This Saturday, The Langston Hughes African Film Festival has a lot to celebrate. For the last two years, the festival’s home, The Langston Hughes Performing Arts Center, has been closed for seismic and electrical upgrades and some architectural renovations. Now, they’re back home and tomorrow’s opening night gala will be the first cultural event in the historic space in two years.
The Performing Arts Center was originally dedicated as the Chevra Bikur Cholim Jewish Synagogue in 1915. It was designed by Seattle architect B. Marcus Priteca and was notable for its polygonal structure and terra cotta detailing. It began its second life as the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Center in 1969 and became part of Seattle Parks and Recreation in 1972.
For the opening gala this Saturday, April 14, they will be screening “The Last Fall,” the directorial debut of former NFL player Matthew Cherry, who will be attending the screening. The film centers around a young football player, Kyle Bishop, who’s nearing the end of his career. The film follows Bishop as he returns to the reality of home life, moving back in with his mother and coming to terms with life after sports. A post screening discussion with Matt Cherry and a reception will be part of the opening night festivities.
Other highlights include “Audre Lorde-The Berlin Years 1984 to 1992” which screens this Sunday, April 15. This film documents the noted theorist, essayist, poet and lesbian activist Audre Lorde’s time in Berlin and how her ideas about human differences inspired the development of a Black German movement and how it encouraged the growth of consciousness around racism amongst white European women.
Also, next Saturday, April 21st, the festival will screen “The Story of Lover’s Rock.” This film documents the uniquely Black British musical movement that developed throughout the late 70s and early 80s. The music and scrubbing, the dance associated with it, served as a way for young people to experience intimacy and healing in spite of the racism and violence that they faced every day on the streets of Britain. The sounds of Lovers Rock would influence many of the top UK pop acts of the day (The Police, UB40, Culture Club) yet the music has been tragically forgotten. This film attempts to right that wrong and successfully sheds light on an important period of British music, social and political history.
The festival runs through Sunday, April 22nd and the full schedule can be found here. Come out and support an amazing film festival in an amazing, and newly restored, venue.