Social anxiety is often the fuel for an explosion of artistic expression, which serves to both uplift voices and provide release for both artist and consumer. Racial tensions are at all time high, inequality is amplified and we are facing a mental health crisis on the heels of a pandemic that continues to ripple through an economy in chaos.
These issues are front and center as local filmmaker Ebony Robers hosts her inaugural United We Heal Film Festival on June 20, 2022 at Underground Arts. Roberts searched the Philadelphia area for dynamic filmmakers of color who are diving into these difficult topics.
The night will feature both new and established local filmmakers for screenings and panel discussions, along with a mental health Q&A with Dr. Wilmetta Simmons.
As mental health resources for black and brown communities continue to fall behind, Robers thought it essential to enlist Dr. Simmons. Simmons is President of the Pennsylvania Psychological Foundation and often lends her voice to ESSENCE, TV One and more – speaking on healing from systemic racism.
Robers has a vision. “I wanted to start a festival that gives a platform to filmmakers that are often overlooked and are making positive changes in their communities through film,” said Roberts. “When I directed my short film, United We Heal, all I wanted was to provide comfort and hope to Black people in America. Now that we’ve turned it into a festival, I hope we can grow each year and make a global impact. I’d like to be part of a movement that gives spaces to Black & Brown artists to operate freely, tell their stories. I want us to be a bridge to resources and needs in our communities.”
The United We Heal Film Festival started as a short film of the same name, which was first screened in 2021. Moved by the social unrest of 2020, Roberts turned her frustration into art.
The film is described as “a journey to Black freedom, shifting the focus from trauma to hope”.