Festival Firsts at BlackStar 2023 with Kin Theory

Chandler Phillips & Victoria Cheyenne • September 19, 2023

At the heart of the recent gathering at the BlackStar Film Festival in Philadelphia (Lenapehoking) was the spirit of collaboration, as the vibrant networks of Kin Theory and Brown Girls Doc Mafia (BGDM) joined hands. We set out with the intention of connecting with the community of the global majority of filmmakers in attendance. In our continuing focus of pursuing artistic reciprocity, we were eager to partner alongside one another to bring our members and other festival attendees together in celebration.

“Run-in’s and mingling at Blackstar are a departure from the sometimes stiff networking that can feel a part of festival culture — a closer comparison might be a family reunion.”
- Pola Pucheta, BGDM Staff

BGDM and Kin Theory at BlackStar

“As a queer Indigenous person BlackStar was so special for me because we could celebrate the creative brilliance of BIPOC filmmakers at every turn!”
- Jessica Ramirez, Kin Theory Team

This collaborative event drew together an inspiring mix of members from both organizations, as well as enthusiastic festival-goers. The partnership of these two communities — Kin Theory, an initiative dedicated to nurturing narrative sovereignty and cultural vitality, and BGDM, a collective of BIPOC women and non-binary filmmakers and industry professionals committed to dismantling industry disparities — was a dream. In this shared space, BIPOC creators seeking connection found joy, support, and celebration, uplifting our goal of creating space for supporting like-minded collaborators.

“Much of society attempts to convince us that work of care is our individual responsibility and that accommodating the needs of others is a suggestion. The BlackStar Film Festival was a refreshing departure from that line of thinking. The level of care and intentionality provided by the BlackStar team was admirable and should set the standard for the industry.”
- Daquisha Jones-Sol, BGDM Staff

There was a buzz of warmth and connection entering into the meet up. Sharing laughter, reflections, and of course food, attendees held space for one another as artists, professionals, and friends. This was the first time many of the BGDM and Kin Theory staff attended Blackstar. However, the energy of this festival — which affirms the voices and perspectives of artists of color at every turn — made it feel like returning home. In an industry that has historically privileged and supported white cisgender men disproportionately, it’s a beautiful thing to be in spaces where your fullness is innately honored. Our evening together was a brief glimpse into the beauty of coalition building. When we come together in care, magic unfolds.

“I was in awe of the power and intentionality created by this center for BIPOC creativity. As an indigenous documentary filmmaker, I was overwhelmed with joy being able to consume so much programming from talented underrepresented voices who I cannot wait to see more works from in the future!”
- Victoria Cheyenne, Kin Theory Team

“To be surrounded by a community Black, Brown and Indigenous filmmakers and film lovers makes one thing very clear - Black-led spaces like this unleash boundless possibilities for the film industry.”
- Chandler Phillips, BGDM Staff

As an initiative under the Nia Tero umbrella, Kin Theory’s focus is directly in supporting indigenous media makers in finding, connecting, and creating. BGDM is committed to forging and reimagining a documentary industry in which women and nonbinary people of color are holistically supported and uplifted throughout their career. It was against the backdrop of the BlackStar Film Festival that this event marked the beginning of collaboration between Kin Theory and BGDM, and we’re eager for our paths to continue converging in community. A community that promises to continue nurturing and amplifying all voices in the world of storytelling.

“There’s something indescribable about an intimate festival like BlackStar. It challenges you with thought-provoking cinema, cares for you and your wellness, and makes you feel at home. This may be my first time attending, but it won’t be my last.”
- Lissa Deonarain, BGDM Staff

Some films we loved:

…And there are countless more films we wish we could have seen! A huge congratulations to all who showcased their work.

Chandler Phillips & Victoria Cheyenne
Chandler Phillips & Victoria Cheyenne

Chandler is a social worker, arts organizer, ecotherapist, and visual artist, who employs an integrative approach to holistic care in community organizing. As the former Manager of Impact and Engagement at Sundance Institute, Chandler led initiatives that supported over 500 independent arts organizations.

Victoria Cheyenne [She/her | Tsétsêhéstâhese/Aymara | Montana (Turtle Island)] is an Indigenous Bolivian-American documentary filmmaker. Cheyenne is the Outreach Coordinator for Kin Theory, a storytelling initiative of Nia Tero connecting and uplifting Indigenous creators around the global.