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The Hayti Heritage Film Festival returns to downtown Durham this year with an “amazing lineup” that celebrates the cinematic brilliance of Black filmmakers.

“Audiences can expect to see the gamut of films,” says Tyra Dixon, co-director of the annual festival, which begins this year on March 6 and runs through March 11. The 2023 lineup includes film screenings, panel discussions and workshops.

The first three days will feature virtual programming; the last three (March 9-11) will offer in-person events.

Organizers anticipate that as many as 1,000 people from across the South and abroad will attend either virtually or in person.

The Hayti Heritage Film Festival began nearly three decades ago as a small gathering that drew participants from the Triangle. It’s now one of the nation’s longest-running festivals devoted to Black cinema.

After pausing in-person events because of the pandemic, organizers this year are bringing back live events that will take place at the Hayti Heritage Center, 804 Old Fayetteville Road, in Durham. 

For Charlotte-area film buffs headed that way, we’ve compiled a guide for spending 48 hours in Durham.


Friday, March 10

Where to stay: Just six minutes from the Hayti Heritage Center, the Morehead Manor Bed and Breakfast is a Black-owned inn with charm, character and a garden where guests can relax. It has four guest rooms, so book your reservations.

Photo by Eric Waters

Films to see: Friday’s film programming begins at 10 a.m. If you can’t make it that early, we suggest arriving by noon to see these films:

  • Want Love…Need Love“: This collection of films is about compassion and how people connect to one another.
  • Hazing”: Directed by Byron Hurt, this film reveals underground hazing rituals that can be abusive and deadly. Hurt tells the story through his own experience pledging into a fraternity. Hurt and producer Natalie Bullock Brown will participate in a discussion, along with the mother of a student who lost his life to hazing. A local therapist will moderate the conversation. 

For dinner: Try Boricua Soul. The husband-wife team that owns the restaurant infused the menu with their African-American and Puerto Rican cultures. Try the empanadas, a garlic shrimp burger or the mac & cheese.

End the night at Melanated Wine and Spirits, Durham’s first Black- and woman-owned winery. “Uncork the culture” as you enjoy a variety of wines in a relaxed environment.

Saturday, March 11

Photo by Eric Waters

For breakfast: The Beyú Caffé is a Black-owned coffee shop and restaurant right in the heart of downtown Durham. The menu includes omelets, Banana Fosters french toast, and all the coffee you need to stay energized for a day of films.

Across the street from Beyú Caffé is the Durham Civil Rights Mural. Created by 30 community members, it tells stories of the city’s civil rights movement.

Photo by Eric Waters

The festival starts at 10 a.m. with lots of exciting screenings:

  • Saint Omer,” directed by Alice Diop: The Hayti staff chose this film when it was shortlisted as France’s 2023 Oscar entry to the Academy Awards, the first time a Black woman has been nominated in the international category, Dixon says. In the film, a novelist attends the trial of an immigrant accused of killing her 15-month-old daughter by abandoning her to rising tides on a beach. 
  • God Said Give ‘Em Drum Machines,” directed by Kristian Hill and produced by Jennifer Washington: This documentary, the last festival screening, tells the story of the little-known Black teens who gave birth to techno music in Detroit. Following the screening, the audience will be invited to step out of the performance hall and into an afterparty. 

Another food option: The Dankery is a popular food-truck-turned-restaurant that is owned by a young, Black entrepreneur. The menu ranges from a steak & queso sub to wings to vegan nuggets.

Before heading home: Stop at Bull City Apparel & Customs for unique souvenirs. Although the weekend is filled with cinema, book lovers will be excited to visit Rofhiwa Book Café, a Black-owned bookstore and coffee shop that “reflects the expansiveness of the Black imagination” in its vast collection of books.

Know before you go

Photo by Discover Durham

When: March 6-11, 2023
Where: Hayti Heritage Center, 804 Old Fayetteville Road, Durham, NC, 27701 
Cost: All-access festival passes are available for $75. Tickets to individual events may be ordered on the festival website, and some programming is free to attend.
Discount: The Hayti Heritage Film Festival is offering QCity Metro readers a 10 percent discount on MetroHHFFQC5

A complete schedule of films and workshops can be found on the HHFF website. Visit Discover Durham’s website for a list of things to do while you’re in Durham.

Virtual events will be held online. Registration is available on the HHFF website.

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