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BLACK WOMEN IN FILM

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The Reel Sisters of the Diaspora Film Festival and Lecture Series will honor actress and jazz singer Lonette McKee (pictured) at a gala reception on March 15 at 6:30 pm at the Brooklyn Museum of Art (200 Eastern Parkway).

The event is just one highlight of the three-day festival, which includes screenings of 23 films at Long Island University’s Spike Lee Screening Room (Flatbush Avenue Extension at DeKalb Avenue) on March 14 and March 16.

As part of the March 15 tribute to McKee, Julie Dash’s 1982 short film, "Illusions" will be screened, as well as clips from McKee’s other film roles. There will also be a Q&A with the audience.

McKee will receive the Reel Sisters Pioneer Award for her work in films such as "Lift" (2001), "Sparkle" (1976), "Jungle Fever" (1991) and "The Cotton Club" (1984). (This is not the first accolade for the multi-talented actress, who has also received a 1983 Tony nomination for her starring role in the Broadway production of "Show Boat.")

The stated mission of the fifth annual festival, which this year changed its name from the African-American Women in Cinema Conference, is "to provide opportunities for women of color filmmakers to showcase their films and network with industry professionals" and to celebrate their contributions to film, said festival co-founder Carolyn Butts, a Prospect Heights resident.

Among the notable short films being showcased are Brooklyn filmmaker Dream Hampton’s "I am Ali" (March 16, 1:25 pm), a dark comedy about a schizophrenic young black man who believes he is the former heavyweight champ. (Hampton’s film was also screened at the Sundance Film Festival last January.) Del Hunter-White’s "Cornbread" (March 14, 6:30 pm) about an 8-year-old girl’s search "for the missing salt" in her life; and "Standing at the Edge, We Dance!" (March 14, 9:05 pm), a documentary about Joan Myers Brown’s fight to keep the dance institution, "Phildanco," going, are also must-see movies, said Butts.

For the complete festival schedule, tickets and other information, call festival co-founder Rodney Hurley at Long Island University at (718) 488-1052 or visit www.reelsisters.org. Gala tickets ($65) and festival passes can be purchased in advance at Sweets Village, 702 Washington Ave. at Prospect Place, (718) 857-7757 or at LIU. A three-day festival pass (including the gala) is $100 and a day pass is $25.

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