Black Film Festival Postponed For The First Time in 45 Years


The Newark Museum of Art today announced that the institution’s 2020 Black Film Festival, the longest running festival of its kind in the United States, and the Paul Robeson Awards will be postponed until 2021 in light of the ongoing global coronavirus pandemic.

Originally scheduled to kick off this July, The Newark Museum of Art Black Film Festival represents an enduring legacy in the history of U.S. film festivals that celebrate African American and African diasporic producers, filmmakers, directors and actors.

“We regrettably must take a hiatus this year from presenting the Festival, which has been running continuously for 45 years,” said Linda C. Harrison, CEO and Director of The Newark Museum of Art. “However, as a 110-year-old institution, we know how to take the long view, and have already begun planning for our re-opening of the festival in 2021.”

The Museum is already planning for a tremendous return next year and expects to announce details in the spring. Next year’s lineup of films and speakers will add to an already rich tapestry of artists and film professionals who have participated in the festival over the past forty plus years including Ava DuVernay, Danny Glover, Isaac Hayes, Spike Lee, James Earl Jones and many others.

In addition, the Paul Robeson Awards, a biennial competition recognizing excellence in independent filmmaking, will now be held in 2021. Submissions for the Robeson Awards will be considered next year with all entry fees for 2020 refunded.

Since 1971, the Festival has screened nearly 900 films to an audience of over 200,000 adults and youth, and has been generously underwritten by Bank of America for 19 years. “The Newark Museum of Art’s Black Film Festival has created greater cultural understanding that has enriched our community,” said Alberto Garofalo, Bank of America New Jersey Market President. “The way we support our community is a reflection of who we are as a company and our long-term partnership with the festival is another demonstration of the bank’s longstanding commitment to the arts, diversity and inclusion that have strengthened New Jersey through the years.”

Next year’s festival will also honor the many contributions of Patricia Faison, who is retiring this spring after joining The Newark Museum of Art in 1971. Faison, a Newark resident, holds the distinction of the longest-tenured employee on staff and the single most consistent force behind the Festival. As the marketing coordinator for the Museum, she has led the selection process to determine which films would be screened and served as the primary contact for corporate sponsorships.

“Pat has been a wonderful role model, exhibiting consistently how to care about your fellow colleagues. Her joie de vivre spirit walking through the halls of the Museum will be missed.  We look forward to celebrating her groundbreaking work on the Black Film Festival in 2021,” Harrison stated.

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