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Black Talent And Films At 2018 Tribeca Film Festival

Black Talent And Films At 2018 Tribeca Film FestivalPosted by Wilson Morales

April 18, 2016

The 17th annual Tribeca Film Festival, presented by AT&T, starts today, taking place from April 18 to April 29 in New York City.

The 2018 feature film program includes 96 films from 103 filmmakers. Of the 96 films, 46% of them are directed by women, the highest percentage in the Festival’s history. The lineup includes 75 World Premieres, 5 International Premieres, 9 North American Premieres, 3 U.S. Premieres, and 4 New York Premieres from 27 countries. This year’s program includes 46 first time filmmakers, with 18 directors returning to the Festival with their latest feature film projects. Tribeca’s 2018 slate was programmed from more than 8,789 total submissions.

Among the films with Black talent being showcased are Little Woods, directed and written by Nia DaCosta and starring Tessa Thompson, O.G. starring Jeffery Wright, and Obey starring Marcus Rutherford. Among the documentaries worth mentioning are Say Her Name: The Life and Death of Sandra Bland, The Gospel According to Andre, M. Soul! and Rest In Power: The Trayvon Martin Story.

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 a breakdown of films that have African American themes or has Black talent in prominent roles


ALL ABOUT NINA – Directed by first time feature filmmaker Eva Vives and starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Common, Sonoya Mizuno, Chance Crawford and Kate Del Castillo.

Nina Geld is an up-and-coming comedian in New York City. She’s funny, smart and has worked hard to build a career for herself in the male-dominated world of stand-up. When it comes to romantic relationships though, Nina’s life is a mess. When we meet her, she has picked up a random guy in a bar and brought him home, only to find Joe, a married policeman, waiting for her against her wishes. Unable to stand up for herself, Nina sleeps with Joe again, bringing up old issues of self-hatred. Nina decides to focus on work and later gets Larry Michaels, producer of the legendary television show, Comedy Prime, to come see Nina’s stand-up. Amazingly, he asks Nina to audition! She will need to create characters/impersonations and move to LA to audition. In LA, she meets Rafe, a dream-come-true, quintessential good-guy who makes all of Nina feel good. But when Joe shows up in LA unexpectedly, Nina has to deal with her past and has a breakdown on stage. Finally confronting the truth in such a public setting has terrifying and unexpectedly liberating consequences.

BLUE NOTE RECORDS: BEYOND THE NOTES – Written and directed by Sophie Huber. Produced by Sophie Huber, Chiemi Karasawa, Susanne Guggenberger, Hercli Bundi

One of the most important record labels in the history of jazz—and, by extension, that of American music—Blue Note Records has been home to such groundbreaking artists as Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, Bud Powell, Art Blakey, and Eric Dolphy, as well as present-day luminaries like Ambrose Akinmusire and Norah Jones. Founded in New York in 1939 by German-Jewish refugees Alfred Lion and Francis Wolff, Blue Note’s history goes beyond the records, encompassing the struggle of black artists to be heard, the conflict between art and commerce, and the idea of music as a revolutionary force.

Director Sophie Huber lays out the history of Blue Note, from its founding to its latter-day Renaissance, through a treasure trove of gorgeous photographs shot by Wolff, archival performances, interviews with the label’s alums and more recent fans, and excerpts from a contemporary All-Stars session featuring Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, and Robert Glasper. Invaluable recollections from Shorter, Rudy van Gelder and others who worked on both sides of the studio window, as well as observations from present-day participants, take the audience beyond the music and immerse viewers in the talent and drive that continue to propel the distinct mission of a great American label.

