Sundance 2018 Films Featuring and Directed By Black Talent

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Sundance 2018 Films Featuring and Directed By Black Talent
Posted by Wilson Morales

January 17, 2018

Once again, as the new year starts, so do the hopes for several filmmakers and talent who want to have their films picked up for distribution at the upcoming Sundance Film Festival.

The Festival hosts screenings in Park City, Salt Lake City and at Sundance Mountain Resort, from January 18–28.

Last year had with a number of Black films getting theatrical distribution and new talent being discovered. Gerard McMurray came there with the frat flm Burning Sands, which played at Netflix. His next film will be with Universal as he’s set to direct the fourth installment of The Purge franchise. Three Black female directors, Janicza Bravo (Lemon), Maggie Betts (Novitiate) and Sabaah Folayan (Whose Streets?) had their feature length films debut at the festival, and later had them distributed in theaters by studios and indie labels.

Dee Rees (Pariah) also came back last year with the critically acclaimed Mudbound, with starred Garrett Hedlund, Jason Mitchell, Rob Morgan, Jason Clarke and Mary J. Blige and is on the verge of landing an Academy nomination for her adapted screenplay along with co-writer Virgil Williams. The film itself is also in the running to nab a Best Picture nom.

2018 will feature the return of Lakeith Stanfield, who was amazing last year in the lead role for Crown Heights. This year, he stars opposite Tessa Thompson in Boots Riley’s Sorry To Bother You and will have a supporting role in Come, Sunday opposite Chiwetel Ejiofor. Idris Elba will make his presence at the festival with his directorial debut, Yardie, starring Aml Ameen. Recent NAACP Image Award winner Omari Hardwick (Power) stars opposite Meagan Good in the Qasim Basir‘ romantic drama A Boy. A Girl. A Dream.

Congrats to those films that will be playing this year and hopefully, the rest of the world, will get a chance to see them, should it be picked up for theatrical release.

Here’s are some of the films that will be playing at the festival this year that are either directed or features Black talent.

U.S. DRAMATIC COMPETITION

The films in this section are all world premieres.

Blindspotting (Director: Carlos Lopez Estrada, Screenwriters: Rafael Casal, Daveed Diggs, Producers: Keith Calder, Jess Calder, Rafael Casal, Daveed Diggs) — The buddy comedy, written by Diggs and Casal, loosely based on their experiences growing up in the Bay Area, is about two movers set against the colorful backdrop of a rapidly gentrifying Oakland. Cast: Daveed Diggs, Rafael Casal, Janina Gavankar, Jasmine Cephas Jones, Tisha Campbell-Martin, Ethan Embry, Utkarsh Ambudkar, Kevin Carroll, Nyambi Nyambi, John Chaffin, and Wayne Knight. DAY ONE

Diggs originated the role of Marquis de Lafayette/Thomas Jefferson in the Broadway musical smash Hamilton, for which he won a Tony Award for Best Featured Actor. Together, Daveed Diggs & Rafael Casal have worked on Hobbes & Me, a shot-for-shot (or panel-for-panel) adaptation of Bill Watterson’s classic comic strip, Calvin & Hobbes. They were also part of the Getback crew in the Bay area.

Burden (Director and screenwriter: Andrew Heckler, Producers: Robbie Brenner, Jincheng, Bill Kenwright) — The film follows Klansman Michael Burden (Hedlund), an orphan raised within the Ku Klux Klan who attempts to break away when the single mom he falls in love with urges him to leave for a better life together. As the Klan seeks Mike out for vengeance, a black congregation led by the benevolent Reverend Kennedy takes Mike, his girlfriend and her son in, protects them and accepts them into their community in hopes of teaching Mike about love and acceptance. Cast: Garrett Hedlund, Forest Whitaker, Andrea Riseborough, Tom Wilkinson, Usher Raymond.

