Urbanworld Announces Competition Slate for Seventh Annual Fest
by Eugene Hernandez
The lineup for the seventh Urbanworld Film Festival was unveiled this week by event founder Stacy Spikes. The event, which will run September 17-21 in Manhattan, showcases work by people of color and films about blacks, Latinos, and Asians. Spikes is a former exec from Miramax and October Films who founded the festival in 1997. Touting the success of films from last year's festival, including "Drumline" and "Barbershop," Spikes told indieWIRE that the scope of work that the festival presents ranges from independent to studio fare.
"It's a two-headed snake," Spike said during the conversation, "A great launching pad (for studio films) and a home for independents." While the lineup of gala screenings and studio films have yet to be announced, the festival has confirmed the list of competition films that will screen.
Among the narrative films set to screen are a number of films that have received acclaim on the fest circuit yet remain without distribution. Adam Bhala Lough's "Bomb the System," which looks at taggers in NYC, debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival, as did Michael Tolajian's "Bought and Sold," Nelson Antonio Denis' "Vote For Me," and Damon Dash's hip hop satire, "Death of a Dynasty." Joey Curtis' "Quattro Noza" premiered this year at Sundance, while Greg Pak's "Robot Stories" was in competition last year at the Hamptons International Film Festival. In the doc competition, festival faves from Tribeca include "Every Child is Born a Poet: Piri Thomas," directed by Jonathan Robinson, "Hooked: Demetrius Mitchell Story," directed by Michael Skolnik and William O'Neill, and Maxie Collier's "Paper Chasers."
The festival will offer three competitive categories, including features, docs and short films, with a total of nine awards, including best prizes in a variety of categories: features, documentaries, shorts, director, actor, actress, original screenplay, foreign film, and audience award.
"Yes, I think it's crowded, New York has always been that way," Spikes explained, "(But we) established ourselves pretty quickly because of our niche focus." Continuing he explained, "If you want to see the films that are gonna come out in the fourth quarter of 2003 or in 2004, you know where they are going to premiere." Spikes added that the fest is proud of its track record of debuting new work, including "Introducing Dorothy Dandridge" which starred Halle Berry, "Soul Food," and "The Original Kings of Comedy."
Sponsorship is always a tough challenge facing festival organizers. Spikes indicated that he expects revenues to top last year, with HBO on board as the presenting sponsor and BMW serving as an official sponsor.
Fest venues in 2003 will include the Loews Theaters on 34th Street in Manhattan and the Magic Johnson Theaters in Harlem; panels will take place at the Second Stage Theater in Times Square. On September 20, Urbanworld will host the MECCA Awards (Minority Entertainment in Cinematic and Creative Arts), honoring individuals in entertainment. Urbanworld will also host a screenplay reading at the Tribeca Film Center as well as a special Fat Albert Film Festival for kids, benefiting the Boys and Girls Club.
"I can't wait to see these kids getting into this for the first time," Spike said, referring to the screenings of episodes of the classic cartoon series, "If its popular, it might become an annual thing."
URBANWORLD FILM FESIVAL LINEUP (information provided by the festival):
Features competition section:
"Anne B. Real," directed by Lisa France
"Bomb the System," directed by Adam Lough
"Bought and Sold," directed by Michael Tolajian
"China," directed by Jeffrey Wray
"Dark," directed by D.A. Bullock
"Death of a Dynasty," directed by Damon Dash
"El Matador," directed by Joey Medina
"Gang of Roses," directed by Jean Claude La Marre
"Jesse's Closet," directed by Kenneth Johnson
"Kings County," directed by Patrice Johnson
"L.A.X. ," directed by Uri Zighelboim
"Matchups," directed by Donahue Tuitt
"Never Trust a Serial Killer," directed by Juan Carlos Garza
"Quattro Noza," directed by Joey Curtis
"Robot Stories," directed by Greg Pak
"Runnin' At Midnite," directed by Pablo Ian Toledo
"Cutthroat Alley" (World Premiere), directed by Timothy Wayne Folsom
"Skin Deep," directed by Sacha Parisot
"Vote For Me," directed by Nelson Antonio Denis
Documentaries competition section:
"Beef" (World Premiere)," directed by Peter Spirer
"Brother Outsider," directed by Nancy Kates and Bennett Singer
"Butch Mystique," directed by Debra Wilson
"Emotional Backgammon," directed by Leon Herbert
"Every Child is Born a Poet: Piri Thomas," directed by Jonathan Robinson
"Hooked: Demetrius Mitchell Story," directed by Michael Skolnik and William O'Neill
"The Larry Davis Story," directed by Troy Reed
"Paper Chasers," directed by Maxie Collier
"Resistencia: Hip-Hop in Columbia," directed by Tom Feiling
"Soundz of Spirit," directed by Joslyn Rose Lyons