Written by | Ray Cornelius

Hip Hop lovers get ready! The first-ever Hip Hop Film Festival is coming to Harlem NYC August 3-6, 2016.  The three-day festival is where film meets the narrative of the Hip Hop generation and seeks to give a platform to the underserved filmmakers of the culture, while providing a different narrative to the general public.

I recently caught up with Festival Co-Founder CR Capers to chat about this year’s activities and how it’s the first of it’s kind to also financially assist rising filmmakers.

“This is the first festival designed to give power back to the filmmaker by not only telling the stories that are told by us but also by supporting filmmakers financially. Every filmmaker that is selected gets a share of the film festival’s profits which is a first,” says CR Capers, who also hosts the “Why You Mad Son Radio Show.” “Being a filmmaker myself, I know what it’s like putting all of your blood, sweat and tears into a film and then have to pay all of the enormous fees and never hear from anyone because you don’t know a celebrity or someone on the committee. So, this is kind of a clarion call to level out the playing field and it’s definitely our time.”

big-l-extra-large-picture-psd-450214Festival highlights include the world premiere of “Street Stuck: The Big L Story,”  a documentary about slain Harlem rapper Lamont Coleman aka Big L whose career was was cut short when he was gunned down in 1999. According to Capers, Big L was preparing for superstardom.

“We have a documentary on Big L, who was slated to actually eclipse Jay Z. If you’re a hip hop aficionado then you know about Big L. He was from Harlem and was big time. There are several murals of him around the city. His best friend is the director of the film and that premiere will be driving the festival as well.”

Other premieres include a feature film from hip hop icon Ralph McDaniels. His legendary New York City cable access program “Video Music Box” was the first television program to broadcast rap videos in 1983. He is also credited for helping to launch the film careers of numerous directors and was a consultant on such projects as “Juice” and most recently “Fresh Dressed,” which aired last year on CNN. There will also be a web series competition and numerous workshops including one on “How to navigate a Distribution Deal” as well as master class with McDaniels and friends.

Capers also says that film submissions don’t have to be about hip hop and that she welcomes stories from all filmmakers including ones from LGBTQ writers and directors. This is a first for a community that has been largely criticized in the past by hip hop artists.  However, Capers hopes to bridge that gap through this year’s festival.

15764136-dancers-silhouettes-over-a-rainbow-background“It has to be a film that begins a conversation towards healing, understanding and acceptance.  It will thrive too simply because it is hip hop and it’s such a taboo subject. Anytime you hear someone talking about gay rights and hip hop and gay rappers, those are the things that get the most hits. Why? Because it’s the most controversial. The reason why it often goes in a negative direction though is because it’s never a conversation or a piece that makes people think or talk to the humanity of the person,” says Capers. “Sexuality is just that, a sexual preference. It doesn’t speak to the person’s inner humanity.  It’s going to be really interesting to see what types of stories are submitted in that vein. It will also be our job to ensure that it’s a human story that encourages dialogue rather than dissent.”

Submissions for this year’s inaugural Hip Hop Film Festival are now through March 15th.

Photo Credit: HipHopFilmFestivalNYC.com