Now in its 14th year, the Atlanta-based BronzeLens Film Festival begins August 23 and runs through August 27. In addition to its prime mission of showcasing BIPOC-created and focused content from around the world, the Oscars short film-qualifying event will pay homage to the Writers Guild of America and Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists ongoing strikes.
In a press statement, the festival’s executive director, Kathleen Bertrand, said, “BronzeLens Film Festival supports the SAG-AFTRA and WGA members in their fight to achieve a fair and equitable contract.” As such, BronzeLens’ components of Women Superstar Honors and Sunday Brunch with the Brothers will move to 2024’s first quarter, leaving 124 selected films and a loaded roster of film industry panel discussions as the primary focal point of this year’s event.
Official submission categories for the festival — which will feature screenings of works in each category — include short narratives, feature narratives, documentaries, short documentaries, dance, web series’, music videos and student films from approximately 17 countries this year.
One of the 124 films on display for festival-goers to be screened at Landmark Midtown Art Cinema is the 90-minute documentary Gaining Ground: The Fight for Black Land. The documentary combines the story capture of director Eternal Polk with production by New York-based Al Roker Entertainment, in conjunction with agricultural equipment company John Deere, based in Moline, Illinois.
John Deere’s Tharlyn Fox, manager of its coalition for legislation, education, advocacy and production systems, said, “The BronzeLens Film Festival is a wonderful event to amplify the dynamic voices and stories represented in Gaining Ground: The Fight for Black Land.”
Fox added, “We hope viewers come away with a deepened understanding of the challenges faced by Black farmers and landowners and the importance of preserving land ownership within communities.”
Throughout history, the absence of clear title to heirs’ property — passed to family members through inheritance, often without proper estate planning or a will — has disproportionately affected Black families and Black farming in America, Fox explained. He added that while Black land ownership reached 19 million acres in 1910, today, due to heirs’ property issues, Black farmers own fewer than 5 million acres in the United States.
“It’s imperative that we ensure these families and their descendants can hold onto and preserve what remains for the generations ahead,” said Fox. “The path to clear title is a long and often emotional journey for these families. It’s not a quick, transactional process. There is still a lot of work to be done, and these families and these farmers need our support.”
A panel discussion of the topic, a tight fit with the mission of the BronzeLens Film Festival, will follow the screening and will include Polk, an Emmy nominee; Fox; and Jennie Stephens, CEO at the Center for Heirs’ Property Preservation in North Charleston, South Carolina. The group will inform attendees on the subject of heirs’ property and current efforts to provide affected families with resources to achieve clear title.
Additional highlights of the 14th annual BronzeLens Film Festival include an opening night screening of the film Latasha Harlins at Landmark Midtown Art Cinema and a Bronze Carpet event. Thursday’s lineup includes all-day film screenings and three panels, including topics such as finding your audience, indie filmmaking best practices and entertainment law for creatives.
Among Friday’s screenings and panels are production coordinators and heads of studios, as well as a special panel celebrating Atlanta’s hip-hop legacy, along with a second Bronze Carpet event.
Saturday includes all-day film screenings at both Landmark Midtown Art Cinema and Southwest Arts Center in the City of South Fulton.
The festival concludes on Sunday with screenings at both venues, a panel discussion on cinema and social justice, an awards event known as The BronzeLens Awards to be held at The Carter Center and a third Bronze Carpet event.
Carol Badaracco Padgett is an Atlanta freelance writer who specializes in film and television coverage. A graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism, her work has appeared in publications nationwide.