CHARM CITY – Directed by renowned documentary producer Marilyn Ness, (CAMERAPERSON; TRAPPED; E-TEAM)

The film is structured around a small constellation of memorable characters living and working in Baltimore during a period of sharp increase in homicides. At times, their circumstances highlight the current crisis of violence and distrust between civilians, officials, and police officers, and at times their actions help point a way forward. As we move between occasionally intersecting and often unpredictable lives, the camera forces intentional shifts in perspective insisting the audience consider new and often conflicting points of view. Challenging intellectual complacency, CHARM CITY combines the intimacy of close-up observational footage in the field with a lyrical score by Todd Griffin (LIFE, ANIMATED; ONE OF US) to effect a sensitive and profoundly humane portrait of those surviving in, and fighting for, the city they call home.

DEAD WOMEN WALKING – Written and directed by Hagar Ben-Asher.

Nine vignettes depict the stages leading to execution for women on death row in this emotional account of the human toll of the death penalty — on both the inmates and those they encounter in their final hours. As we experience their last moments of reckoning, Dead Women Walking poignantly examines how the issues of violence against women, poverty, and racial tension and injustice contribute to their tragic fate. Starring: Dale Dickey, Colleen Camp, Ben Zelevansky, Dot-Marie Jones, Lynn Collins, Ashton Sanders, Jeryl Prescott, Maya Lynne Robinson and Brandon James Roy.

THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO ANDRE – Directed by Kate Novak. Produced by Kate Novak & Andrew Rossi

André Leon Talley has been a fixture in the world of fashion for so long that it’s difficult to imagine a time when he wasn’t defining the boundaries of great style. Kate Novack’s intimate portrait, The Gospel According to André takes viewers on an emotional journey from André’s roots growing up in the segregated Jim Crow South to become one of the most influential tastemakers and fashion curators of our times.

Novack’s film draws fascinating, heretofore unexplored connections, between the elegance of André’s beloved grandmother and the Black Church of his youth and his later iconic, barrier-breaking work at publications like Women’s Wear Daily, W and Vogue. Weaving together a wealth of archival footage from the most glamorous moments in fashion history with André’s poignant reflections on his life and career, The Gospel According to André is a cinematic monument to one of the most unique figures of 20th Century American culture.

IT’S A HARD TRUTH, AIN’T IT – Directed by Madeleine Sackler

It’s a Hard Truth, Ain’t It is an affecting and enlightening glimpse at the stories of thirteen incarcerated men imprisoned at the Pendelton Correctional Facility in Indiana. Over a weeklong workshop inside the prison, filmmaker Madeleine Sackler, who is also at Tribeca this year with O.G., a drama inspired by the work she did on this documentary, introduces the inmates to the art of filmmaking. She shows them movies they’ve never seen—Grizzly Man proves a particular highlight for the group—and provides them with camera equipment so that they can interview each other, offering them a platform to tell their own stories. In their resulting projects, the men candidly share their personal histories and provide accounts of the crimes they’ve committed. Their testimonies are visualized through animated sequences, illustrated by the gifted Yoni Goodman of Waltz with Bashir, providing the viewer with remarkable access into their inner worlds. The result is a complex and vivid tapestry of individual experiences that, when woven together, elucidate the shared narratives of the 2.2 million people currently in prison in the United States

Little Woods with Lily James and Tessa Thompson

LITTLE WOODS – Written and Directed by first time feature filmmaker Nia DaCosta AND Starring Tessa Thompson, Lily James, Luke Kirby, James Badge Dale, Lance Reddick

Ollie (Tessa Thompson) is just getting by in economically depressed Little Woods, a fracking boomtown in North Dakota. She has left her days of illegally running prescription pills over the Canadian border behind her, eyeing a potential new job that would finally break her out of the small town. But when her mother dies, she is thrust back into the life of her estranged sister Deb (Lily James), who is facing her own crisis with an unplanned pregnancy and a deadbeat ex (James Badge Dale). On top of everything, the two find they have only one week to settle the mortgage on their mother’s house or face foreclosure. As both bills and pressure mount, Ollie faces a choice: whether to return to a way of life she thought she’d left behind for just one more score.

