This Friday, the Black Femme Supremacy Film Festival, headed up by Baltimore filmmaker (and Baltimore Beat contributor) Nia Hampton, starts at the Parkway Theatre (5 W. North Ave.). The event, which runs from Aug. 30 through Sept. 1, is Hampton’s answer to a film ecosystem that is overwhelmingly white and overwhelmingly male. The festival will feature over 50 films that examine what it means to be Black and femme — in the form of documentaries, sci-fi, fantasy, and more.

This is the festival’s second year since its start in May of 2018 and Hampton is settling into her job as organizer and promoter. In anticipation of the event, she answered some questions about what attendees can expect and why an event like this remains relevant.

Baltimore Beat: Putting on a film festival seems like a huge undertaking. In your second year, how has the planning gone? Have you been able to add to or expand the festival in any way?

Nia Hampton: Planning has been a bit of a reality check. The first year was a stunt. I didn’t expect [the festival] to take off in the way that it did, but my team and the festival goers themselves made me see that this not just a revenge fantasy. 

Interestingly enough, we are at the Parkway this year, which was a huge catalyst for me starting Black Femme Supremacy Film Fest in the first place. Being rejected for a job there lit a fire under my ass. They are under new management, a Black woman named Sandra Gibson is the interim director and she’s really made this whole journey of growing my festival easier. This year we have three days of programming, four features, and a pitch competition where folks can win a free eight-hour studio rental from Six Point Studios and a comprehensive script evaluation from the Baltimore Filmmakers Collective. 

BB: Why do you think this film festival is important and relevant?

NH: Filmmaking is hard as fuck. It’s an expensive medium full of oppressive practices but the cultural influence it has it only rivaled by music. Festivals are reservoirs of knowledge, but not everyone is lucky enough to access them. Black femmes need a space to network and critique each other with love in a way they won’t get at other festivals. My life was changed by Black Star Film Festival, even Maryland Film Festival gave me a good education. Film festivals evolve the culture. 

BB: What kind of films can people expect? What was your selection process like?

NH: This year’s theme is access, so we have films featuring black femmes who find themselves in positions to be pioneer, like “Jezebel,” our opening night film. Directed by Numa Perrier, “Jezebel” tells the true story of a Black girl becoming a cam girl when it was still new. We have a whole programming block dedicated to Black femmes who make horror and sci-fi films, a genre that has been off limits to us because of how expensive it is. I’m excited to screen a work in progress documentary about a young Black Brazilian woman who started her own Samba Reggae band as a child. The director has spent over a decade traveling to Salvador to shoot this film. Our selection process is pretty straightforward, we have a Filmfreeway account and just ask that films be either made by Black femmes or feature a Black femme protagonist. 

BB: You could have a film festival anywhere. Why Baltimore? Why is it important that you mix the local with the national, with the international?

NH: Baltimore is responsible for one of the greatest TV series in history. We should have a stronger and more lucrative film culture here, but we don’t. Film festivals create film cultures in communities. I travel a lot but I’m from here and I live here and much of my work is about bringing what I’ve experienced out of Baltimore back into the city. BFSFF travels too. We’ve hosted a screening in Brooklyn so far and have plans for Detroit and New Orleans in 2020 so it’s like the festival exists everywhere. It’s important to mix it up cause we’re really all connected. If it’s one thing I’ve learned in my travels it’s that being from Baltimore prepares you for the world in a very real way. 

BB: Are there any films or events that you think people absolutely can’t miss?

NH: You can’t miss our Homegrown Talent block which is full of local filmmakers. One of our flagship programs, defining femme, is full of fresh new shorts that you’ll be able to say you saw first at our festival. Access to Power has a really unique documentary out of DC about street harassment that  maybe the sleeper hit of the festival. Honestly everything is good. Get a weekend pass!

Learn more about the film festival and purchase tickets here.

Lisa Snowden is Editor-in-Chief and cofounder of Baltimore Beat. Previously, she was an editor at Baltimore City Paper, Baltimore Sun, and The Real News Network. Her work has also appeared in Essence,...