Stephanie Tavares-Rance


Co-founder of the Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival

reflects on 15 years of growth and success.


Stephanie Tavares-Rance has cultivated a lifetime of success as an A&R marketing visionary and public relations CEO, working with artists and clients as well-known as Frank Sinatra, Prince, and HBO. Yet she is most proud of having founded, with her husband Floyd Rance, the Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival (MVAAFF) in 2002.

“What started out as a natural collaboration with my husband has become a platform for people of color to showcase their work in film, speak their truth, and tell their powerful stories,” Tavares-Rance said.

The five-day showcase, produced by Run&Shoot Filmworks, runs from August 8 to 12 and stands out on the film festival circuit as a unique, unpretentious, and multigenerational event, where independent and established African American filmmakers can screen and promote emerging feature, documentary, and short films from across the world.

The MVAAFF landed on the Vineyard nearly by chance.

“Originally the festival was supposed to happen on the island of Barbados,” Tavares-Rance said. “But it was the summer of 2002, and the aftermath of the attacks of September 11 concerned our partners at the Barbados Tourism Authority, and we had to scramble to find another venue. Floyd and I had been summering on the Vineyard for many years, even before our marriage, and we knew it well. We luckily ended up bringing the festival to the Vineyard in 2002, and have been going strong ever since.”

In their 15th year on-Island, Tavares-Rance says, the festival is a “homecoming of sorts, a family reunion. The people who gather each summer at the festival come to connect — so many of them have been with us from day one. We’ve moved through film venues, yes, but we’ve also moved through important life passages of pregnancy and children, of marriages and careers.

“Floyd and I personally watch each and every entry. We started with 20 entries in 2002, and this year we have 250, of which we will show 50. Sometimes themes appear from year to year, and interestingly, this year many entries are dealing with the LGBT experience, or sexual assault and molestation, and some on police brutality.” She says that her editorial passion is rooted in providing African American filmmakers a platform to elevate and expand the dialogue, whether that be social, political, dramatic, or comedic.

“I am in the business of Black People,” Tavares-Rance said. “Any way I can insert myself into that conversation in a positive way that benefits my people — that is what I love and what drives me. We hope the festival shows we are not a one-size-fits-all community. We all see the world differently, and the diversity of films tells that story.”

The 15th annual Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival will be held August 8-12 at the Martha’s Vineyard Performing Arts Center; for tickets, go to

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