Three greats of the arts will be featured in documentaries at this year’s BlackStar Film Festival, celebrating works by and about people of African descent.  

But only one is BaddDDD.

“BaddDDD Sonia Sanchez,” from city filmmakers Barbara Attie, Janet Goldwater, and Sabrina Schmidt, will make its Philly debut on Saturday at International House. 

“We want to put her on the national stage,” says Goldwater of the poet. “She had had thousands of students and people know her and love her but they only know a piece of her story. To the extent that we can in an hour and half, we’re going to give you her whole life.”

Sanchez was one of the leading figures of the Black Arts movement of the 1960s and has lived in Philly since she started teaching at Temple in the ‘70s. She just concluded a two-year term as the city’s poet laureate.

Questlove, Talib Kweli, Amiri Baraka, Ruby Dee and more were interviewed for the film.

“She combined folk and poetry with music and dance and also political activism and she’s always moving the discussion forward,” Goldwater says. “People who know her, appreciate her, but she’s never been front and center like some of her contemporaries. It’s amazing that she’s right here in Philadelphia.”

The filmmakers last work, 2009’s “Mrs. Goundo’s Daughter,” was broadcast on PBS.

As for BlackStar’s other arts docs, actress Roby Dee, who passed away last year, tells her story with actor husband Ossie Davis in “Life’s Essentials with Ruby Dee,” and “August Wilson: The Ground on Which I Stand” spotlights the late Tony and Pulitzer winning playwright. 

Homegown films this year include “The Block” by Tristan Santana; “Sara & Dennis” by Shahin Izadi; “Take 5” by Jasmine Callis and “Dice” by Virtaj Nayar.

Lights, camera, interaction

Even though the acclaim for the fest has been great — Ebony magazine called it “the black Sundance” —  the experience is still manageable enough for filmmakers and fans to make connections, says founder Maori Karmael Holmes.

“Now it feels like a family reunion,” Holmes says. “I definitely feel that aspect is there of fiImmakers attending who want to see friends and they see our space like that. It is a place for the audience to get close to the filmmakers and have those who are curious about the process ask questions.”

If you go

The BlackStar Film Festival runs Thursday, July 30 through Sunday, Aug. 2. Venues include International House (3701 Chestnut St.), the Institute of Contemporary Art (118 S. 36th St.), and World Cafe Live (3025 Walnut St.).  

Tickets are $12, with discounts for students, seniors and International House members. An all-festival pass is $150.

For showtimes and tickets, go to