The 43-year-old Black Spectrum Theatre was conceived to stimulate social and cultural awareness through theater and film, so it would only make sense that the African Diaspora International Film Festival — showcasing cinema that gives voice to people of color all over the world — would choose the venue for its 21st annual event.
“Comparatively, there are many more films being made about and by people of color than are being shown,” said Diarah N’Daw-Spech, the co-founder and co-director of the festival. “If you look at the percentage of films of people of color, the percentage isn’t equivalent to the number of people in the city and in the world who are of color. There are still many more stories that don’t get out there.”
N’Daw-Spech and her husband, Reinaldo Spech, founded the ADIFF in 1993. Films from the United States, Senegal, Guyana and Canada will be featured at the Black Spectrum as well as in Brooklyn and Manhattan.
“We established this festival 21 years ago with the intention of bringing people of color from all over the world to the forefront,” N’Daw-Spech said.
This is the festival’s second year at the Black Spectrum and N’Daw Spech said she couldn’t be happier with the theater.
“The Black Spectrum was established and is run for the community, and by the community and there are very few spaces like that,” she said. “Most theaters are run by people who have other interests or investments and don’t see a need for something like this. For that, we are so glad the Black Spectrum exists.”
The ADIFF spans four weekends: one in both October and November, then two in December. Each weekend has its own theme.
For the October kickoff, the ADIFF will focus on African Americans in Paris by screening “Josephine Baker, a Black Diva in a White Man’s World” followed by “Melvin & Jane, an American Story.”
“African Americans abroad is a reality that many people don’t necessarily know about,” N’Daw-Spech said. “The Josephine Baker film is very revealing because it’s not a superficial portrayal of her life and doesn’t look at her as just a woman posing naked. Her voice really comes out through the film and it goes deeper into why things were the way they were.”
“Melvin & Jane, an American Story” tells the true story of Melvin and Jean McNair, a couple involved with the Black Panthers who hijacked a plane from Detroit to Algeria in 1972 with their two children on board in an act of political resistance. As a result of the hijack, Melvin and Jean have lived in Paris for 40 years, unable to return to the United States.
While the festival may center on theAfrican-American experience, N’Daw-Spech said that everyone is encouraged to attend.
“We’re trying to appeal to all people,” she said. “I think this gives people a real opportunity in Queens, where you don’t necessarily get exposed to that kind of cinema. It’s an interesting way to mingle and socialize with one another and I don’t think there are many arts spaces where that can happen in Queens other than the Black Spectrum Theatre.”
International Film Festival
When: Oct. 19, Nov. 30, Dec. 7 and 14
Where: Black Spectrum Theatre
177 St. & Baisley Blvd., Jamaica
Tickets: $12 per evening/nyadiff.org