Burden has been in the works for more than a decade, with things seriously getting in motion in 2015 under producer Robbie Brenner, who brought the project with her when she left Relativity to join the newly reconstituted The Firm in September 2015.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post / U.S.A. (Director: Desiree Akhavan, Screenwriters: Desiree Akhavan, Cecilia Frugiuele, Producers: Cecilia Frugiuele, Jonathan Montepare, Michael B. Clark, Alex Turtletaub) — Set in 1993, the film stars Moretz as Cameron, a young girl who’s taken in by her conservative aunt in 1993 after her parents die in a car accident. When she’s outed as a lesbian, she’s forced into a conversation therapy clinic where she meets a fellow “disciple,” played by Lane.

Based on Emily Danforth’s acclaimed and controversial coming-of-age novel. Cast: Chloë Grace Moretz, Sasha Lane, Forrest Goodluck, John Gallagher Jr., Jennifer Ehle.

Monster (Director: Anthony Mandler, Screenwriters: Radha Blank, Cole Wiley, Janece Shaffer, Producers: Tonya Lewis Lee, Nikki Silver, Aaron L. Gilbert, Mike Jackson, Edward Tyler Nahem) ― “Monster” is what the prosecutor calls 17-year-old honors student and aspiring filmmaker Steve Harmon. Charged with felony murder for a crime he says he did not commit, the film follows his dramatic journey through a complex legal battle that could leave him spending the rest of his life in prison. Cast: Kelvin Harrison Jr., Jeffrey Wright, Jennifer Hudson, Rakim Mayers, Jennifer Ehle, Tim Blake Nelson.

Written by Colen C. Wiley and Janece Shaffer, MONSTER is based on the award winning novel by Walter Dean Myers. The film marks the feature debut of acclaimed commercial/music video director Anthony Mandler, who received worldwide notoriety for his work with some of the music industry’s most influential artists.

Monsters and Men / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Reinaldo Marcus Green, Producers: Elizabeth Lodge Stepp, Josh Penn, Eddie Vaisman, Julia Lebedev, Luca Borghese) — This interwoven narrative explores the aftermath of a police killing of a black man. The film is told through the eyes of the bystander who filmed the act, an African-American police officer and a high-school baseball phenom inspired to take a stand. Cast: John David Washington, Anthony Ramos, Kelvin Harrison Jr., Chanté Adams, Nicole Beharie, Rob Morgan.

Sorry to Bother You (Director and screenwriter: Boots Riley, Producers: Nina Yang Bongiovi, Forest Whitaker, Charles King, George Rush, Jonathan Duffy, Kelly Williams) — The film is about black telemarketer Cassius Green (Stanfield) with self-esteem issues who discovers a magical key to business success, propelling him to the upper echelons of the hierarchy just as his activist comrades are rising up against unjust labor practices. When he uncovers the macabre secret of his corporate overlords, he must decide whether to stand up or sell out.

Cast: Lakeith Stanfield, Tessa Thompson, Steven Yeun, Jermaine Fowler, Armie Hammer, Omari Hardwicke.

The producers are Fruitvale Station‘s Nina Yang Bongiovi and Forest Whitaker of Signficant Prods. are producing along with 6 Years‘ Jonathan Duffy and Kelly Williams, Charles D. King (Fences), George Rush (Bully)

Tyrel (Director and screenwriter: Sebastian Silva, Producers: Jacob Wasserman, Max Born) — Tyrel stars Jason Mitchell as a man named Tyler who joins a weekend birthday party in a secluded cabin. He finds out he is the only black person there as the alcohol fueled party spirals out of control. Cast: Jason Mitchell, Christopher Abbott, Michael Cera, Caleb Landry Jones, Ann Dowd.

U.S. DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION

The 16 films in this section are all world premieres unless otherwise specified.

Crime + Punishment (Director: Stephen Maing) — Over four years of unprecedented access, the story of a brave group of black and Latino whistleblower cops and one unrelenting private investigator who, amidst a landmark lawsuit, risk everything to expose illegal quota practices and their impact on young minorities.

