The 14th Annual Urbanworld Film Festival kicked off yesterday at the AMC 34th St Theater in New York City. Actress Kerry Washington and actor Jamie Hector were the stars of their night for their roles in Night Catches Us.

The term Black Hollywood often times feels like an oxymoron. Images of African-American life barely make it to the big screen and when they do, they are generally muddled in some kind of violent gangster morality tale or simplistic slap-stick comedy featuring your favorite rapper Du Jour. Sure there are the Tyler Perry movies, but if his melodramatic fare isn’t quite sophisticated enough for you, then you are usually out of luck. The UrbanWorld film festival now in its 14th year is one of the few places where film fans can catch a diverse selection of movies that offer genuine glimpses into Black life, not completely burdened by unnecessary stereotypes.

“This is a great night for black film,” said Washington, who dazzled the red carpet in a chic black mini-skirt. “I will always support independent film because that’s the community I came out of,” added Hector. “And I’m still in it.”

Incorporating an enticing blend of independent features, shorts and documentaries, the film topics for this year’s festival range from Mike Tyson, to Islam, to Educational hope and inequality in NYC . One of the standout documentaries is “My Mic Sounds Nice” which originally aired on BET. Both well shot and thought provoking, the documentary will undoubtably become the benchmark for which other music films like it will be judged.

When I attended one of the early Urbanworld festivals at the old $2 worldwide cinema on 52nd street, I marveled at the passionate look on the faces of the young filmmakers and fans in attendance. It was as if they had discovered some sort of celluloid nirvana. The 2010 version of the festival is slightly more glam at the new 34th street AMC digs as the red carpet moments, like Thursday night’s screening of Keri Washington’s new film Night Catches Us, take on more importance. However at its core, the energy of Urbanworld has remained the same over the years. It is one of the only places where zealous film makers and fans can get their fix of quality films about a people whose stories are all to often ignored.

Check out the red carpet photos from opening night!

Other celebs who attended the event were tv/radio personality FREE, actress Kellita Smith (The Bernie Mac Show) and model Liris Crosse.

Stay tuned for appearances from Nia Long, Evan Ross, Golden Brooks , Salli Richardson-Whitfield, Omari Hardwick , Dijon Talton, Kid Capri, Crazy Legs and more.

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