Festival Events

MMFF “Alliances”
February 17 – April 7


The theme for the 28th annual Massachusetts Multicultural Film Festival is “Alliances.”  What is possible when we align ourselves with others?  How can we join hands across seemingly cavernous divides?  What personal and collective transformations emerge when we rise above our own concerns and strive to see the world through others’ eyes? The 28th annual Massachusetts Multicultural Film Festival explores the power and promise of Alliances, with an international program of films that address themes of community, solidarity, and partnerships for social justice, environmental advocacy, intersectional alliance, and other collective efforts to achieve a common good, address a prevailing ill, or otherwise realize shared aspirations.  The 2021 “virtual” festival will be entirely online beginning in February and continuing into April.

The Black Church Still

Screening on-demand: February 11 – February 17

Live conversation and Q&A: Weds, February 17

The Black Church: This is our Story, This is our Song

(2021, Stacey L. Holman, Shayla Harris and Christopher Bryson, USA, 240 min, in English)

Guests: Stacey Holman (series producer/director) and Shayla Harris (producer/director)

Introduced by: Amilcar Shabazz, UMass Amherst

The Festival opens with “Telling Our Story, Singing Our Song: Preserving and Protecting Our Sacred Spaces in Dangerous Times” in partnership with New England Public Media, in honor of Black History Month and coinciding with the February 16 premiere of the PBS series The Black Church: This is our Story, This is our Song. On February 17, Amilcar Shabazz, Professor in the W. E. B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies at UMass Amherst, will join the filmmakers of The Black Church, Stacey Holman and Shayla Harris, for a conversation on the role of the Black Church as both a target for racist attacks and a powerful locus of love and lore, contributing to hope and progress in the world, especially where people of African descent live and struggle. The conversation will explore traditions of storytelling and song at the foundations of community, resilience, and building futures in the African American community from the time of slavery to the realities today. This one-hour livestream event will include audience Q&A with the filmmakers. 

The first half of the series, The Black Church: This is our Story, This is our Song, will be available on PBS stations nationwide and streaming online February 16 at 9/8c (check local listings). MMFF access will include an exclusive video introduction by Amilcar Shabazz. Following the livestream discussion and filmmaker Q&A on February 17, the second half of the series will be available at 9:00pm EST. Hosted by Henry Louis Gates, Jr., this series draws us along the transformative history of the Black church in America. Oprah Winfrey, John Legend, Jennifer Hudson, Bishop Michael Curry, Cornel West, Pastor Shirley Caesar, Rev. Al Sharpton, Yolanda Adams, Rev. William Barber II, BeBe Winans, Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie and more speak to the power and grace of the Black church across four centuries from slavery to today. 

The first half of the series is available on PBS stations nationwide and streaming at PBS.org now (check local listings).  See our MMFF Introduction by Amilcar Shabazz.

Our livestream and Q&A with the filmmakers and introducer will occur at 7:30pm EST on February 17 (Facebook and Youtube)

Right after the livestream, the second half of the series will be available on PBS stations nationwide and streaming at PBS.org at 9:00pm EST on February 17.

In partnership with New England Public Media

Landfall Still

Screening on-demand: February 18 – February 24

Live conversation and Q&A: Weds, February 24


(2020, Cecilia Aldarondo, Puerto Rico/USA, 91 mins, in English and Spanish w/ English subtitles)

Guest: Cecilia Aldarondo (director)

Introduced by: Patricia Montoya, UMass Amherst

On February 24 the festival welcomes Cecilia Aldarondo to discuss her documentary Landfall, co-presented by the UMass Amherst History Department’s 2020-2021 Feinberg Series: Planet on a Precipice. The film places us in Puerto Rico’s devastation in the wake of Hurricane Maria, a visible disaster with an unmistakable trajectory and ecological cause. Equally devastating is the economic tempest assailing the island since long before the hurricane, whose trajectory and cause are no less real. Gathering fragments of life in post-Hurricane Puerto Rico, Landfall presents a striking portrait of the resilience of Puerto Rican communities uniting against predatory opportunists and fighting to build anew. The screening includes a video introduction by filmmaker and Five College Visiting Artist, Patricia Montoya, who will also moderate the festival’s livestream discussion and Q&A with the director. 