Hale County This Morning, This Evening (Director: RaMell Ross, Screenwriter: Maya Krinsky, Producers: Joslyn Barnes, RaMell Ross, Su Kim) — An exploration of coming-of-age in the Black Belt of the American South, using stereotypical imagery to fill in the landscape between iconic representations of black men and encouraging a new way of looking, while resistance to narrative suspends conclusive imagining – allowing the viewer to complete the film.

Minding the Gap (Director: Bing Liu, Producer: Diane Quon) — Three young men bond together to escape volatile families in their Rust Belt hometown. As they face adult responsibilities, unexpected revelations threaten their decade-long friendship

WORLD CINEMA DRAMATIC COMPETITION

The films in this section are world premieres unless otherwise specified.

And Breathe Normally (Iceland-Sweden-Belgium – Director and screenwriter: Ísold Uggadóttir, Producers: Skúli Malmquist, Diana Elbaum, Annika Hellström, Lilja Ósk Snorradóttir, Inga Lind Karlsdóttir) — At the edge of Iceland‘s Reykjanes peninsula, two women‘s lives will intersect — for a brief moment — while trapped in circumstances unforeseen. Between a struggling Icelandic mother and an asylum seeker from Guinea-Bissau, a delicate bond will form as both strategize to get their lives back on track. Cast: Kristín Thóra Haraldsdóttir, Babetida Sadja, Patrik Nökkvi Pétursson.

Yardie (U.K. –Director: Idris Elba, Screenwriters: Brock Norman Brock, Martin Stellman, Producers: Gina Carter, Robin Gutch) — Jamaica, 1973. When a young boy witnesses his brother‘s assassination, a powerful Don gives him a home. Ten years later he is sent on a mission to London. He reunites with his girlfriend and their daughter, but then the past catches up with them. Based on Victor Headley’s novel. Cast: Aml Ameen, Shantol Jackson, Stephen Graham, Fraser James, Sheldon Shepherd, Everaldo Cleary.

WORLD CINEMA DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION

The films in this section are world premieres unless otherwise specified.

Matangi / Maya / M.I.A. (Sri Lanka-U.K.-U.S. – Director: Stephen Loveridge, Producers: Lori Cheatle, Andrew Goldman, Paul Mezey) — Drawn from a never before seen cache of personal footage spanning decades, this is an intimate portrait of the Sri Lankan artist and musician who continues to shatter conventions.

NEXT

The films in this section are all world premieres.

A Boy, A Girl, A Dream. (Director: Qasim Basir, Screenwriters: Qasim Basir, Samantha Tanner, Producer: Datari Turner) — The story follows a Los Angeles club promoter named Cass (Hardwick), who on the night of the 2016 Presidential Election meets a woman named Free (Good) who challenges him to revisit his broken dreams. This happens during a series of unfortunate events during the time that Trump is surging ahead of Hilary Clinton. Cast: Omari Hardwick, Meagan Good, Jay Ellis, Kenya Barris, Dijon Talton, Wesley Jonathan.

Basir’s most recent film, Destined, stars Cory Hardrict and is currently out on VOD. It premiered at the Los Angeles Film Festival last year and went on to win nine awards, including both the Best Director and Best Actor awards at the American Black Film Festival. His directorial debut was “ Mooz-Lum,” starring Nia Long and Evan Ross.

Clip with Omari Hardwick and Meagan Good

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Night Comes On (Director: Jordana Spiro, Screenwriters: Jordana Spiro, Angelica Nwandu, Producers: Jonathan Montepare, Alvaro R. Valente, Danielle Renfrew Behrens)— Angel LaMere is released from juvenile detention on the eve of her 18th birthday. Haunted by her past, she embarks on a journey with her 10 year-old sister that could destroy their future. Cast: Dominique Fishback, Tatum Hall, John Earl Jelks, Max Casella, James McDaniel.

