2nd Urbanworld Festival Kick Off This Week; Spikes
by Anaye Mulligan
Don’t be misled by the fact that Urbanworld is a Black film festival
that’s only in its second year of existence.
Happening this week in New York City from August 5th – 9th, The Second
Annual Urbanworld Film Festival features actors Wesley Snipes,
Angela Basset and Sydney Poitier. The festival also boasts panelists
Michelle Bird, (Executive Director of the IFP) and John Singleton,
(Director of “Boys in the Hood“). In addition to screening 70 short and
feature length films, Urbanworld will also include a screenplay
competition, an actor’s workshop and eight panel discussions on a range
of industry topics. And if that sounds like a lot to have achieved with
such a young festival, there’s a secret to Urbanworld’s success.
Before founding this festival, Executive Director Stacey Spikes was the
Vice President of Marketing of Miramax Films and then at October Films.
And Spikes has developed Urbanworld with higher ambitions than simply
creating another Black-themed festival.
“I look at the major film festivals, like Sundance and Toronto, and try
to study what they’re doing. More than just having a good minority
festival, I want to have one of the best festivals there is. That’s my
goal,” Spikes explains.
But Spikes confides that he applied himself to Urbanworld with more in
mind than simply making it a profitable enterprise. Feeling
dissatisfied with himself in his position as a marketing executive,
Spikes chose to act on his sense of responsibility toward young Black
filmmakers struggling to break into the industry.
“My soul was starting to die,” Spikes says of his time at Miramax and
October. “The soul starts to die when you’re collecting a paycheck and
yet you could be doing so much more.”
In answer to that sense of responsibility, Urbanworld has displayed
tremendous growth since its remarkable success last year with the
premieres of the $44 million grossing “Soul Food” and Bill Duke’s period
gangster film “Hoodlum.” Notable premieres this year include “How
Stella Got her Groove Back” (scripted by “Waiting to Exhale” writer
Terry McMillan), and “Down in the Delta,” starring Wesley Snipes and
Alfre Woodard. The latter film marks the film directing debut
of acclaimed writer Maya Angelou.
With the addition of new sponsors and new screens, Urbanworld has
doubled the number of films and panel discussions. And the winner of
the screenplay competition, another new addition this year, will have
his or her work performed in an industry-attended reading on Friday.
[Tickets for individual screenings, not including premieres, are $7.
Day passes, also excluding premieres, are $25 dollars. Passes
for the entire festival are $500. Ticketing and inquiries are handled
by the Urbanworld offices at 212/941-3845.]