In partnership with the Feinberg Series “Planet on a Precipice: Histories and Futures of the Environmental Emergency,” UMass Amherst

Feinberg Family Logo

Picture a Scientist Still

Screening on-demand: February 25 – March 3

Live conversation and Q&A: Weds, March 3

Picture a Scientist

(2020, Sharron Shattuck and Ian Cheney, USA, 95 mins, in English)

Guests: Sharron Shattuck and Ian Cheney (directors)

Introducer: Jeanne Hardy, UMass Amherst, Chemistry International

In connection with International Women’s Day, whose 2021 theme is #ChooseToChallenge, the festival invites Sharron Shattuck and Ian Cheney with their film Picture a Scientist on March 3. By turns poignant, enraging, and inspiring, this documentary brings to light the struggles of women scientists confronting an entrenched, pervasive culture of sexism, obstruction and exclusion and forging a new landscape for women in science. The stories of biologist Nancy Hopkins, chemist Raychelle Burks, and geologist Jane Willenbring illuminate the struggles these scientists face and point toward a future of equality and inclusion to the benefit of scientists as well as science itself and all who depend on it. Jeanne Hardy, UMass Amherst Professor of Chemistry will introduce the film and participate in a discussion and Q&A with the filmmakers. 

Bandar Band Still

Screening on-demand: March 4 – March 10

Live conversation and Q&A: Weds, March 10, 12:00pm EST

Bandar Band

(2020, Manijeh Hekmat, Iran/Germany, 75 mins, in Farsi w/ English subtitles)

Guest: Manijeh Hekmat (director)

Introduced by: Maryam Zehtabi Sabeti Moqaddam, University of Virginia

Iranian director Manijeh Hekmat joins the festival on March 10 to discuss her new film Bandar Band. Filmed during the catastrophic floods of 2019 in Iran, this road movie follows a trio of aspiring musicians journeying across a countryside-turned-seascape to compete in a talent contest in Tehran. Through Hekmat’s camera, we become a virtual member of Bandar Band, riding in the van alongside pregnant Mahla, her husband, and one of their closest friends. On the way, the band encounters flooded roads, washed-out bridges, and others who, like them, have lost all they had in the flood. Thwarted at every turn, the band still presses on toward Tehran, fueled by visions of musical success and dreams of international stardom. Introduced by Maryam Zehtabi Sabeti Moqaddam, University of Virginia, who will join Manijeh Hekmat for a livestream discussion and audience Q&A.

Forensickness Still

Screening on-demand: March 11 – March 17

Live conversation and Q&A: Weds, March 17, 12:30pm, EST

Forensickness and Watching the Pain of Others

(2020, Chloé Galibert-Laîné, France, 40 mins & 31 mins, in English/French)

Guest: Chloé Galibert-Laîné (director)

Introduced by: Barbara Zecchi, UMass Amherst

The festival bends toward experimental film and new media with the extraordinary films of French filmmaker Chloé Galibert-Laîné, video works that reimagine the creative power and evocative possibilities of nonfiction cinema.  The filmmaker joins the festival on March 17 to discuss her “desktop documentaries,” Forensickness and Watching the Pain of Others. Galibert-Laîné plays herself as a researcher in Forensickness attempting to analyze Chris Kennedy’s experimental film Watching the Detectives. Immersing herself in the vast media archive from the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, she tries to understand the mass impulse among users of internet forums to apply their own sleuthing skills to identify the bombers. What begins as online flânerie becomes a self-reflective inquiry into critical thought, digital and material artifacts, and “the ruthless politics of truth production.” As a companion piece, the festival features Galibert-Laîné’s award-winning Watching the Pain of Others, an intimate chronicle of the filmmaker’s “young researcher” as she ventures deep into the discomfiting corners of YouTube videos and online conspiracies in an effort to understand her fascination with Penny Lane’s film The Pain of Others. Barbara Zecchi, Director of Film Studies at UMass Amherst, will introduce the films and join the filmmaker for the livestream discussion and Q&A.