Skate Kitchen (Director: Crystal Moselle, Screenwriters: Crystal Moselle, Ashlihan Unaldi, Producers: Lizzie Nastro, Izabella Tzenkova, Julia Nottingham, Matthew Perniciaro, Michael Sherman, Rodrigo Teixeira) — Camille’s life as a lonely suburban teenager changes dramatically when she befriends a group of girl skateboarders. As she journeys deeper into this raw New York City subculture, she begins to understand the true meaning of friendship as well as her inner self. Cast: Rachelle Vinberg, Dede Lovelace, Jaden Smith, Nina Moran, Ajani Russell, Kabrina Adams.

PREMIERES

The  films in this section are all world premieres.

Come Sunday (Director: Joshua Marston, Screenwriter: Marcus Hinchey, Producers:Ira Glass, AlissaShipp, Julie Goldstein, James Stern, Lucas Smith, Cindy Kirven) —  Cast: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Danny Glover, Condola Rashad, Jason Segel, Lakeith Stanfield, Martin Sheen.

The film is based on a This American Life episode from 2005 chronicling the story of Carlton Pearson (Ejiofor), a renowned evangelical minister in Tulsa, Okla., who stirs up controversy with his revelation that there is no hell. He loses everything and must rebuild his church and his family and find his own personal faith.

Rashad will play Gina, the wife of Carlton (Ejiofor), while Glover will play Gilbert Pearson, who is Carlton’s uncle. Martin Sheen will play televangelist Oral Roberts. Stanfield will play the music director of a megachurch who is also the devoted right-hand man of Ejiofor’s minister.

Sargeant plays Nicky Brown, a working single mother, Carlton’s assistant, and one of the few members of the church to stick by him.

Hearts Beat Loud (Director: Brett Haley, Screenwriters: Brett Haley, Marc Basch, Producers: Houston King, Sam Bisbee, Sam Slater) — Cast: Nick Offerman, Kiersey Clemons, Ted Danson, Sasha Lane, Blythe Danner, Toni Collette.

Set in Red Hook, Brooklyn, and in his first feature lead role, Offerman plays Frank, who with his daughter Sam (Clemons) forms an unlikely songwriting duo in the last summer before she leaves for college. Offerman and Clemons will both sing in the film, which will feature four original songs and a score by Keegan DeWitt.

A Kid Like Jake (Director: Silas Howard, Screenwriter: Daniel Pearle, Producers: Jim Parsons, Todd Spiewak, Eric Norsoph, Paul Bernon, Rachel Song) — Cast: Claire Danes, Jim Parsons, Octavia Spencer, Priyanka Chopra, Ann Dowd, Amy Landecker.

Story follows Alex (Danes) and Greg Wheeler (Parsons) who have high hopes for their son Jake, a bright and precocious four-year-old who happens to prefer Cinderella to GI Joe. On the eve of the admissions cycle for New York City kindergartens and aware they can’t afford private school tuition, Judy (Spencer), the director of Jake’s preschool, encourages them to accentuate Jake’s “gender variant” expression to help him stand out and try and get a scholarship.

As they navigate their roles as parents, a rift grows between them, one that forces them to confront their own concerns about what’s best for Jake, and each other. Chopra will portray Amal, their friend and a newly single mom who is also trying to navigate the school system, as well as her own dating world; Dowd will play Catherine, Alex’s mother; while Watkins will portray Sandra, Greg’s patient.

DOCUMENTARY PREMIERES

The films in this section are all world premieres.

Half The Picture (Director: Amy Adrion, Producers: Amy Adrion, David Harris) — Composed of intimate and unencumbered moments of people in a community in Alabama’s Black Belt, Hale County This Morning, This Evening offers an emotive impression of the Historic South. Daniel Collins attends college in search of opportunity while Quincy Bryant becomes a father to an energetic son. Creating a poetic form that
privileges the patiently observed interstices of their lives, RaMell Ross’ film trumpets the beauty of life and consequences of race, while simultaneously existing as a testament to dreaming – despite the odds.

