This past weekend marked the 21st annual Urbanworld Festival founded in 1997 by Stacy Spikes, this celebration of digital, film and music, is one of the most unique international festivals of its kind.
The opening night did not disappoint as the festival premiered an episode from BET’s Tales, titled “Trap Queen,” featuring Lance Gross, Michelle Mitchenor and Woody McCain. Like previous episodes, this episode focused on the director’s interpretation of hip-hop hit, “Trap Queen” by Fetty Wap. Earlier in the day, festival goers were treated to an array of panels on distribution, storytelling and virtual reality among other topics at Urbanworld Digital.
On Friday night, the vibe of the crowd was intense with anticipation for the premiere of Double Play, a beautiful and dramatic film set in the paradise that is Curacao. The red carpet was bright with star wattage from the film’s actors. Most notably, the film’s lead, Saycon Sengbloh, who admitted to stalking the director, Ernest R. Dickerson, for an audition during the Q & A after the film.
On Saturday, New York City once again came out in full force to support a vast array of narrative, documentary, and animated shorts. Based on the applause in the movie theater, it was evident that there were some anticipated favorites. Those included: Mosiquito: Bite of Passage, Waiting for Hassana, and The Tale of Four.
Beyond the movies, the most exciting aspect of the festival was the opportunity to interact with cast and directors during Q & A’s after the screenings. Gabourey Sidibe and Nelson George provided thought-provoking insight to their shorts, The Tale of Four and Dayton Jones, respectively.
As the festival wound to a close, on Saturday, the red carpet was once again on fire with the arrival of Chadwick Boseman and Sterling K. Brown for the premiere of Marshall, a drama focused on the case that defined the career of Thurgood Marshall. Questions and congratulations peppered the crowd as fans tried to get just a glimpse of Brown entering the theater.
Overall, the festival was a success. As an attendee, I will be following the careers of these fine directors as they have set the bar for what all moviemakers should aspire.
Here is a list of all of the winners from Urbanworld 2017:
Best Narrative Feature (U.S. Cinema) – Varsity Punks
Directed by Anthony Solorzano
(Presented by ARRAY – $5,000 Prize)
Honorable Mention – Alaska Is A Drag – Directed by Shaz Bennet
Angela Northington, SVP, Content Acquisitions, RLJ Entertainment
Jesse Collins, CEO, Jesse Collins Entertainment & JCE Films
Mike Jackson, Partner & Producer, Get Lifted Film Co.
Tilane Jones, Executive Director, ARRAYTim Story, CEO, The Story Company
Best Narrative Feature (World Cinema) – Tourments D’Amour / Torments of Love
Directed by Caroline Jules
(Presented by ARRAY)
Honorable Mention – Catching Feelings – Directed by Kagiso Lediga
Gheeta Ghandbir, Award-Winning Director/Producer/EditorG2P2 Films
Moikgantsi Kgama, Founder & Executive Director, ImageNation Foundation
Rob Hardy, Writer/Director/Producer, Rainforest Entertainment
Best Narrative Short – Flip The Record
Directed by Marie Jamora
(Presented by AT&T – $5,000 Prize)
Honorable Mention – Big City – Directed by Jordan Bond and Ryan Lachlan
Chris Grunden, VP, Film Programming, HBO
Christine Davila, Creative Executive, Scripted Content, Stage 13
Keith Clinkscales, Founder & CEO, First World Media
Tamir Muhammad, Executive Director, Content & Artist Development, Time Warner Inc.
Best Feature Documentary – Milwaukee 53206
Directed by Keith McQuirter
(Presented by HBO – $5,000 Prize)
Honorable Mention for Short Documentary—Waiting for Hassana
Directed by Ifunanya Maduka
Jackie Glover, SVP, Documentary Films, HBO
Leslie Fields Cruz, Executive Director, National Black Programming Consortium
Yoruba Richen, Award-Winning Director/Writer/Producer
Best Music Video – Can I Exist (featuring Missio)
Directed by Jeff Ray
Camille Hackney, EVP, Brand Partnerships & Commercial Licensing, Atlantic Records
Ron Worthy, Founder & Editor in Chief, soulhead.com
Shawn Peters, Award-Winning Cinematographer
Best Screenplay – Pale Horse
Written by Chris Courtney Martin
(Presented by BET Networks – $5,000 Prize)
Honorable Mention: Muted – Written by Brandi Nicole Payne
Jennifer Mayer, Screenwriter & Playwright
Jeremy Pikser, VP, Writer’s Guild of America East
Kate Hagen, Director of Community, The Black List
Tamara Gregory, Senior Director, Original Programming, BET
Young Filmmaker Finalists
(Presented by REVOLT – All expense paid trip to REVOLT Music Conference, October 12-15 in Miami where the winner will be announced.)
Curiosities of the Quiet Boy – Directed by Quran Squire
Laced – Directed by David F. Fortune
Sad Mobius – Directed by Kiho Song
Andre Harrell, Vice Chairman, REVOLT
Eva Marcille, Actress
Stacy Spikes, Founder, Urbanworld Film Festival
Amber Magruder was raised in a house filled with ZZ Hill, Phoebe Snow and Stevie Wonder. A wild child of the 90’s, she found her true love in hip-hop with the Native Tongue movement, and never left its side. A die hard House Head from the South Side of Chicago, she loves a solid beat, but appreciates intense lyrics even more. Some of her favorite artists: NERD, Bebel Gilberto, and Bjork. Check out some of her work for soulhead.