After an exciting Thursday night start with Kerry Washington the 14th Annual Urbanworld Film Festival shifted into high gear for a weekend that most will not soon forget.
On the second evening of the Urbanworld Film Festival much of the buzz on the red carpet was for the world premiere of ‘Mooz-lum’, directed by Qasim Basir. The film tells the story of Tariq (Evan Ross), who is pulled between his strict Muslim upbringing and the normal social life he’s never had. With the help of family and friends, he begins to open up to an Islam he’s never known before. Most of the cast were in attendance which included Nia Long, Roger Guenver Smith, Evan Ross, and Kimberley Drummond.
Nia Long looked stunning, sporting her signature short pixie cut and worked the cameras like the star she truly is.
Ticket for the premiere were sold out, and while the staff worked diligently to accommodate the crowd, I observed two women chatting. One was dressed in a black cocktail dress with sky-high stilettos, while the other was dressed in conservative Muslim attire. It then struck me–in the very same city that has been polarized by Park51 mosque debate, here on the top floor of the 34th Street AMC multiplex was living proof that Muslims and non-Muslims can co-exist peacefully. Without even seeing the film, the director had accomplished his goal of teaching Muslim acceptance.
In addition, Bouncing Cats premiered that same evening. The documentary directed by Nabil Elderkin is narrated by rappers Common and Mos Def. Bouncing Cats follows Crazy Legs to Uganda, as he participates in the Break DanceProject Uganda—B.P.U. The project was created by Abrahmz Tekya, an AIDS orphan who decides to bring hip-hop and break dance to the Ugandan youth as a means of giving them unity and peace.
The festival ended on a high note Saturday evening, with the world premiere of I Will Follow.’Directed by Ava DuVernay (‘My Mic Sounds Nice’), the cast includes Salli Richardson-Whitfield (‘I Am Legend’), Omari Hardwick (‘Dark Blue’), and Michole White (‘Medium’) and Dijon Talton (‘Glee’), who were all in attendance on the red carpet. The screening was packed to capacity and followed with a Q&A session with Cory Murray, the entertainment director of Essence Magazine. Additional screenings that evening included the HBO drama “Boardwalk Empire” directed by Martin Scorcese, and the ESPN documentary “One Night in Vegas” directed by Reggie Rock Bythewood.
“I did not set out to do a movie that reveals who [Tupac’s] assailants were or any of that,” Bythewood told TheUrbandaily. ” I just set out to do a movie to show how Mike and other people were feeling that night. After the fight it was supposed to be a night of celebration and it came out a tragedy.”
On Sunday and awards brunch was hosted by Free and Vibe Magazine’s Datwon Thomas. The list of winners is as follows:
Best Narrative Feature
Written and Directed by Qasim Basir; Produced by Dana Offenbach and Samad Davis
Best Narrative Short
Written and Directed by Ya’Ke; Produced by Ya’Ke and Ralph Lopez
Best Documentary Feature
Written and Directed by Nabil Elderkin, Isaac Hagy: Produced by Nyla Hassell, George Mays, Claude Merkel and Charles Spano
Best Documentary Short
ONE OF THESE MORNINGS
Directed and Produced by Valery Lyman
Written by Julian Breece
LOVE AND POLITICS
Written by Tracy Oliver
FINDING GOD IN THE CITY OF ANGELS
Written by Simon J. Joseph, Ph.D; Directed by Jennifer Jessum; Produced by Jennifer Jessum, Simon J. Joseph and Edward Osei-Gyimah
Audience Award Honorable Mention
I WILL FOLLOW
Written, Directed and Produced by Ava DuVernay
In all, the 14th Annual Urban World Film Festival was a smashing success. Hollywood should take note that the ‘black experience’ isn’t just one thing, and cannot be dictated by just one or two black directors. We are too vast, complex, and diverse in our emotions and personal journeys. The films showcased at the film festival are proof to that. Congratulations to the all the directors, cast and crew—and hope that they will find distribution and success for all their projects.