The Bronze Lens Film Festival, one of the nation’s premier festivals showcasing and honoring filmmakers of color, kicked off its ninth season Wednesday at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis. The festival will run through Sunday.

The first festival screened 23 films. This year, the number has quadrupled according to Artistic Director Deidre McDonald.

“Our submissions come from over 20 countries,” McDonald said. “Virtually all the films you will see are Atlanta premieres, some even U.S. premieres. Just last year, We were honored to be designated as an Academy Award Qualifying Festival in the Shorts category.” 

Thursday of the festival is designated as All Shorts Day with short films being shown from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the hotel.

The festival will once again present a variety of films from feature, documentaries, animation and a showcase just for children. Films will be shown at the hotel headquarters, the Georgia Pacific Auditorium, Landmark Midtown Theaters, and the Southwest Arts Center.

The first opening night feature film was “Jinn” by director Nijla Mumin and starring Atlanta’s own actress Zoe Renee (“The Quad”).

The film portrays the story of Summer, a carefree black teenage girl whose world is turned upside down when her mother abruptly converts Islam and becomes a different person.

The second screening at 9 p.m. was “Brian Banks,” a biopic about an aspiring NFL player who was imprisoned for a rape he didn’t commit and was later freed with the help of an innocence project.  The film stars Sherri Shepherd (“Trial and Error”) and Oscar nominee Greg Kinnear.

A major highlight of the festival is its Superstars Luncheon this afternoon, which honors women of achievement who are in front of and behind the camera.

This year’s recipients include:

• Vanguard Superstar Award – Samantha Vincent, producer, “Fast & Furious”;

• Catalyst Superstar – Ayoka Chenzira, director, producer and animator;  and,

• Visionary Superstar – Tina Lifford, “Queen Sugar.”

Also coming back for the second time is the popular “A Conversation and Sunday Brunch With The Brothers” which salutes men of color in the film and TV industry.

Providing their industry insights will be actor/entrepreneur Alan Maldonado; actor/singer T.C. Carson and actor Mykelti Williamson. Ray Cornelius, host of WCLK-FM’s “Upfront” will moderate the discussion.

A series of panels will once again feature industry insiders who will offer important information to aspiring actors and filmmakers on how to advance their careers.

A favorite panel hosted each year is this morning’s “Status of Production in Georgia: What’s In It For Me?” —  a panel discussion that exposes the growing impact of the entertainment industry on Georgia and the metro Atlanta area.

Other panel topics include “The Business side of Indie Filmmaking,” “Taking Advantage of the Music and Tax Incentives,” “The Hollywood Way” How To Compete On A Pro Level – What Is The Industry Standard?” “Nollywood In the Digital Era,” and “The Legal Angle How Do I Market and Distribute The Project?”

The closing feature film Sunday will be “Canal Street” (Georgia Pacific), a film by Rhyan Lamarr and starring Williamson.

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