Urbanworld  is back and bigger than ever!  The annual film festival, which highlights the best in black cinema, celebrates its 16th year in the heart of New York City. Returning alumnae like Ava DuVernay (“Middle of Nowhere”), and  dynamic duo  Salim and Mara Brock Akil ( “Sparkle”) are sending  Hollywood a clear message– no one can tell our stories better than we can.

Watch: 2011 Urbanworld Film Festival Recap [VIDEO]

The festival kicks off Thursday, September 20th with the world premiere of Gabrielle Union’s dramedy “Being Mary Jane” and ends September 22nd with the New York premiere of the award-winning Middle of Nowhere.

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For showtimes and ticket info click HERE

We’ve rounded up 7 must see features you won’t want to miss!

Middle of Nowherestarring Emayatzy Corinealdi, David Oyelowo, Omari Hardwick, Lorraine Touissant, Edwina Findley, Sharon Lawrence

Synopsis: Director Ava DuVernay is leading the pack in the black indie renaissance movement. The ambitious filmmaker made headlines as the first African-American woman to cop a Best Director award at Sundance for her second feature film.  “Middle of Nowhere” follows Ruby, a bright medical student who sets aside her dreams and suspends her career when her husband is incarcerated.

Being Mary Jane-starring Gabrielle Union, Tika Sumpter, Omari Hardwick, Richard Roundtree, Margaret Avery, Raven Goodwin, Richard Brooks

Synopsis: Union plays Mary Jane Paul, a successful news anchor balancing the demands of her career with her personal and family life.

Dar He: The Lynching Of Emmitt Till

Synopsis: In an acting tour de force, one man perfoms 36 roles in the telling of the Emmett Till tragedy. Experience the story, trial, and unbelievable confessions of those accused of Emmett’s murder in this riveting drama.

The Last Fall–starring Nicole Beharie, Lance Gross, Vanessa Bell Calloway, Darrin Dewitt Henson, Keith David, Harry Lennix Jr.

Synopsis: Lance Gross takes on leading man status as a retired NFL player who struggles to adjust to a normal life  back in his hometown.

An Oversimplification Of Her Beauty–starring Terence Nance, Namik Minter, Chanelle Pearson

Synopsis: Terence Nance’s explosively creative debut feature, AN OVERSIMPLIFICATION OF HER BEAUTY documents the relationship between Nance and a lovely young woman as it teeters on the divide between platonic and romantic. Utilizing a tapestry of live action and various styles of animation, Nance explores the fantasies, emotions, and memories that race through his mind during a singular moment in time.

In Our Heads About Our Hair

Synopsis: In Our Heads About Our Hair examines issues Black women confront regarding hair and self-esteem.  The film encourages viewers to celebrate their natural beauty, but offers differing opinions (and wisdom) from women who have chosen otherwise, while delving into underlying historical and social factors.

Soul Food Junkies

Synopsis: Baffled by his dad’s unwillingness to change his traditional soul food diet in the face of a health crisis, director Byron Hurt sets out to learn more about this rich culinary tradition and its relevance to black cultural identity. He discovers that the love affair that his dad and his community have with soul food is deep-rooted, complex, and in some tragic cases, deadly.

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