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Steve McQueen’s ‘Widows,’ Barry Jenkins’ ‘Beale Street’ Highlight Smithsonian African American Film Festival

DF-01120_1123_1134_R2_COMP - Viola Davis and Cynthia
Merrick Morton

WASHINGTON — The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture kicks off its inaugural film festival on Wednesday, with Steve McQueen’s “Widows” as the opening selection and Barry Jenkins’ “If Beale Street Could Talk” as the closing pic on Saturday.

The Smithsonian African American Film Festival will screen about 80 movies over the span of four days, including 15 titles that will premiere in competition at the museum’s Oprah Winfrey Theater.

“Widows,” to be released on Nov. 16, is the story of four women — Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki, and Cynthia Erivo — coping with their dead husbands’ debts from criminal activities.

“If Beale Street Could Talk,” Jenkins’ first movie since “Moonlight,” is an adaptation of James Baldwin’s novel, about a Harlem man accused of rape, whose fiance scrambles to prove his innocence. The drama will have a limited release starting on Nov. 30 and will go wide in January.

The festival will also feature a screening of “Quincy,” about the life of music icon Quincy Jones, followed by a Q&A with Jones.

On Thursday, an event called A Night at the Museum will honor Madeline Anderson and Charles Burnett, and induct their works into the Earl W. and Amanda Stafford Center for African American Media Arts canon. Anderson’s “I Am Somebody” and Burnett’s “Killer of Sheep” will be screened, and the filmmakers will then participate in a Q&A. The “Black Panther” costume, which was acquired by the museum, will also be on display for the first time.

Here’s the complete film lineup.