San Francisco Black Film Festival Brings Hometown Celebrity to Library

SAN FRANCISCO — San Francisco welcomes home Mario Van Peebles this Sunday, June 16, for a memorable day of film screenings and conversation at San Francisco Public Library. Van Peebles’s full-length feature film, Armed, will be shown as part of the San Francisco Black Film Festival, running from June 13–16. All screenings at the Library are free. 

In Armed (2018), Chief, a former U.S. marshal suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, discovers that all of the survivors of his old unit are experiencing the same symptoms simultaneously and suspects there may be a larger conspiracy at hand. Van Peebles researched, wrote, starred in, produced and directed the action-packed film, which challenges the powerful gun industry. 

Van Peebles is a native of San Francisco, where his renowned father Melvin Van Peebles was a grip man on cable cars before becoming a trailblazing film director. Like his father, Van Peebles became a consummate filmmaker and Renaissance man. In 1986, Van Peebles broke out as an actor in Clint Eastwood‘s Heartbreak Ridge and played political icon Malcolm X in Ali, directed by Michael Mann. His own directing feature debut was the gangster classic hit New Jack City (1991). Van Peebles starred in and directed his bold Black western Posse, which also featured his father. The duo teamed up to make the feature film Panther, about the rise of the Black Panther party for self defense in Oakland. Additionally, Van Peebles wrote, starred, produced and directed Baadasssss! (2003), the odyssey about the making of his father’s game-changing 1971 film, Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song. An advocate for education and environmental justice, Van Peebles also produced Bring Your Game for at-risk youth and chronicles his family’s humorous attempts to go green in materialistic Hollywood in Mario’s Green House.   

Van Peebles is returning for an encore appearance at the San Francisco Black Film Festival (SFBFF), a family run event, which celebrated 25 years in 2023. Van Peebles first appeared at the festival when it was under the direction of founder Ave Montague. After Montague’s passing in 2009, direction of SFBFF went to her son, Kali O’Ray, who died unexpectedly in 2020. It is now run by Montague’s granddaughter, Cree Ray.   

Ray, a San Francisco native, considers it an honor to keep the festival going. “For me, in this day in age, it’s special to be able to share our heritage and our culture and bring our visibility back to San Francisco,” she says. “There’s not many of us in San Francisco anymore. The film festival is going to help bring connection back to the Black community and other communities and nationalities supporting us.”  

Sunday’s Full Film Schedule:   

12:00–12:54 p.m. – Preschool to Prison   

12:54–1 p.m. – Ubuntu: The Baobab Tree Story   

1–1:15 p.m. – Ma ŋaye ka Masaala a se ka Wɔmɛti (From God To Man)  

1:15–1:20 p.m. – Obini   

1:20–1:30 p.m. – The Promise   

1:30–1:50 p.m. – Ivory Coast Initiative  

1:50–2:05 p.m. INTERMISSION   

2:05–4:05 p.m. – Armed   

4:05–4:30 p.m. INTERMISSION   

4:30–5:30 p.m. – Mario Van Peebles live Q&A 

San Francisco Black Film Festival's (SFBFF) mission is to celebrate African American cinema and the African cultural diaspora and to showcase a diverse collection of films–from emerging and established filmmakers. SFBFF believes film can lead to a better understanding of and communication between, peoples of diverse cultures, races and lifestyles, while simultaneously serving as a vehicle to initiate dialogue on the important issues of our times. 

For more information about the film festival and a complete line up, please visit  

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About San Francisco Public Library:

San Francisco Public Library connects our diverse communities to learning, opportunities and each other. The library system is made up of 27 neighborhood branches, the San Francisco Main Library at Civic Center and four bookmobiles.

June 12, 2024