Black Warrior Film Festival celebrates its 10th anniversary

Alyssa Schubert, Staff Reporter

The Black Warrior Film Festival is one of The University of Alabama’s most anticipated events of the year, and the wait for it is almost over. Celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, the student-run film festival will return with a wide variety of films, panels and opportunities to better understand the ever-growing film industry. It will run from March 31 through April 1 at The University of Alabama Student Center Forum in room 3700. 

Created in 2013 by a group of undergraduate students in the department of telecommunication and film, the Black Warrior Film Festival aims “to build an experience where student filmmakers are not only recognized for their work, but also presented with opportunities to interact with industry professionals and network with other filmmakers,” according to their website. 

Some films that have been featured in the past are “A Million Dollar Journey: A Documentary,”, “One Last Cast,” and “I Wish: A Short Film.” This year, a similar film diversity is to be expected and enjoyed throughout the festival, which will be separated into four blocks: horror/experimental, documentary/comedy, drama and Holle.  The Holle category is designated for Holle Awards for Excellence in Creativity and Communication winners, which are national awards given by the UA College of Communication and Information Sciences. 

This year, one of the Holle Award finalists was Black Warrior Film Festival’s Tyler Garcia, who graduated in December 2022 with a degree in creative media and served as the BWFF head director, for his short film “Ofrenda.” Along with Garcia’s work, the upcoming festival will also show the short films of the other four finalists, who can be found throughout the country. 

For those interested in joining, the Black Warrior Film Festival has an application for next year’s team, as well as one for submitting a film, located on their website.  

Kristen Warner, the former BWFF advisor and outgoing UA faculty member, said the festival is one of the few student-run film festivals in the country. 

“It is one of the few film festivals in the South as well, so while it is small in size compared to others, we have gained name recognition for the quality of the event,” Warner said. 

Warner is perhaps one of the reasons that the festival is able to be run by students. Landon Palmer, the current advisor of the Black Warrior Film Festival and assistant professor in journalism and creative media, gave his predecessor a great deal of credit for the development of the festival.  

“She set the standard for the high caliber of professional guests that BWFF has hosted, and the festival is a well-run machine thanks in no small part to her work and that of the students,” Palmer said.  

Palmer said he wanted to make it clear that the students are the stars of the show, and he is just an observer from the wings.  

“It really, really is a student-run festival,” Palmer said. “UA students who are a part of the festival team meet several times a week in order to go through all the ins and outs of scheduling, funding, selection of programming and boosting the festival as an organization. They do a really fantastic job at that.” 

As faculty advisor, Palmer said that his biggest responsibility is to just “maintain the autonomy of the leadership from the students.” 

One of those students is Kendra Zebroski, a senior majoring in creative media who serves as the head co-director of the Black Warrior Film Festival. She oversees filmmaker relations, industry relations and programming departments for the festival. 

“Seeing everything come together, whether it is an event we are doing or the festival itself, to be able to see our vision and the actualization of it happen is my favorite part of working with the festival,” Zebroski said. “You get that relief when it ends like, ‘Ok, we are done. We did it.’” 

Being student-run, the festival is aimed toward students, but also takes into consideration community members that will attend. According to the festival’s mission statement, the BWFF is “cultivated by the talents of the student filmmakers and strives to generate interests in their work.” 

Zebroski expanded on this idea, saying that she hopes attendees will find a new appreciation in the art.  

“I really hope that people can see whether they are a creative media major or just someone who likes to watch movies, that film is for everyone,” Zebroski said. “There is a niche for everyone; while one genre might not be your favorite, another will be.” 

The variety of the Black Warrior Film Festival is yet another unique feature that it has to offer. There is more than one genre of film, something that anyone who attends can appreciate.  

“It showcases a wide variety of different types of filmmaking that there are,” Palmer said. “The Black Warrior Film Festival is really good at showcasing a variety of different types of films from various narrative genres such as comedy, horror and drama.” 

Palmer went on to say that documentary and experimental work have been part of the festival in the past.  

Along with the eclectic genres of film, BWFF showcases panels with industry professionals that give students and attendees an insight into the life of a filmmaker and what they could be doing after college.  

“The industry professionals offer valuable expertise and advice to aspiring film students both in [journalism and creative media] as well as across the university at large,” Warner said.  

Some of the professional guests that attend include film critics, producers and directors. This year, the special guests include Cameo Wood, Daye Rogers, RaMell Ross, Todd Lewis, Craig Brewer, Leigh Rusevlyan, Mackenzie Rutledge and Caroline Moore.  

Their panels include topics such as directors in the industry, a scriptwriter’s workshop, a C&IS around the world panel, and an award ceremony at the end, which will reveal the Holle Award winner.  

The festival experience offers community, something lacking with the rise of streaming and going to the movie theater.  

“Film is a social experience,” Palmer said.  

That sentiment adds all the more value to the Black Warrior Film Festival, making it a vibrant and unique setting to enjoy film. 

The vision statement of the Black Warrior Film Festival sums it up perfectly, with the ultimate hope that the festival’s experience represents the evolving, creative process of filmmaking year after year.  

If you’re looking to volunteer for the Black Warrior Film Festival, or if you wish to be a part of their team next school year, visit their website.