East River Plaza And HCCI Host The 18t​h​ Annual ImageNation Outdoor Festival Drive-In Movie Series

September 17, 2020

The 18th Annual ImageNation Outdoors  Festival is back for three dates this Fall! Partnering with East River Plaza, Sol Cinema Cafe, and Harlem Congregations for Community Improvement, Inc. (HCCI).

This Harlem based organization has found new ways to offer its annual outdoor experience, dubbed the Sol Cinema Cafe Outdoor Seating/Drive-in Movie Series.

HCCI is hosting the opening night, an evening of social-distanced seating at their open-air community space located at 229-225 W. 148th Street on Saturday, September 12, 2020. This evening will feature two socially-distanced Harlem advanced showings of ​All In: The Fight for Democracy, a documentary on voter suppression featuring Stacy Abrams and her historic fight to preserve voting rights for all Americans. Co-director Lisa Cortes will participate in a post-screening Q&A.

East River Plaza has joined the effort to offer Harlem residents a special drive-in experience. Nostalgia is a powerful emotion and it’s one that is in great demand these days. East River Plaza and the 18t​ h Annual ImageNation Outdoors Festival are doing their part to bring back a staple from the 1950’s and 1960’s — the drive-in movie theater.

With COVID-19 forcing people to practice social distancing and restricting attendees at movie theaters, ImageNation Cinema Foundation and East River Plaza, have come up with the perfect solution to host Manhattan’s only series of drive-in movie nights.

On Saturdays, September 26t​h ​and October 3r​d, 2020, guests can sit back, relax, and enjoy classic, family-friendly films from the comfort of their own cars, while adhering to CDC social distancing guidelines. The featured films include: a Harlem Special Advance Screening of ​All In: The Fight for Democracy ​(co-director, Lisa Cortés, will attend and introduce the film), ​Sonic the Hedgehog (for Kids’ Night Out)​, and ​Bakosó: Afrobeats of Cuba,

preceded by the short films “Tengo Talento/Dance with Your Heart!” and “Purpose”.

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“We are very proud to join with locally-based ImageNation and provide a safe source of entertainment for the community during these very challenging times,” said David Blumenfeld, Vice President, Blumenfeld Development Group, developer of East River Plaza. “We are glad that Manhattan – and especially our neighbors in East Harlem – now have an option in the city instead of having to travel to other boroughs or out to Long Island, New Jersey or upstate New York to join in the film fun.”

“This is our 18t​h year of outdoor screenings. However, due to COVID-19 we were almost forced to cancel,” said Moikgantsi Kgama, founder of ImageNation. “We are so happy that East River Plaza joined our effort, and basically saved the festival! This event is a great example of community unity.”

Due to limited capacity moviegoers are required to RSVP before the event. They must present a printed a ticket, or an image of the ticket via mobile phone for entry. We are requesting families to arrive at 5:30PM for a 7:30 PM showing.

One of the best parts of going to a movie is the snacks, and East River Plaza will provide a “featured treat” from local businesses in family snack bags that will be distributed to each group upon arrival.
Those watching the film from the designated seating area must wear a mask and maintain 6-feet social distancing at all times. Cars will be parked 8 feet apart and guests are urged to stay in or near their vehicles except for bathroom – trips, for which masks are required.

Sponsors of the event include: The Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, East River Plaza, WarnerMedia, Black Public Media, The Positive Community Magazine, and the Harlem News.

Guests must RSVP AT: www.solcinemacafe.com or https://www.solcinemacafe.com/drive-in-movies

Saturday, September 12, 2020

All In: The Fight for Democracy


Directed by Lisa Cortes and Liz Garbus, 102 min, USA – Harlem Special Advance Screening!

In anticipation of the 2020 presidential election, ALL IN: THE FIGHT FOR DEMOCRACY examines the often overlooked, yet insidious issue of voter suppression in the United States. The film interweaves personal experiences with current activism and historical insight to expose a problem that has corrupted our democracy from the very beginning. With the perspective and expertise of Stacey Abrams, the former Minority Leader of the Georgia House of Representatives, the documentary offers an insider’s look into laws and barriers to voting that most people don’t even know are threats to their basic rights as citizens of the United States.
The film will be available on VOD on September 18, 2020, for details please visit www.allinforvoting.com.

Saturday, September 26, 2020 – Kids’ Night Out!

