A short-film festival at the Iowa City Public Library will highlight black musicians and leaders

Black History Short Film Fest

Iowa City Public Library — Saturday, Feb. 17 at 11:30 a.m.

Photo by Mari Redington

While FilmScene screens this year’s Oscar-nominated animated shorts, the Iowa City Public Library is presenting its own curated short-film marathon. The library’s Storytime Room will host a mini black history film festival Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., geared towards the whole family.

At least 11 films have been selected from the ICPL’s DVD collection, all animated films, 5 to 15 minutes in length, and based on children’s books featuring black characters. These include Trombone Shorty by the powerhouse New Orleans musician himself, Troy Andrews; Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement by Carole Boston Weatherford; Margarita Engle’s Drum Dream Girl, based on the true story of Millo Castro Zaldarriaga, a Chinese-African-Cuban girl who challenged Cuba’s taboos against female drummers; and The Snowy Day, the 1962 Caldecott Award-winning book by Ezra Jack Keats.

These books — which either feature historical figures, or were historic in themselves — will be read by library staff member and short film festival host Mari Redington on Thursday morning and Saturday before the film festival.

Redington said she intends to provide some context and information on the books and films, but that the event will remain accessible and entertaining for all ages. Plus, there will be popcorn.

“I’m doing the black history storytime, but I wanted to add the film fest just because we have such a good collection with a mixture of different kinds of stories about characters and figures in black history,” she said. “It’s a really good way to inform kids of a wide spread of ages. Even two year-olds can enjoy these beautiful animated films.”

The ICPL collaborates with the African American History Museum of Iowa in Cedar Rapids for Black History Month, Redington said. Every year, the museum will send a trunk of books and items designed for a classroom setting; this year’s trunk was titled “behind the beat,” and highlights black music and musicians. This theme has carried into the film festival, but will be front and center in an event on Feb. 20.

Redington said Saturday’s short film festival may run a little over an hour — as of Wednesday afternoon, she was still finding new films to add to the line-up — but families are welcome to come and go as they please.