OBEY – Directed by Jamie Jones

OBEY is about Leon, a nineteen-year-old boy with an alcoholic mother who has grown up in and out of care. Introducing Marcus Rutherford as Leon, who plays the film’s central character, OBEY also stars Sophie Kennedy Clark (Philomena, Nymphomaniac, Black Mirror) as Twiggy and T’Nia Miller (Wagstaffe, Stud Life, Marcella, Guilt) as Leon’s mother.

Finally free from adult supervision, Leon begins to rail against the injustice of his reality as his dreams become more and more unattainable and distant. Oppressed at home and hunted on the streets by local gangs, Leon’s existence is suffocating, and all too real. When he meets Twiggy, a beautiful blond girl living in a local squat something stirs inside of him. As she introduces him to her world, the weight of his past lifts. He is in love for the first time and for a moment escapes the reality of his unrelenting existence. But naïve to the affluent world supporting Twiggy’s hedonistic lifestyle, Leon is unprepared when Twiggy no longer wants him around. Leon withdraws, allowing his raw and unhampered emotions to take over in the blind fight against his unjust existence with terrifying and brutal consequences.

O.G – Directed by Madeleine Sackler

Jeffrey Wright plays a maximum-security prison inmate named Louis, who, 24 years after committing a violent crime as a young man, finds himself on the cusp of release from prison, facing an uncertain future on the outside. He encounters Beech (Theothus Carter), a newly incarcerated young man who offers him much needed-friendship, though it’s not without unfortunate complications. The younger inmate echoes of his older counterpart, stirring instincts within Louis that had long been buried beneath a tough exterior. Sackler’s film is a taut prison drama that follows the seemingly mundane countdown of days before Louis’s release, until, almost imperceptibly, it transforms into a thriller, suddenly crackling with intensity.

Also featured in the film are William Fichtner, Theothus Carter, Mare Winningham, Boyd Holbrook, and David Patrick Kelly.

NIGERIAN PRINCE – Director by Faraday Okoro from a script by Okoro and Andrew Long

The film follows two characters; Eze, a stubborn, first generation Nigerian-American teenager and his cousin, Pius, who is a desperate Nigerian Prince scammer. After Eze’s mother sends him to Nigeria against his will, Eze retaliates by teaming up with Pius to scam unsuspecting foreigners in order to earn money for a return ticket back to America. The film was shot on location in Lagos and finished in just under 12 months after winning AT&T’s Untold Stories competition on the eve of Tribeca in 2017. Spike Lee and Sam Pollard are executive producers on Nigerian Prince.

PHANTOM COWBOYS – Directed by Daniel Patrick Carbon

Director Daniel Patrick Carbone returns to Tribeca, three years after HIDE YOUR SMILING FACES, his celebrated narrative about boys forced to grow up too fast, with a searing new documentary on the transition from boyhood to adulthood in places where opportunity is a forgotten word. Nick is winding down a high school football career in Trona, California, a derelict mining town on the rim of Death Valley. Larry wiles away the hours hunting rabbits in Pahokee, Florida’s sugarcane fields. And Tyler pursues the supreme passion of his life, dirt track racing, in the green woodlands around Parkersburg, West Virginia.

Moving gracefully between these subjects, and forward and backward in time, PHANTOM COWBOYS captures the consistent threads of responsibility, parenthood, and manhood that weigh on each of these small-town teenagers, regardless of the community that raised him.

The Rachel Divide Courtesy of Netflix.

THE RACHEL DIVIDE – Directed by Laura Brownson

Self-described “trans racial” activist Rachel Dolezal ignited an unprecedented media storm when a local news station in Spokane, WA outed her as a white woman who had been living as the black president of the NAACP. Since the controversy erupted, Director Laura Brownson (Lemon) and team exclusively filmed with Rachel, her sons and her adopted sister Esther, capturing the intimate, vérité life story of a damaged character who lands squarely in the cross-hairs of race and identity politics in America — and exploring how that character still provokes negative reactions from millions who see her as the ultimate example of white privilege. A Netflix original documentary, THE RACHEL DIVIDE, is executive produced by Academy Award winner Roger Ross Williams (Life, Animated, God Loves Uganda).

