In February of 2020, Sabira Cole’s friends and family, as well as Ptittsburgh’s arts and activist communities, lost a bright light when she passed away suddenly. For over ten years, Sembene: the Film and Arts Festival worked with key partners to screen a well-curated selection of new and old films from the African Diaspora. The conversations held around those films helped people from all walks of life have conversations on important subjects with people they might otherwise never have encountered. Sabira used the film medium to engage Pittsburgh’s Pan-African, arts and activist communities, spark necessary communications, and build alliances. 


Now, her family and friends are honoring her by establishing the Sabira Cole Memorial Film Festival. We will honor her legacy of activism, arts and service by fulfilling the dream project she was working on at the time of her passing -- holding an annual juried festival of new independent films, based in Pittsburgh, but accessible internationally online. 


The Sabira Cole Memorial Film Festival will primarily serve Pittsburgh’s Pan-African, arts and activist communities. We strive to reach people wherever they are in Pittsburgh while focusing our outreach on social and cultural institutions in the East End neighborhoods, university-adjacent neighborhoods, the Hill District and the North Side. 

Last year the Festival screened 20+ films and present awards in the categories of feature-length narrative film or documentary film; and short film, narrative or documentary; excellence in films for children and youth; and an audience voted Viewer's Choice Award.  It is our mission to uphold the following goals:


  1. Continue to use film as a starting point for conversations in Pittsburgh’s Pan-African, arts and activist communities.

  2. Elevate and showcase films that discuss issues of social, economic and environmental justice; celebrate important figures in African American history and culture; provide diverse images of people of color around the world; and educate and uplift young people.

  3. By achieving goals #1 and #2, make Pittsburgh’s Pan-African community a critical voice in how people learn about and think about film and art from the African Diaspora.

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