British Film Institute Launches U.K.'s Biggest Ever Celebration of Black Screen Actors

Columbia Pictures Corp./Photofest
'Boyz n' the Hood,' which will be rereleased across U.K. cinemas.

At part of the Black Star season, kicking off in October, 'Boyz n' the Hood' and 'In the Heat of the Night' will return to cinemas, while a global symposium will be held examining onscreen representation.

The British Film Institute has unveiled what is set to be the U.K.'s biggest and most comprehensive celebration of black acting talent.

Black Star, announced Wednesday, will kick off immediately following the BFI London Film Festival on Oct. 17 and will last until the end of the year.

Among the highlights of the extensive nationwide program of screenings and events will be the theatrical rereleases of John Singleton's game-changing, Oscar-nominated 1991 hit Boyz n' the Hood and 1967's multiple-Oscar-winning In the Heat of the Night, starring Sidney Poiter. A third film is set to be announced soon.

The event also will shine a spotlight on major stars from past and present, including political activists such as Paul Robeson and Lena Horne; leading men like Harry Belafonte, Sidney Poitier and Samuel L. Jackson; power players including Oprah Winfrey, Will Smith and Denzel Washington; female icons such as Dorothy Dandridge and Halle Berry; powerfully subversive names including Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy; and such rebels and blaxpoitation icons as Mario van Peebles and Pam Grier.

British homegrown talent, established and emerging, also will be celebrated, with the performances from the likes of Idris Elba, Chiwetel Ejiofor, John Boyega, Lupita Nyongo'o, Gugu Mbatha-Raw and David Oyelowo in the lineup.

Before the Black Star season officially starts, the London Film Festival will help set the agenda with a symposium which aims to bring together leading international filmmakers and industry professionals to consider why "opportunities for black actors to shine on screen in the U.S. and the U.K. remain limited" and what can be done to improve the situation.

“Imagine cinema history without Paul Robeson, Dorothy Dandridge, Sidney Poitier, Pam Grier and Samuel L Jackson — some of the greatest actors to light up our screens with their charisma and talent," BFI creative director Heather Stewart said in a statement. "Now imagine how much richer our shared memory would be, had the opportunities available to black actors matched their abilities. With Black Star we are celebrating great performances and bringing them back to the big screen for everyone to enjoy. And we are also asking searching questions, of our industry and of ourselves, driven by a passion to meet the expectations of audiences who rightly expect to see their stories and aspirations reflected on screen."

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