SATAN & ADAM – Directed by V. Scott Balcerek

SATAN & ADAM is the beautiful story about the musician duo by the same name. One was a demon on guitar; the other was fresh out of school and no slouch on harmonica. Filmed over two decades, SATAN & ADAM captures a miraculous journey of friendship and the power of music. In 1986, when harmonica player Adam Gussow asked if he could jam on the streets of Harlem with one-man band Sterling “Mr. Satan” Magee, it was the beginning of an unforgettable collaboration – dubbed Satan and Adam. Amidst the racial tension in New York City, this Jewish Ivy League graduate and black Mississippi blues man made an unlikely pair, but their musical stylings perfectly aligned. After a chance encounter with members of U2 and a celebrated debut record, the duo rose to international acclaim from their NYC street corner. But as quickly as they were discovered, their meteoric rise was cut short when Mr. Satan mysteriously disappeared.

The result, SATAN & ADAM – a film by V. Scott Balcerek, is an odyssey 23 years in the making that captures a miraculous journey of friendship, heartbreak and the transformative power of music.

SAY HER NAME: THE LIFE AND DEATH OF SANDRA BLAND – Directed by Kate Davis and David Heilbroner

In 2015, Sandra Bland, a politically active 28-year-old black woman from Chicago was arrested for a traffic violation in a small Texas town. Three days later, Sandra was found hanging from a noose in her jail cell. Though ruled a suicide, her death sparked allegations of racially-motivated police murder and Sandra became a poster child for activists nationwide, leaving millions to question, “What really happened to Sandra Bland?”

Ten days after Sandra’s death, the filmmakers began working closely with the family’s legal team, tracking the two-year battle between Sandra’s aggrieved family and Texas authorities. With disturbing, never-before-told details about the case, the film is punctuated by Sandra’s own passionate and moving commentary.

Approximately 30 “Sandy Speaks” video blogs, which Sandra created herself, allowed the filmmakers to get to know Sandra Bland in a deeply personal way. Via these videos, Sandy herself emerges as a central voice in SAY HER NAME — an empowered, enlightened woman of color whose sharp, humorous, charismatic remarks address subjects from educating kids about black history to police brutality to the importance of natural hair.

Part legal thriller, part parable about race in America, SAY HER NAME takes viewers deep inside a story that galvanized activists across the country.

TANZANIA TRANSIT – Directed by Jeroen van Velzen

Tribeca alum Jeroen van Velzen’s road movie follows three people finding their way, literally and figuratively, on a train journey across Tanzania. Each has already overcome considerable hardships, yet, in some sense, they appear unable to keep up with the fast-changing society around them.

With a fighting spirit and a storyteller’s heart, Rukia looks to start her life over in a new land. Peter Nyaga, a charismatic preacher, has already found his answer, but it means he cannot waste even a train ride in spreading his gospel—and shilling his book. And Maasai elder Isaya embarks on a multi-day trek home, joined by his grandson William, who is more interested in pursuing his career as a performer in the city than in carrying on the ancient traditions of his people.

UNBANNED: THE LEGEND OF AJ1 – Written and directed by Dexton Deboree

In 1984, the Chicago Bulls recruited an unassuming young basketball player named Michael Jordan. At the time, his place in the annals of NBA history was by no means assured—but then, he lent his name to a pair of sneakers by Nike: the now-iconic Air Jordan 1. Upon release, the shoe simultaneously scandalized the league and made its namesake a hero. Through interviews with the likes of Spike Lee, Jason Sudeikis, and Jordan himself, Unbanned: The Legend of AJ1 examines the dawn of the sneaker craze and how has intersected with music, sports, celebrity, and sociopolitical issues.

After the Premiere Screening: A musical tribute to the film and the Air Jordan from Kid Ink, Gizzle, and more.

