The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

Join our newsletter

Get Pitt and Oakland news in your inbox, three times a week.

Pitt track and field athlete inducted into Delaware Sports Museum & Hall of Fame
Pitt track and field athlete inducted into Delaware Sports Museum & Hall of Fame
By Grace McNally, Staff Writer • June 13, 2024
Opinion | Long-distance friendships are possible
By Livia LaMarca, Assistant Opinions Editor • June 6, 2024

Join our newsletter

Get Pitt and Oakland news in your inbox, three times a week.

Pitt track and field athlete inducted into Delaware Sports Museum & Hall of Fame
Pitt track and field athlete inducted into Delaware Sports Museum & Hall of Fame
By Grace McNally, Staff Writer • June 13, 2024
Opinion | Long-distance friendships are possible
By Livia LaMarca, Assistant Opinions Editor • June 6, 2024

August Wilson Center’s Black Bottom Film Festival spotlights Black storytelling

A+poster+for+the+student-produced+series+%E2%80%9CWhere%E2%80%99s+Everybody+At%3F%E2%80%9D+by+the+Howard+University+Film+Organization.
Image courtesy of August Wilson African American Cultural Center
A poster for the student-produced series “Where’s Everybody At?” by the Howard University Film Organization.

After three years of waiting, the August Wilson African American Cultural Center’s film festival has returned to Pittsburgh. The Black Bottom Film Festival (BBFF), held from Oct. 27 to 29, presented “a vibrant experience that illuminates and celebrates the rich tapestry of African American cinema,” according to its website. The BBFF featured growing powerhouses in the film world, classics from all eras of film and teasers for upcoming documentaries and movies. All of the films featured in the festival related to Pittsburgh playwright August Wilson’s legacy of documenting the Black experience and image, bringing it to life on stages and screens. 

The August Wilson African American Cultural Center is a performing arts center in Downtown Pittsburgh and a hub for the arts in the city. Named after the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and Pittsburgh native, the Center focuses on celebrating art, expression and creation in Black culture across the United States. 

The Black Bottom Film Festival told a range of stories, touching on topics such as diasporic identities, mother-daughter relationships, Afro-surrealism and dystopian worlds. Participants in the festival discussed the gray spaces of identity, community and individuality through various mediums, from conversation panels to poetry, music videos, shorts, documentaries and films. 

Kevin Michael Smith, teaching professor in Pitt’s Film and Media Studies Department, joked that the film festival was a meeting of Pittsburgh’s “nerds and film junkies” during the panel “Reel Money: Building Pittsburgh’s Film Economy.” The panel marked the beginning of the BBFF, discussing the future of Pittsburgh’s film industry, and young people’s role in growing the art scene in Pittsburgh. Dawn Keezer, executive director of the Pittsburgh Film Office, moderated the panel that featured Smith, actor and director Roger Guenvuer Smith and Gregory Edwards, a dolly grip and member of the Pittsburgh Film Office board of trustees. 

Panelists emphasized the importance of getting people from Pittsburgh involved in the film industry, especially in the production world — as lighting technicians, set designers, hair stylists and more. The event’s main sponsor, Citizens Bank, announced they would grant $200,000 to the Pittsburgh Film Office, directly allocating the money to CREATE PA, a workforce training program that offers educational opportunities for aspiring film and theater professionals in the Pittsburgh area. 

During the panel, Edwards recalled the start of his career in film, saying accessibility to programs like CREATE PA is important. 

“It would have cut 20 years of my training!” Edwards said. 

Guenvuer Smith also said a career in the creative arts was a viable path for aspiring filmmakers.

“There [is] a thing called a life in the arts. And it is worth living, and worth pursuing,” Guenvuer Smith added. 

Billy Porter, famed Broadway and Hollywood actor and Pittsburgh native, made a surprise appearance through a pre-recorded video for the festival, supporting CREATE PA and applauding the hairstylists who participated in the program and joined the production of his Pittsburgh production “Anything’s Possible” last year. 

From university students trying to get a footing in the world of movies, to grandparents debating their favorite Pittsburgh productions, the film festival audience was packed with Pittsburgh film enthusiasts. The spotlight fell specifically on the younger generations of movie creatives. 

The festival screened the student-produced series “Where’s Everybody At?” by the Howard University Film Organization on Sunday evening. Rachel McCain, director of operations at the organization and a film and television major at Howard University, said she was excited to be involved.

“To even be included in this festival is such an honor, given August Wilson’s legacy in the Black storytelling community,” McCain said. 

McCain said August Wilson’s work inspires Black creatives to express themselves.

“Something that always stood out to me is that [August Wilson] always wrote for one audience and that was himself,” McCain said. “I think the most important thing for young Black folks when creating their stories is not to limit themselves … Tell something that is authentic to you, and that you will enjoy.”

About the Contributor
Irene Castillo, Senior Staff Writer
Irene Sofía Castillo Maldonado is a junior history of art and architecture major with a museum studies minor and a Latin American studies certificate. She was born and raised in Puerto Rico, so you might see her long Spanish sentences slip through in her exhibition reviews. Aside from The Pitt News, she’s a researcher for anti-colonial practices in museums and art, as well as a firm coffee shop critic –– cortados are her favorite.