CUT AND PRINT | Cleo Manago’s ‘HIV Healing in Young, Black America’ screens as part of Fahari’s Arts and AIDS series.

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer

Filmmaker Marlon Riggs changed the face of black gay America with his monumental film Tongues Untied. The 1989 documentary was controversial, but his legacy endured.

Two decades later, the Fahari Arts Institute strives to keep Riggs relevant — especially to a younger audience.

“Youth is a big focus this year,” says arts director Harold Steward. “We are encouraging people to bring their families to the festival.”

The Marlon Riggs Film Festival returns for a second year on Feb. 18. The festival is presented in association with Black Cinematheque, Q-Roc TV and the  South Dallas Cultural Center as well as with the cooperation of the United Black Ellument and AIDS Arms.  In efforts to expand the quality, panel discussions with filmmakers have been added to supplement the screenings. The inaugural day is centered on Riggs and his work: I Will Not Be Removed: The Life of Marlon Riggs and the short Tongues Untied: Still in Vogue.  In a nod to those works and Riggs, this year’s festival is titled Untied, but not Removed.

“Each day has a theme which helps our film selection,” Steward says. “We always start with Riggs and Lamond Ayers who worked with him will come to speak about his relationship with him and working in media and film in the ’80s and ’90s.”

The Texas Health and Human Services Department stepped in to sponsor the second night that gives attention to health issues and the impact of HIV/AIDS on the black community. This serves as part of Fahari’s Arts and AIDS series. HIV Healing in Young, Black America: Getting the Language Right by Cleo Manago screens alongside Claudia Malis’s Why Us? Left Behind and Dying. Malis will be in attendance to discuss the issues of youth today becoming infected and her initiatives in which youth research the impact first hand. Free HIV testing will be offered through the evening.

“It is a gift to have her here to talk about that,” Steward says.

The three-day event wraps on Sunday with a series of short films thematically addressing the idea of black masculinity in a gay world. Julien Breece’s short The Young and Evil may raise the most eyebrows. The film takes on the controversial topic of bug chasing and looks at one man in his quest to contract the virus. Robert X. Goldpin’s Punch Me follows a man as he struggles to accept himself in the midst of his father dying and the loss of his boyfriend. Goldpin will Skype in to the festival for a virtual panel discussion about his film. Patrick Murphy’s Animal Drill rounds out the three films.

The goal of this festival is to use these films and media as a guide through black America,” Steward says. “Riggs addressed culture, sexuality and health in his work. We just want to continue that work.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Feb. 11, 2011.