UNITED SKATES – Directed and produced by Dyana Winkler and Tina Brown

Off the radar of mainstream American culture, the African-American roller-rink community has thrived for decades in cities across the country, fostering community, hosting performances by groundbreaking hip-hop artists including N.W.A. and Queen Latifah, and serving as the incubator for a radical blend of skating and dance that stands is its own unique art form, complete with regional variations. Despite this remarkable history, skating is in a precarious state; re-zoning policies have led to rinks closing down, and the long-standing, still-present practice of admission policies have, historically, restricted attendance to racially-coded “Adult Nights and even discouraged or barred black patrons entirely. ”

United Skates visits black rink owners and observes skaters from Los Angeles, Chicago, North Carolina, and beyond as they travel across the United States, introduce their kids to the art, muse on its past and future, and,most importantly, skate.

WHEN LAMBS BECOME LIONS – Directed by Jon Kasbe

In Kenya, the intersecting lives of three men crystallize the fierce conflict over conservation efforts in the country’s vast northern plains. There’s X, the calculating ivory dealer; Lukas, X’s most trusted elephant hunter; and Asan, a wildlife ranger whose task it is to prevent and deter poaching. To complicate matters, Asan is X’s cousin. For all three, this pressing debate is not simply a matter of environmentalism, it’s a fight for survival. Both poacher and ranger struggle to make ends meet, while various external forces, as well as their own actions, conspire to undermine their efforts—that is, until they’re presented with an opportunity that might reverse both of their fortunes.

Set against the government programs aimed at protecting Kenya’s elephants—including a dramatic demonstration of an ivory bonfire—When Lambs Become Lions offers a perspective on the human and environmental tolls of the ivory trade.



Robert F. Kennedy’s passion and vision helped his brother John get elected president, sparked a country’s conscience, guided the nation through terrifying crises, and inspired a generation. In the decade before his assassination at age 42, as Attorney General, a United States Senator, and a candidate for President, RFK also riled the establishment as he sharpened his political acumen, and challenged America to become the best version of itself. Told through rare and never-before-seen footage, director Dawn Porter’s four-part documentary series BOBBY KENNEDY FOR PRESIDENT examines the “Bobby Phenomenon” of the 1960s and the continuing influence of the man many see as the greatest loss of a troubling and turbulent era. Launches globally on Netflix on April 27th following World Premiere at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival on April 25th.

MR. SOUL! – Dircected by Melissa Hazlip and Samuel Pollard

From 1968 to 1973, the public television variety show SOUL!, guided by enigmatic producer and host Ellis Haizlip, offered an unfiltered, uncompromising celebration of black literature, poetry, music, and politics—voices that had few options for national exposure, and as a result, found an improbable place to call home.

Haizlip was one of the few openly gay black men during this time period and during this time, he moved the needle in terms of Black art, culture, politics, music, and life. He challenged the community and the nation at large to think and celebrate “in color,” while he also raised the awareness of the issues that were facing an American steeped in the Vietnam war and the rise of many urban communities.

After the Premiere screening on April 22: #SOUL50: A 50th Anniversary Tribute to SOUL! hosted by Blair Underwood and featuring performances from Robert Glasper, Lalah Hathaway, Kyle Abraham, DJ Jahi Sundance, Sade Lythcott, Kathleen Cleaver and The Last Poets: Abiodun Oyewole, Umar Bin Hassan and Felipe Luciano.

REST IN POWER: THE TRAYVON MARTIN STORY – Directed by Julia Willoughby Nason and Jenner Furst

The definitive look at one of the most talked-about and controversial events of the last decade, Rest in Power: The Trayvon Martin Story recounts the life and legacy of the titular 17-year-old, who was shot and killed in Florida in 2012, and whose tragic and untimely death gave rise to the #Blacklivesmatter movement. The series is based on the book of the same title by Martin’s parents, Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, and executive-produced by Shawn “JAY-Z” Carter.

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