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Upcoming film festival to bring major star power

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A film about famed U.S. singer Bill Withers is just one offering of the upcoming San Diego Black Film Festival, according to organizers. The festival gets underway at 6 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 30, and ends Feb. 2 at The Reading Gaslamp 15, 701 Fifth Ave., San Diego. Dozens of films from an international line-up of directors will be shown. Karen Willis, the festival's director, said while the event is shorter than others, it's "known for having major star power." While Willis would not specify exact numbers, said thousands are expected to attend this year. "What’s new this year is that, like most other festivals, we will now offer a single opening day film whereas we used to offer several opening films," Willis explained. "The new single opening film gives us an opportunity to focus heavily on the opening day film." Along with exposing audiences to a wide range of movies, "if several filmmakers obtain distribution deals as a result of their film’s screening at the SDBFF, we’ve done our job," Willis added. As two examples of that, an industry party is set for 10 p.m. on Friday, and actress Robin Givens will host the festival's awards and dinner gala at 7 p.m. on Feb. 1. Also, three panel discussions starting at 10 a.m. Saturday will focus on film production, distribution and creating content. Other highlights include: • Thursday: "Tula: The Revolt," a co-production of the Netherlands and Netherlands Antilles, starring Danny Glover and Obi Abili. A slave revolt led by Tula brings freedom to a captured people on the island of Curacao. A short drama, "Space Out," will proceed "Tula." • Saturday: A free screening of “Still Bill," with recording star Bill Withers -- a Grammy award-winning musician known for hits like "Lean on Me," "Lovely Day" and "Just The Two of Us" -- at 10 a.m. • Sunday: The festival will close with foreign-diaspora films, starting at 10 a.m. Ticket prices range from $10 to $100. For a full schedule and other information, go to or call (619) 234-0022.