National Film Series Featuring Queer Women of Color Has a Chapter in Richmond 

click to enlarge Richmond brand manager Ayana Obika leads local screenings of Sistah Sinemah.

Richmond brand manager Ayana Obika leads local screenings of Sistah Sinemah.

If #OscarsSoWhite, it also follows that #OscarsSoStraight.

Drill down further and one group even more conspicuously absent from the moviemaking table is queer women of color. Their invisibility in film was the impetus for creating Sistah Sinema, a multi-state arts group seeking to change that by screening films by and about queer women of color.

The group has chapters in nine cities including Richmond, with bimonthly screenings led by Richmond brand manager Ayana Obika. She owns the business with partner, India Pierce

This weekend’s screening of “While You Weren’t Looking,” directed by Catherine Stewart, looks at South Africa through the lives and experiences of a cross-section of Cape Town queers. As a starting point, it uses South Africa’s progressive stance of leading the world with an all-embracing constitution granting unprecedented rights to homosexuals.

Shot on locations in and around Cape Town in only 24 days, the film features a stellar South African cast and a strong lineup of local musicians likely new to Richmond viewers.

“The goal is to not only shine a spotlight on independent film by and about QWOC from all over the world, but also to serve as a catalyst for the building of community,” Obika says. “One of our frequently used hashtags is #MoreThanAMovie, because when our audiences attend a Sistah Sinema screening, we want them to leave having met and shared thoughts, ideas and opinions with others.”

By engaging the community in ways that a typical movie-going experience doesn’t, Sistah Sinema seeks to instigate dialogues. You never know when you might get post-screening guided discussions and talk backs with a film’s director or a principal from the film or sometimes an artistic performance or reading. S

“While You Weren’t Looking,” produced by the Out in Africa Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, screens Feb. 27 at 3 p.m. at Capital Ale House, 623 E. Main St. Tickets are $6 at the door or at brownpapertickets.com.

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