Urbanworld Film Festival Unveils New Crop of Films, Shorts

Shantella Y. Sherman | 9/26/2012, 2:43 p.m.

The 16th Annual Urbanworld Film Festival presented by BET Networks concluded Sunday, September 23, following 5 days of screenings, panels, red carpet events, and awards ceremonies. Urbanworld opened on Thursday night at AMC 34th Street in New York, with the BET Premiere Cinema film 'Being Mary Jane,' an original made for television movie and pilot. On hand to celebrate this world premiere was the film's lead star Gabrielle Union, along with cast members Tika Sumpter and Richard Brooks and writer/director powerhouse couple Salim and Mara Brock Akil. BET top execs Debra Lee (Chairman and CEO), Loretha Jones (President of Original Programming), Jeanine Liburd (Exec Pres. of Corporate Communications) and Connie Orlando (VP, Original Programming) were also on hand to present the film, which was met with rave reviews following the screening.

And while there was bit of something for everyone at the festival, among the Informer favorites included Lock and Key, directed by Dana Verde, Sleep, directed by Donald Conley, Nani, directed by Justin Tipping, and Crossover, directed by Tina Mabry.

Having attended Urbanworld each year since its inception in 1997, it was easy to note the thematic shift this year from more male-driven and gritty coming-of-age tales to intense and cerebral human dramas.

For instance, Verde's Sleep, examines a fateful morning when two tween-aged brothers face a family tragedy. The dialogue is minimal; the acting by Gregory Barnes and Eric Ruffin is superb. Similarly, Tipping's Crossover takes place in a 2028 society where only two classes exists - the uber wealthy living in safe and lavish environments and the extremely poor, who are segregated into violent and hostile neighborhoods. Crossover chronicles an African American mother's attempts at selling her organs and bone marrow to pay for her children's migration into respectable society.

Perhaps the sleeper favorite of the Festival though, was Tipping's Nani. Johnny Ortiz portrays Oscar, a teen who loves to tag (spray paint) his name in elaborate designs throughout the city. When he is caught and sentenced to community service at a nursing home, Oscar meets 84-year-old Isabel suffering from dementia and loneliness. Quick friends, the duo both learn deeper meanings of life and love through tagging.

Urbanworld, which screened 49 films this year (including 17 world premieres), is the largest internationally competitive festival dedicated to the exhibition of independent cinema by and about people of color. The Urbanworld Film Festival, founded in 1997 by Stacy Spikes, is the largest internationally competitive festival of its kind. The five-day festival includes narrative features, documentaries, and short films, as well as panel discussions, live staged screenplay readings, and the Urbanworld Digital track focused on digital and social media.

Over the last fifteen years, Hollywood studios, indie film distributors, and established and emerging filmmakers have consistently chosen Urbanworld to premiere box office and award-winning hits. Urbanworld has also provided a platform for some of today's leading brands seeking to reach key influencers across the industry and within the consumer marketplace.

The Urbanworld Film Festival is an initiative of the Urbanworld Foundation Inc., a nonprofit organization that endeavors to consistently manifest its mission of redefining and advancing the roles of multicultural constituents in contemporary filmed entertainment. By implementing initiatives that actively support and develop content creators of color, Urbanworld significantly contributes to the evolution of the media and entertainment landscape and the diversity that it reflects. Gabrielle Glore serves as Executive Producer & Head of Programming for the Urbanworld Film Festival. The festival website is www.urbanworld.org.

The 16th Annual Urbanworld Film Festival Winners:

Best Narrative Feature


Directed by Joshua Sanchez

Honorable Mention:

Wolf - Directed by Ya'Ke Smith

Best Narrative Short


Directed by Jesse Atlas

Honorable Mention:

"Forever In Hiatus" - Directed by Andy Nguyen

Best Documentary Feature


Directed by Byron Hurt

Honorable Mention:

Jake Shimabukuro: Life on 4 Strings - Directed by Tadashi Nakamura

Best Screenplay


Written by Peter Lord

Honorable Mention:

Escaping Bushwick - Written by Javier Ortiz

Best Teleplay


Written by Pauline Gray

Audience Award

BARBASOL - Best Short

Directed by Ralph Scott

DOIN' IT IN THE PARK - Best Feature

Co-Directed by Kevin Couliau & Bobbito Garcia