East Harlem Outdoor Film Festival, New York’s Newest Film Festival Launches

 Hi-ARTS, New York City’s premier incubator for urban art, will launch the inaugural Outdoor Film Festival on July 6, 2022.

Part of the Festival of New York, the three-day cinematic event that runs through July 8, is being presented in partnership with George Washington Houses’ 1809 Resident Watch with the support of the Maysles Documentary Center.

The Outdoor Film Festival consists of a series of interactive workshops and film screenings set in open spaces and nature in East Harlem.

With each day given a thematic focal point, the festival is centered around intergenerational healing as it relates to Black and BIPOC communities living in Harlem and across New York City.

The festival will take place in both the outdoor gardens of George Washington Houses, a New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) public housing development, and El Barrio’s Artspace, home of Hi-ARTS.


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“The Outdoor Film Festival is not only an opportunity to showcase Hi-ARTS’ incredible artists, but also welcomes our audiences, artists and immediate neighbors into a shared space while centering topics of healing and community-building. We’re committed to offering experiences that reflect and engage our communities, especially in times of unrest, trauma and uncertainty,” said Aaron L. McKinney, Executive Director of Hi-ARTS.

The Outdoor Film Festival kicks off on Wednesday, July 6, in the Peaceful Antilles Garden at George Washington Houses (East 99th Street between 2nd and 3rd Avenues) with Taking Root ‘n’ Talking Roots, and will include a series of two interactive workshops led by Hakim Pitts, artist and Associate Producer of the BlackStar Film Festival award-winning documentary In Our Mothers’ Gardens featuring Tarana Burke.

These small group workshops, centered around communal gardening and discussion, will involve Pitts guiding participants through meditation and group discussion on individual and familial histories with the intent to equip participants with tools to foster intergenerational healing. 

These small group workshops run from 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. ET and require registration at www.hi-artsnyc.org with priority given to residents of George Washington Houses.

The festival continues on Thursday, July 7, from 7 to 9:30 p.m. ET with The Gardens We Tend. The event will include the sharing of two work-in-progress films: GODSPEED: A Story from the Black Future by Celia C. Peters and I DIGRESS: The Intimate Insights of a Childhood Weirdo by Sauda Aziza Jackson and April Sweeney.

The evening includes two short films by Hi-ARTS residency alumni: (construct)Clearing by Tanika I. Williams and What does PURPLE sound like? by Sydnie L. Mosley Dances (SLMDances). 

The Gardens We Tend will take place at George Washington Houses’ Community Circle Stage platform. Registration is encouraged with priority given to residents of George Washington Houses.



An Afrofuturist sci-fi feature film set in the near future, GODSPEED features a brilliant tech editor plagued by terrifying psychological symptoms, who refuses to believe the revelation that she’s not human — and that the only cure that will save her is on another world.

I DIGRESS: The Intimate Insights of a Childhood Weirdo is a four-episode, transmedia performance memoir exploring the weight of inheritance and the recollection of memories and material things once lost to time.

The film weaves together 15 personal tales from Jackson’s childhood with the media and memorabilia that defined her past. 

(construct)Clearing is a meditation on quiet care, intention, intergenerational movement and labor. The film seeks to understand how we wear and repeat family patterns of silence and separation.

The work speaks to the experience of migration — moving from country to town, across countries, across towns — and seeks to present the pain around the unspoken suffering experienced during the separation of a caregiver and their charge. 

What does PURPLE sound like? captures the radical joy in a place — public housing communities in New York City — via the stories of decades-long residents to uncover strategies of resilience, amplify cultural traditions and shift public discourse and policy.

Williams and SLMDances are Hi-ARTS CRITICAL BREAKS and SKY LAB alumni. The CRITICAL BREAKS residency provides an intensive development process, rehearsal space and a public offering (performance, experience or showing) of their choice to artists in a pivotal phase of creating new work.

The SKY LAB is a program that supports socially engaged artists who center community in the development and research of their work, including practitioners who create outside of the traditional studio or theater.

The festival concludes on Friday, July 8, with a screening of In Our Mothers’ Gardens on the front lawn of El Barrio’s Artspace PS109.

The evening of film under the stars at Hi-ARTS will begin at 7 p.m. with a community circle and pre-screening discussion centered around themes in the film In Our Mothers’ Gardens. 

The critically acclaimed new documentary forefronts Black women from across the globe as they unlock stories of their mothers to redefine holistic lives rooted in radical self-care and healing. 

The move into film is an expansion of the mission of the East Harlem-based nonprofit, which has run the Hip-Hop Theater Festival since 2000 in cities across the U.S., including Washington D.C., where it is still produced. 

To find out more about the festival or Hi-ARTS, visit hi-artsnyc.org. Follow Hi-ARTS on Facebook (@HiARTSnyc), Twitter (@HiARTSnyc) and Instagram (@hiartsnyc). 

Hi-ARTS 

Hi-ARTS (www.hi-artsnyc.org@hiartsnyc) is a leading cultural hub within the urban arts movement.

Through artistic development residencies, vibrant multi-disciplinary creative programming and civic engagement opportunities, Hi-ARTS empowers artists to develop bold new work while creating a positive, lasting impact on the community.

For more than twenty years, Hi-ARTS has provided unique development opportunities to artists from historically marginalized groups, primarily people of color, women and LGBTQ+ artists, always placing issues of equity and social justice at the forefront.

To date, Hi-ARTS has supported works by more than 1,000 emerging and acclaimed artists, including boundary-pushing early-career artists like Zoey Martinson and The Illustrious Blacks, award-winning theatrical mainstays like Dominique Morisseau and Kristoffer Diaz and visionaries such as Radha Blank, Marc Bamuthi Joseph, Ebony Noelle Golden and Nona Hendryx.

Learn more at hi-artsnyc.org and follow us at @hiartsnyc. 

George Washington Houses

George Washington Houses is a public housing development built and maintained by the New York City Housing Authority in Spanish Harlem, a Manhattan neighborhood.

The grounds have several flourishing gardens, each maintained with a different intention. For more than 15 years, Taina Traverso, Environmental Justice Activist, Community Leader & President of Washington Houses Community Watch, has cultivated one of the largest community-led and tended gardens in New York. She tends the Isis Goddess Garden, the Peaceful Antilles Garden, the Ancestor Garden and the Oases Garden.

Maysles Documentary Center (MDC)

Maysles Documentary Center (MDC) is a Harlem-based nonprofit organization committed to community, education, and documentary film.

We use filmmaking to amplify and expand under-represented artists and narratives, while empowering young filmmakers in creative self-expression, communicating ideas, and advocating needs.

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