black queer womxn. Raw, colorful, and politically weighted, Jasmine's catalog and future works aim to design worlds centering on Black queer people's practices of self-love, family relationships, and how we construct and create our existence. Jasmine hopes to design worlds of the future where Black folks and people of color can re-command spaces to transform our realities.                                 

About Julian Turner

Julian has been developing his style in hybrid fiction and documentary cinema for the better part of a decade. His 2015 student short Tahirih, a coming-of-age tale about a young girl's encounter with feminism, won Best Narrative at the Tri-co Film Festival and his 2019 fiction short May premiered at SXSW and played at Mill Valley Film Festival before being named a Vimeo Staff Pick. His follow-up short, Viewing Room, was the recipient of the Knight Foundation’s 2019 Artist Alumni Fund and premiered at the Maryland Film Festival in 2020. He also workshopped his feature screenplay, Cousin Sarah,at the Sundance Institute’s 2017 Screenwriters Intensive in Philadelphia. A native of Tennessee, Julian draws inspiration from the region's complex cultural imagery and is interested in crafting narratives exploring interweaving themes of youth, race and community. A graduate of Swarthmore College with concentrations in History, Black Studies, and Film & Media Studies, Julian lives in Philadelphia and works as a freelance film editor while constantly expanding his portfolio.

About Xenia Matthews

Xenia Matthews is an innovative film and visual artist. She makes highly saturated hybrid films that stimulate the senses. She has a BFA in Film & Video from University of the Arts and creates films as a way to understand her own personal experiences. Black queer womanhood, and all that it encompasses - the joys, the struggles, the misunderstood - is a common topic of her work. Her film, A Few Things I'm Beginning to Understand has been programmed at Indie Memphis Film Festival, Black Femme Supremacy Film Festival, and Houston Cinema Arts Festival. In the future, Xenia plans on installing her films, using physical space to enhance the immersive experience.

DJ lil’dave

DJ lil’dave

BlackStar Projects also announced today the recipient of the inaugural Music in Cinema Fellowship, supported by Pop Culture Collaborative. The one year Music in Cinema Fellowship embeds one musician in BlackStar’s year-round work to design activities intended to bring more Black, Brown, and Indigenous musicians into the world of filmmaking. The inaugural fellow is David “lil’dave” Adams, who will serve as the composer of this year’s Filmmaker Lab projects.

About David “lil’dave” Adams

DJ lil’dave is a Philadelphia-based producer, composer, radio host, and member of the DJ crew Illvibe Collective who has made a name for himself by exposing people to soulful music in all its forms. He produces and hosts a music-focused podcast called “Excellent Reception.” He has been broadcasting for over two decades on WKDU 91.7FM, where he currently hosts the internationally-known “Eavesdrop Radio” along with DJ Junior. As a recording artist, he has released original music and remixes under various aliases for record labels around the world, such as BBE Records, Tru Thoughts, and Bastard Jazz.

The BlackStar Philadelphia Filmmaker Lab is presented by Xfinity with additional support from All Ages Productions, Independence Public Media Foundation, Kickstarter, Vimeo, and Wyncote Foundation.

For more information about the Philadelphia Filmmaker Lab, please visit blackstarfest.org

About BlackStar Projects

BlackStar Projects is home of the BlackStar Film Festival, an annual celebration of the visual and storytelling traditions of the African diaspora and global communities of color — showcasing films by Black, Brown, and Indigenous people from around the world. In addition to the acclaimed festival, BlackStar presents an array of programming across film and visual culture year-round, and produces the twice-annual journal Seen.

The 10th Annual BlackStar Film Festival’s lineup included approximately 80 films, including 19 world premieres, representing 27 countries. In addition to presenting an array of live programs, panels, and select in-person events and screenings, 2021 also marked BlackStar’s selection by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences as a qualifying festival for both short documentary and short narrative films, making BlackStar’s Best Narrative Short and Best Documentary Short winners eligible for entrance at the Academy Awards. The festival featured several in-person screenings, including the world premiere of feature documentary Eyes on the Prize: Hallowed Ground (directed by Sophia Nahli Allison).

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