Sonic the Hedgehog

Directed by Jeff Fowler, 99 min., USA

After discovering a small, blue, fast hedgehog, a small-town police officer must help him defeat an evil genius who wants to do experiments on him.
Preceded by Sundae Sermon’s ​DJ Stormin’ Norman ​(non-amplified, in-car audio only)​.

Saturday, October 3, 2020

Bakosó: Afrobeats of Cuba l

Directed by Eli Jacobs-Fantauzzi, 49 min, Cuba/USA

Bakosó: Afrobeats of Cuba follows DJ Jigüe to his hometown of Santiagode Cuba to find musical inspiration. He finds Afrobeats has helped create a new genre called ​mBakosó,,​ which is beautiful proof that the exchange between Cuba and Africa did not end with the Transatlantic slave trade. ​Bakosó is preceded by the short films “Tengo Talento/Dance with Your Heart” (10 minutes) also directed by Jacobs-Fantauzzi, and “Purpose”, a 15-minute documentary profile of Brooklyn-based painter, Sophia Dawson directed by.
With pre-recorded music by ​Bembona ​(non-amplified, in-car audio only)​.

Ticket Info

All guests must RSVP at www.solcinemacafe.com or ​https://www.solcinemacafe.com/drive-in-movies​. Seating and cars will be admitted on a first-come basis. However, those turned away will be given priority admittance for the following event.


Funds are still being raised to complete renovations, pay rent arrears incurred to due COVID-19, and provide operating reserves for the Sōl Cinema Cafe. Supporters can invest as little as $100 and earn a revenue share of the business through Mainvest.com at ​https://mainvest.com/b/sol-cinema-cafe-new-york​Or, folks can participate in the seat-naming campaign at ​http://www.imagenation.us/name-a-seat​.

East River Plaza is home to brands like Marshalls, Old Navy, Target, Costco and Aldi. Shop conveniently, spot artwork by emerging artists, and join events. Click here to learn more.

The Sol Cinema Cafe is a coffee shop by day and art-house cinema by night. Linked with our online counterpart, SolCinemaCafe.com, the Sol Cinema Cafe provides a 24-hour social cinema experience where visitors can watch films at our Harlem location or participate online. The Sol Cinema is a place where people can watch great films, eat good food, and share ideas! Click here to learn more about this Black-owned enterprise located in the heart of Harlem, and learn about investment opportunities.

Founded in 1986, HCCI is a coalition of interfaith congregations that have implemented a comprehensive portfolio of programs to provide affordable housing and safe streets; offer opportunities for individuals and groups to become and remain economically independent; increase understanding of and access to health care, and provide substantive educational programs for adults and young people. Through alliances with other community organizations, elected officials, and local residents, HCCI has also helped reduce crime in the community; increase public sanitation; preserve and transform open space.

In existence for 34 years, HCCI is a not-for-profit, 501(c)(3) corporation governed by a Board of Directors, and relies on support from grants, donations and government contracts funds. Learn more at ​hcci.org

A recent recipient of Ava Duvernay’s ARRAY Grant, ImageNation Cinema Foundation is an innovative Harlem-based non-profit created to develop cinemas and audiences for independent films and music, that depict the global Black experience. ImageNation’s goal is to empower Black communities by presenting a variety of public programs that foster media equity, media literacy, solidarity, cross-cultural exchange and highlight the humanity of Pan-African people worldwide.

Led by Moikgantsi Kgama (Founder & Executive Director) and her husband Gregory Gates (Executive Producer), ImageNation has hosted film screenings, live music performances and other cultural events for more than 200,000 people worldwide since its inception. ImageNation is a founding partner in ARRAY, a national film distribution collective, founded by Ava DuVernay. ImageNation has presented internationally in South Africa, Scotland and Canada and domestically at Harvard University, MASS MOCA, Lincoln Center and in Dallas, TX, Los Angeles, CA, Baltimore, MD, Chicago, Ill, Indianapolis, IN, and Washington DC. Programs have featured appearances by luminaries such as Spike Lee, Lee Daniels, Ava DuVernay, Stanley Nelson, Ruby Dee, Erykah Badu, Chuck D, Raoul Peck, India. Arie and many others. In line with its commitment to Black cinema, ImageNation’s RAW SPACE, will be developed into the Sōl Cinema Cafe, a boutique cinema highlighting global Black film and culture.

Photo credit: Stacey Abrams.

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