The 13th annual Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival opened on Monday night with Mavis!, the story of Mavis Staples, and the audience was roaring, crying, laughing and singing along with the film.

Ms. Staples began her career alongside her family in the 1950s. The music of the Staples Singers went on to shed light on racial issues in the 1950s, supported the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, and continued through the 1970s, ‘80s and ‘90s. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a fan of the group, Prince collaborated with them, and a young Bob Dylan asked Mavis Staples for her hand in marriage.

Though the rest of her family has since stopped singing, Mavis Staples continues to perform across the country.

Jessica Sanders directed and co-produced the film. Her film was one of 49 independent films shown at this year’s festival, held throughout the week. Over 300 were submitted from across the globe.

Narrowing it down to only 49 films was extremely tough, said co-founder of the festival, Stephanie Tavares-Rance.

“Just the quality of the films we received this year, my God,” she said.

Before starting the festival, Ms. Tavares-Rance was an event planner and her husband Floyd Rance was a filmmaker, who highlighted racial issues through his films. He thought that creating a film festival in Barbados would bring a more diverse body of vacationers. However, after 9/11, the location was switched to Martha’s Vineyard. The couple decided to plan a specific kind of event on the Island: a film festival that would promote black actors and filmmakers.

“I think maybe 10 people came to the first one,” Ms. Tavares-Rance said with a laugh.

The event has grown a lot since then. Mike Frazier, who was working at the theatre Monday night, said that the start of the film had to be delayed because of traffic. But by the time the film screened the theatre was filled.

The events of the week are sponsored by Saatchi and Saatchi Advertising, HBO, Hennessy Privilege and Wharton Sports Business Initiative. In addition to presenting films made by or starring African American actors from around the world, the MVAAFF brings attention to current social issues involving African American, Hispanic, LGBT and other minority communities by encouraging open discussion. Numerous films, interactive discussions, the “Summer White” party and guest speakers are scheduled throughout the week.

On Tuesday night the festival continued its collaboration with The Yard by co-producing the performance, and Vineyard premiere, of the Ronald K. Brown and Evidence dance company at the performing arts center. On Wednesday night, following the screening of a documentary about Althea Gibson there was a panel discussion with Traci Green, head coach of women’s tennis at Harvard University, Michael Holley of WEEI 93.7 FM Boston sports radio and William C. Rhoden, a sports columnist for the New York Times.

The festival continues Friday  night with more films, the annual Summer White party at Lola’s, and a discussion with Spike Lee about his forthcoming movie Chiraq. On Saturday night there is an HBO short film competition and a screening of the documentary 3 1/2 Minutes, Ten Bullets about the shooting of Jordan Davis by Michael Dunn in Jacksonville, Fla.

Floyd Rance is humble about event he has helped to create.

“Please say hi to me...I’m an ambivert, which means I’m an extro and introvert,” he told the audience right before Mavis! began.

Visit for a full list of events.