Roxbury International Film Festival Returns to Celebrate 20 Years of Diverse Independent Cinema

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Boston, MAThe Roxbury International Film Festival (RoxFilm) kicks off its 20th anniversary with the critically acclaimed film that’s part-animated fable, part observational documentary Liyana on Thursday, June 21 at 7:00 p.m. the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. (Boston Premiere)

Directed and produced by husband-and-wife-team Aaron and Amanda Kopp, Liyana tells the story of how five orphaned Swazi children turn their past trauma into creative fuel for an original collective fairytale, in which they send a young girl on a dangerous quest to save the day. The film is beautifully illustrated by Nigerian born art director Shofela Coker, teacher and co-founder of  Coker Co-op, a collective that creates comics, sculptures, and digital media, and was awarded the Grand Jury Award for Best Documentary at the LA Film Festival and the Jury Award for Artistic Bravery at the Durban International Film Festival in South Africa.

For the past two decades, the Roxbury International Film Festival has championed underrepresented voices that tell rich stories of people of color from around the world.  In those 20 years, they have screened more than 1,200 features, documentaries, and shorts. This year, the celebration of independent cinema, filmmakers of color and films celebrating people of color takes place June 20 – 30 at the Museum of Fine Arts, the Haley House Bakery Café, and Hibernian Hall in Roxbury.  A free, pre-festival screening event will take place on Wednesday, June 20 at the Museum of Fine Arts.

Other confirmed films to be screened at #RoxFilm20 include:

The South African film, The Lucky Specials, tells the story of Mandla, who works as a miner by day, but is passionate about playing guitar and dreams of making it big in the music industry by night. When tragedy strikes Mandla, his friend Nkanyiso and the band must find the strength to make their dreams a reality in Rea Rangaka’s inspiring tale. (New England Premiere) 

Directed by Nancy Buirski, The Rape of Recy Taylor, chronicles the gang rape of 24-year-old black mother and sharecropper, Recy Taylor, by six white boys in 1944 Alabama. Common in Jim Crow South, few women spoke up in fear for their lives. Not Recy Taylor, who bravely identified her rapists.

In Nijla Mu’min’s feature, Jinn, (a 2018 SXSW Festival award winner), Summer is a 17-year old carefree black girl, whose world is turned upside down when her mother, a popular meteorologist named Jade Jennings, abruptly converts to Islam and becomes a different person, prompting Summer to reevaluate her identity. (New England Premiere)

Narrated by CCH Pounder (NCIS: New Orleans), the C. Fitz-directed documentary Jewel’s Catch One explores the legacy of America’s oldest black-owned disco club as well as the life of businesswoman and activist, Jewel Thais-Williams, who provided safe spaces for LGBTQ, black and AIDS-impacted communities in Los Angeles for four decades. Ms. Fitz’s Jewel’s Catch One is an electric and melodic journey highlighted by exclusive interviews with Sharon Stone, Thelma Houston, Evelyn “Champagne” King, Madonna, Sandra Bernhard, Thea Austin, Jenifer Lewis, Representative Maxine Waters and Bonnie Pointer. (New Ava DuVernay ARRAY acquired film – ROXFILM is an ARRAY Maverick)

In Alfons Adetuyi’s romantic comedy Love Jacked, a young African American woman (Amber Stevens West of The Carmichael Show) has dreams of becoming an artist but is stuck running the family hardware store for her overbearing father (Keith David star of OWN-TV’s Greenleaf). When she asserts her independence by traveling to Africa she returns with a fiancé who is not quite what he seems. (New England Premiere)

Gina’s Journey: The Search For William Grimes. A woman’s journey to discover and trace the steps of her ancestor, who traveled along the Underground Railroad to freedom, and authored the first slave narrative in U.S. history. (New England Premiere)

The Roxbury International Film Festival is a competitive festival that awards certificates in the categories of Audience Favorite, Narrative Film, Documentary Film, Narrative Short, Documentary Short, Youth, Emerging Filmmaker, with a special award named after award-winning filmmaker Henry Hampton.

Sponsored by Onyx Spectrum, Black Star Enterprises, Massport, and the Museum of Fine Arts, the festival will also feature panel discussions and workshops―all open to the public.

To purchase festival passes and for more information visit