King In The Wilderness (Director: Peter Kunhardt, Producers: George Kunhardt, Teddy Kunhardt) — From the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965 to his assassination in 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr. remained a man with an unshakeable commitment to nonviolence in the face of an increasingly unstable country. A portrait of the last years of his life.

SPOTLIGHT

This section represents a collection of half a dozen films that have already premiered at other festivals.

I Am Not a Witch (U.K. – Director and screenwriter: Rungano Nyoni, Producers: Juliette Grandmont, Emily Morgan) — After a minor incident, nine-year old Shula is exiled to a witch camp where she is told that if she escapes, she’ll be transformed into a goat. As she navigates through her new life, she must decide whether to accept her fate or risk the consequences of seeking freedom. Cast: Margaret Mulubwa, Henry B.J. Phiri, Nancy Mulilo, Margaret Sipaneia. (U.S. Premiere)

KIDS

The film in this section is a world premieres unless otherwise indicated

White Fang (Director: Alexandre Espigares, Screenwriters: Dominique Monfery, Philippe Lioret, Serge Frydman, Producers: Jeremie Fajner, Clement Calvet, Peter Saraf, Marc Turtletaub) — An updated reimagining of Jack London’s classic novel, this thrilling tale of kindness, survival and the twin majesties of the animal kingdom and mankind traces the loving and magnificent hero White Fang, whose intense curiosity leads him on the adventure of a lifetime. Cast: Rashida Jones, Nick Offerman, Eddie Spears, Paul Giamatti.

SPECIAL EVENTS

Pass Over / U.S.A (Created by: Spike Lee, Danya Taymor, Playwright/Screenwriter: Antoinette Nwandu) — A provocative riff on Waiting for Godot, capturing the poetry, humor and humanity of this urgent and timely play about two young black men talking shit, passing the time and dreaming of the promised land. Cast: Jon Michael Hill, Julian Parker, Ryan Hallahan, Blake DeLong. World Premiere

RuPaul’s Drag Race: A Retrospective of the Cultural Phenomenon / U.S.A. (Lead Artist: RuPaul Charles) — A retrospective of VH1’s Emmy-winning “RuPaul’s Drag Race” on the heels of its10th season, and a panel hosted by RuPaul with executive producers Randy Barbato and Fenton Bailey, along with Tom Campbell and Pamela Post, senior vice president of Original Programming for MTV, VH1 and Logo. Cast: RuPaul Charles, Michelle Visage, Carson Kressley, Ross Mathews. World Premiere

INDIE EPISODIC

America To Me / U.S.A. (Director: Steve James, Segment Directors: Bing Liu, Rebecca Parrish, Kevin Shaw) — This limited series captures a year-long look at one of Chicago’s most progressive and diverse public schools, located in suburban Oak Park. Unprecedented in scope, the series is both intimate and epic in its storytelling as it explores America’s charged state of race, culture and education today. World Premiere

Franchesca / U.S.A. (Executive Producers: Topic Studios, Franchesca Ramsey, Kara Welker, Director: Kaitlin Fontana) — Comedian Franchesca Ramsey finds communion and culture in this digital series which explores beauty and fashion. The pilot episode finds Franchesca escaping ubiquitous internet trolls as she spends the day with friend Michelle Buteau getting an ornate Japanese gel manicure. Cast: Franchesca Ramsey. World Premiere

Leimert Park / U.S.A. (Director: Mel Jones, Screenwriters: Davita Scarlett) — Things get complicated when three friends share a house in South LA’s Leimert Park. Despite being married, beats-maker Mickey hasn’t had an orgasm in three months, Bridget mistakes sex for love while assisting a visiting artist and Kendra shoots videos of her numerous sexual encounters, hoping for her own art show. Cast: Ashley Blaine Featherson, Asia’h Epperson, Ashli Haynes, Franz Latten, Wade Allain-Marcus, Ikenna Okoye. World Premiere