Lift Like a Girl Still

Screening on-demand: March 18 – March 24

Live conversation and Q&A: Weds, March 24, 1:00pm, EST (TBD)

Lift Like a Girl / Ash Ya Captain

(2020, Mayye Zayed, Egypt/Germany/Denmark, 92 mins, in Arabic w/ English subtitles)

Guest: Mayye Zayed (director)

Introduced by: Kathryn Lachman, UMass Amherst

On March 24, the festival welcomes Egyptian director Mayye Zayed to discuss her powerful documentary Lift Like a Girl. On a busy Alexandria intersection, in a vacant dirt lot that serves as an improvised gym and training center, we meet fifteen-year-old Asmaa. For over five years, she has trained as a weightlifter with her irrepressible coach, Captain Ramadan, who trains female athletes for free, including Olympic Gold Medalists and World Record holders.  “Zebiba” he calls her, meaning little “raisin,” yet he sees in Asmaa the makings of a world-class champion.  With immersive camerawork and unflinching storytelling, Mayye’s film portrays this girl’s setbacks and triumphs with tenderness and grit. Introduced by Kathryn Lachman, Comparative Literature at UMass Amherst, who will moderate a conversation and Q&A with the filmmaker.

Your Mother's Comfort Still

Screening on-demand: March 25 – March 31

Live conversation and Q&A: Weds, March 31

Your Mother’s Comfort / Aconchego da tua mãe

(2020, Adam Golub, United States/Brazil, 75 mins, in Portuguese w/ English subtitles)

Guests: Adam Golub (director) and Indianara Siqueira

Introduced by: Nefeli Forni Zervoudaki, UMass Amherst

On International Trans Day of Visibility, March 31, the festival welcomes documentary director Adam Golub and political leader Indianara Siqueira to discuss Your Mother’s ComfortThrough mass demonstrations, political campaigns, and occupations of vacant buildings in Rio de Janeiro, Indianara Siqueira leads, with courage and steely grace, the struggle for the rights of the LGBTQ+ community and sex workers, against the transphobic political establishment. Golub’s documentary takes us inside Casa Nem, a sanctuary for the homeless and ostracized on the basis of gender identity and sexuality, and into the streets, where Indianara’s movement finds alliances with other political leaders and activists as well as ordinary citizens.  Nefeli Forni Zervoudaki, UMass Amherst Comparative Literature, introduces the film and joins Adam Golub and Indianara Siqueira, together with Genny Beemyn, Director of The Stonewall Center at UMass Amherst, for a discussion and audience Q&A.  

Lucky Chan-Sil Still

Screening on-demand: April 1 – April 7

Live conversation and Q&A: Weds, April 7

Lucky Chan-sil / Chan-sil-yi-neun bok-do man-chi

(2020, Kim Cho-hee, South Korea, 96 mins, in Korean w/ English subtitles)

Guest: Kim Cho-hee (director)

Introduced by: Irhe Sohn, Smith College

The festival culminates in a screening of the exquisite film Lucky Chan-sil, directed by South Korean filmmaker Kim Cho-hee, longtime producer for Hong Sang-soo. The film tells the story of a successful film producer for a celebrated art film director who finds her career abruptly derailed when the director dies. Blending dream and reality, Kim infuses her film with humor, imagination and intelligence, connecting a constellation of richly written characters all of whom intersect in some way with Chan-sil’s love of cinema and her calling as a filmmaker.  Introduction by Irhe Sohn, Smith College, with conversation and Q&A on April 7.