Urbanworld Film Festival Continues with Impactful Films, Narratives and “An Ode to Storytelling”

Urbanworld Film Festival Continues with Impactful Films, Narratives and “An Ode to Storytelling”

November 6, 2023 0

Following an impact two days of programming, Urbanworld Film Festival is continuing celebrate the best in black cinema for audiences, highlighting new documentaries, narratives, storytelling and black male directors. The festival was nothing short of a cinematic spectacular, showcasing a diverse range of films, discussions, and events that left attendees inspired and captivated.

Documentaries that Leave an Impact

One of the standout documentaries of the day was “SPACE RACE,” which weaves together the stories of Black astronauts seeking to break the bonds of social injustice to reach for the stars, including Guion Bluford, Ed Dwight and Charles Bolden, among many others. In THE SPACE RACE, directors Diego Hurtado de Mendoza and Lisa Cortés profile the pioneering Black pilots, scientists and engineers who joined NASA to serve their country in space, even as their country failed to achieve equality for them back on Earth. The bright dreams of Afrofuturism become reality in THE SPACE RACE, turning science fiction into science fact and forever redefining “image”, giving us new heroes to celebrate and a fresh history to explore.

(L-R) Retired Astronaut Leland Melvin (Executive Producer, ‘The Space Race’), Karen McMullen, Festival Director

BIKE VESSEL: The documentary chronicles the inspiring journey of a 72-year-old father and his 37-year-old son as they cycle from St. Louis to Chicago. After surviving three open-heart surgeries and facing death, the father discovers a rejuvenating passion for bicycling. This newfound love not only revitalizes his health but also strengthens his bond with his son, Eric Seals, the film’s director. You can view the trailer here

Bike Vessel
Bike Vessel – Directed by Eric D. Seals

BRIEF TENDER LIGHT: A Ghanaian filmmaker follows four African undergraduates through MIT, America’s premier technological university and his alma mater. The students embark on their MIT education with individual ambitions – to engineer infrastructure in Tanzania; to secure a better life for family in Nigeria; to contribute to post-genocide reconstruction in Rwanda; to advance democracy in Zimbabwe. Their missions are distinct, but fueled by a common goal: to become agents of positive change back home. You can view the trailer here

Brief Tender Light | POV
Brief Tender Light

Powerful Narratives

Renowned lyricist Black Thought of The Roots to pen A Love Letter to Hip Hop in celebration of the 50th Anniversary of an art form originally founded in the Bronx in 1973 as a form of expression and peaceful conflict resolution for the Black community. Under the directorial genius of Benny Boom, A Love Letter to Hip Hop brilliantly captures 50 years of Hip Hop history, from its humble beginnings to the multi-billion dollar global ecosystem and lifestyle it is today. This visual masterpiece further immerses viewers through the use of original photographs that preserve the moments when Hip Hop was born, grew, and has flourished.

What sets this tribute apart is its authenticity, featuring live performances from artists who represent the five fundamental elements of Hip Hop: Breakdancing, DJing, MCing, Graffiti art, and Knowledge. “A Love Letter to Hip Hop” serves as a testament to the enduring legacy of a cultural phenomenon that has transcended generations and borders.

“A Love Letter to Hip Hop” directed by Benny Boom and starring Tariq “Black ThoughtTrotter

Continuing under the theme of “Lights, Cameras, Rhymes: 50 Years of Hip Hop on Screen, Urbanworld also showcased The Wu-Tang Experience: Live at Red Rocks Amphitheatre, featuring the Colorado Symphony Orchestra (2001). In attendance, Urbanworld Film Festival’s new ambassador, The RZA.

“I’m completely honored to be a part of a platform like Urbanworld which supports storytellers from all walks of life,” says RZA.”As a filmmaker, I understand the work that goes into not only getting a film made but getting it seen. There aren’t a lot of film festivals that intentionally shine light on the works of Black Men and Women in our industry. Our growing number of directors and producers need more outlets. Urbanworld gets it and this opportunity to serve as ambassador to this year’s festival is an honor and a privilege.”

The RZA (Filmmaker, Producer, Artist)

An Ode to Storytelling

Paying tribute to the Black silent films of the 1920s, “FLOWER” crafts a heartfelt narrative centered around Rose (Copeland), a young woman who has put her aspirations on hold to care for her mother, Gloria (Christina Johnson), who is battling dementia. The film subtly delves into the pressing issue of housing affordability crises, particularly affecting the Bay Area. As Rose grapples with the challenge of maintaining a stable home, she witnesses her neighborhood’s gradual decline, mirroring her mother’s fading memory. It is only when the enigmatic Sterling (Babatunji Johnson) enters the picture that the film underscores the significance of community and the resilience born from unity, ultimately rekindling Rose’s hope for the future. You can view the trailer here

“Flower,” starring Misty Copeland (World-renowned ballerina)

Feature Spotlight

In “To Live and Die and Live”, Muhammad (played by Amin Joseph, Send Help / Snowfall) returns to Detroit to bury his stepdad, but his struggles with addiction and the weight of expectation may finish him before he finishes the tasks. Cast includes Omari Hardwick, Skype P. Marshall, Cory Hardict and more. This film is directed by Qasim Basir.

To Live and Die and Live”

Debut showcases

(L-R): Kelvin Harrison Jr. (Chevalier), Aaron Pierre (Brother)

Genius: MLK/X: Follows both Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcom X from their formative years, where they were molded by strong fathers and traumatic injustices, to their rich, parallel stories as they shapedtheir identities and became the change they wished to see in the world. Influenced as children by different upbringings and experiences: King by the Jim Crow-era South and life in the church before finding his voice at Morehouse and Boston University, and X growing up under the constant, deadly violence of the Klan and falling into a life of vice and incarceration where he was introduced to the Nation of Islam and found his voice. The two visionaries ultimately rose to pioneer a movement. Executive produced by Reggie and Gina Prince-Bythewood, Genius: MLK/X premieres on NatGeo – February 1, 2024

(L-R) Raphael Jackson Jr., Gina Prince-Bythewood, Reggie Rock Bythewood and Damione Macedon (Photo by John Nacion/Getty Images)

JAAMAL: Jamaal follows a young Black man who is on the cusp of what could be the biggest day of his life. However, it’s riddled with challenges as he navigates the highs and lows of a Dream Deferred, while simultaneously trying to maintain his faith and holding on to hope. Directorial debut by Yvonne Orji (Insecure)

(L-R) Marija Juliette Abney, Derrick A. King and Yvonne Orji (Photo by Dominik Bindl/Getty Images)

Conclusion

The Urbanworld Film Festival was a true celebration of cinema. From thought-provoking documentaries to powerful narratives and insightful discussions, this day reflects he festival’s commitment to fostering creativity, dialogue, showcasing emerging and established black talent.

BMI Staff
BMI Staff