NEW FRONTIER

Dinner Party / U.S.A. (Lead Artists: Charlotte Stoudt, Laura Wexler, Angel Manuel Soto, Key Collaborators: Rachel Skidmore, Bryn Mooser, Erik Donley) — A short virtual reality thriller that dramatizes the incredible story of Betty and Barney Hill, who in the 1960’s reported the first nationally known UFO abduction case in America. Cast: Malcolm Barrett, Sarah Sokolovic.

Masters of the Sun / U.S.A. (Lead Artists: will.i.am, apl de ap, Taboo, Key Collaborators: Pasha Shapiro, Ernst Weber, Sara Ramaker, Eddie Axley) — In 1983, Los Angeles was spared from utter destruction driven by an ancient evil. The ghetto became ground zero for drug epidemic that transformed citizens into soul-sucking zombies through Z-Drops, until a ragtag crew used one weapon to take their city back: hip-hop. Voice Cast: Rakim, Queen Latifah, Jason Isaacs, Stan Lee, KRS-One, Slick Rick.

Narcissister Organ Player / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Narcissister) — This hybrid performance/documentary film explores how ancestral data is stored in our bodies, impacting the lives we lead. On the personal level, the film investigates how the artist’s complex family history compelled her to create the masked, erotic performance character Narcissister. Cast: Narcissister, Sarah Lumpkin, Oscar Lumpkin, Bernard Lumpkin, Carmine Boccuzzi.

On My Way / U.S.A. (Lead Artist: Yung Jake, Key Collaborators: Mike Rosenstien, Ari Kuschnir, Andrew Schwartz) — In a Tesla, multiple Yung Jakes rap about money, cars, drugs and things of that nature, among interactive elements. Cast: Yung Jake.

SHORTS

Baby Brother / U.S.A. (Director: Kamau Bilal) — The director’s baby brother moves back in with his parents.
Emergency / U.S.A. (Director: Carey Williams, Screenwriter: K.D. Dávila) — Faced with an emergency situation, a group of young Black and Latino friends carefully weigh the pros and cons of calling the police.

GLUCOSE / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Jeron Braxton) — Sugar was the engine of the slave trade that brought millions of Africans to America. Glucose is sweet, marketable and easy to consume, but its surface satisfaction is a thin coating on the pain of many disenfranchised people.

Hair Wolf / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Mariama Diallo) — In a black hair salon in gentrifying Brooklyn, the local residents fend off a strange new monster: white women intent on sucking the lifeblood from black culture.

LaZercism / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Shaka King) — Ask your doctor if LaZercism is right for you. Stars Lakeith Stanfield, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Robert Longstreet, Bryce Gill, Joanna Leeds, Ankur Bhatt

The Right Choice / United Kingdom (Director: Tomisin Adepeju, Screenwriter: Vijay Varman) — With the help of an adviser, a husband and wife must answer three seemingly harmless questions to create their perfect designer baby.

War Paint / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Katrelle N. Kindred) — A young black girl in South L.A. experiences a series of events at the convergence of racism and sexism during the 4th of July holiday.

Wild Wild West: A Beautiful Rant by Mark Bradford / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Dime Davis) — Where do artists come from? An answer explored through paper, percussion, and one provocative artist.

Ultraviolet / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Marc Johnson) — A woman named Kanchana and several scorpions explore collaborative survival approaches in a posthuman future in which all living beings are considered equal. Inter-species sociability, the Anthropocene and speculative Fabulations unfold in a futuristic and enchanted world.

Zion / U.S.A. (Director: Floyd Russ) — A portrait of Zion Clark, a young wrestler who was born without legs and grew up in foster care.


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