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Reel Sisters Film Festival Celebrates Women Filmmakers of Color

By Janet Upadhye | October 9, 2012 4:08pm

DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — Founded 15 years ago, the Reel Sisters of the Diaspora Film Festival and Lecture Series was the first Brooklyn-based event to celebrate films produced, directed and written by women of color.

This year's festival, which will include the chance to learn from "Jungle Fever" producer Sam Pollard and a chat with "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" actress Daphne Maxwell Reid, features 14 films along with workshops and lecture series.

"The film festival offers a platform to promote our stories, vision and passion," said filmmaker Rachel Johnson, 24. "The dream of submitting a film to this festival has been a driving force for me for years."

This year, Johnson, a Brooklynite and recent graduate of New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, was able to reach her goal, submitting her film, "White Sugar in a Black Pot," about a mom who gets the opportunity to buy a house in Brooklyn.

Johnson grew up on the border of Clinton Hill and Bedford-Stuyvesant, witnessing the earlier years of gentrification in her neighborhood, and her film touches on some of the stories she heard growing up.

"I was interested in exploring gentrification in Clinton Hill and the challenges families face in being able to remain in the neighborhood," she said. "But I also wanted to create an intimate portrait of a family and let the characters lead the story."

Her film also explores the struggles of a husband and wife, family dynamics and gender issues. It ends with a controversial decision that not all viewers will agree with, but will leave them discussing the implications, Johnson said.

Other featured films include "Why Do You Have Black Doll?" about a little-known black doll enthusiast community, "Salay", about a young woman desperate for an education in Sierra Leone and "Soul Food Junkies," about a father's unwillingness to change his soul food diet, even as his health is threatened.

The festival takes place Oct. 13 and 14 at Long Island University Brooklyn's Kumble Theater. Visit the festival's website for more information, tickets, and schedule.