Black Lily blossoms

Women's music fest adds film screenings, girls workshop & more

Posted: May 01, 2007

REJECTION, REJECTION and more rejection.

For many young women, the road to success in the music and film businesses is long, bumpy and often impossible to navigate.

Many women produce movies and write songs that never see the light of day. Others submit finished works to film festivals, agents and shows, and are flatly denied the opportunity to showcase their work.

Black Lily aims to change that, one artist at a time.

What began in 1999 as a grassroots effort by two local musicians to assemble women from all over the world for jam sessions has morphed into one woman's dream: To celebrate women in music and film whose voices might otherwise not be heard.

The event was born in 1999, when Philly musicians Mercedes Martinez and Tracey Moore took their R&B group Jazzyfatnastees on the road, starting an all-women jam session called Black Lily to celebrate female musical talent.

Black Lily debuted in New York City and traveled to cities around the world before becoming a regular event at Philly's Five Spot between 2000 and 2005.

This weekend, Black Lily is finally back, bigger than ever with 30 international musicians and 47 international filmmakers, all of whom will debut their works at the first Black Lily Film & Music Festival.

The unique three-day festival - with events at World Cafe Live, the Painted Bride and Drexel University - meshes female movies and music, and will be packed with movie screenings, two evenings of mind-blowing music and an honors-awards ceremony that will pay tribute to local singer Jill Scott and others.

Two Black Lily concerts, including a Black Lily Reunion and a Black Lily Honors concert, will feature A-list performers like Alice Smith, Ursula Rucker, Melody Gardot and the Jazzyfatnastees, as well as some of the women, like Scott, who got their break through Black Lily.

The festival will also include workshops for local young women interested in film and music production, and a series of screenings, "Young Lily," featuring teenage filmmakers' work.

We spoke with organizer Maori Holmes, a Temple University graduate whose ingenuity and commitment to women's arts in Philadelphia helped bring the festival to new heights.

"At this point we're the only Black Lily," said Holmes. "We want to do another festival here, and people have approached me to bring the festival to them, but that would be pending funding."

Q: How did you come to be a part of the festival?

A: I did a documentary film called "Scene Not Heard," about women in Philadelphia music, and I interviewed the Jazzyfatnastees and taped a few things at Black Lily. After the film was finished and I had the chance to tour around the country with it, I noticed that the women's film festivals were these really amazing, supportive environments.

After I got rejected from the Philadelphia Film Festival - and so did a few of my friends - I kept thinking about the need for a women's film festival, and I decided to start one. I was thinking of names, and it occurred to me that the vibe and mission of Black Lily would be super cool - not to mention half of the marketing would be included - so I approached Mercedes [Martinez] and Tracey [Moore] to see what their interest would be. They were excited, and thus began our journey in February 2006.

Q: What was the idea behind it?

A: The idea behind merging the film and music festivals was the reality that it's similarly difficult for women in both industries to break through and have their voices heard.

Q: Will anything new be a part of the Philadelphia festival, or is there something Black Lily hasn't done before?

A: The film portion, the workshops, the panel discussions and the girls' workshop are all new. Black Lily had previously been a women-in-music series and a series of concerts around the world - the film and education portion is new - as is the whole festival idea itself.

Previously, you would come to Black Lily and have no idea who you would see perform. For our two concerts this year, it's been publicized who is performing on both nights and there are so many acts - 12 each night! And, the Black Lily Honors are also a first-time effort.

Q: How can young Philadelphia women get involved this year?

A: Young women ages 12-19 can participate in the Girls Workshops for free [but they must apply]. The workshops are in DJing, fashion styling, editing and songwriting with actual artists from the field. They take place Friday from 4 to 8 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Q: Are you hoping to continue this tradition in years to come?

A: We are most definitely planning to continue the festival and are planning for next year now. We hope to know the date very soon, as well as some of the honorees. We also hope to expand on the Girls Workshop. The women in the music series will be relaunched every second Sunday at World Cafe Live beginning June 10, and we are in talks with a few venues about a quarterly film series.

I have received a few calls about taking the festival on tour.

Q: Does the festival raise money for young artists?

A: We are a 501(c)(3) [nonprofit], and we currently raise money to put on the festival. We are all volunteer-run, but it costs money to pay for the films, artist travel, performance fees, program guides, show reels, posters, T-shirts, Web site, etc. *

For more information, or to see a full schedule of events for the Black Lily Film & Music Festival, go to www.blacklilyfilm.org.

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