I can now officially say that my 2nd ever film festival as a member of the press is a wrap!!!
Right after I wrapped up TIFF, I found out that I got press accreditation for the 2020 Urbanworld Film Festival. I was super excited (even though I was also super tired from TIFF and only had a few days in between and was no longer off from work 🥴) and definitely looking forward to seeing their diverse line up — and it was definitely diverse and I loved it.
I got the chance to screen a bunch of great shorts from all around the world…when I tell y’all its some really talented folks with some interesting stories out there please believe me. And if you’re one of those people who says they can’t do foreign films because of the subtitles, YOU ARE MISSING OUT!!!
- “Eagle” (2019 – USA) Dir: Jose Acevedo
This was an interesting short about a smart kid hanging out with the wrong people who after finding out that he has made a perfect score on the SAT makes a fateful decision that will change his life. I really like how they used the story of the Eagle and the chickens to parallel with what Edgar was going through…and it was fun to see Roy Wood Jr. as the guidance counselor. Well-acted and well-directed.
- “My Father The Mover” (2020 – South Africa) Dir: Julia Jansch
This was a really power documentary short about The Mover and his daughter. He teaches kids in their township the power and freedom of dance and the short shows him (one of the few single fathers in the township) trying to get his own daughter to find her power. Well done and touching.
- “Yalla” (2020 – Italy/Spain) Dir: Carlo D’Ursi
If you’ve been reading Musings for awhile, you know well enough that I am a huge fan of a black and white film…there’s just something about that just dials up the intensity. This film really hit me…definitely one of my favorites of the festival. It’s the story of four teenagers playing near and area guarded by a military drone. And crossing invisible boundaries can lead to tragedy. Heartbreaking and based on a real events. If you ever get a chance, definitely check it out!
- “How Can I Forget” (2019 – UK) Dir: Natalia Andreadis
I thought this was going to be a cute little rom-com, but in the end it just confused me. The logic with their power just didn’t connect with me — they can only see a few minutes into the future but they already see that their time is limited. It did have a little “La La Land” type feel too it with the song and dance.
- “Gets Good Light” (2020 – USA) Dir: Alejandra Parody
This is a poignant short about immigration and gentrification and good samaritans and about how we have to beat “them” at their own game. I love when a film is ambiguous and left open-ended. And you could see that this was a direct reaction to Trump’s election and the world we are currently living in. Well worth the watch.
- “Out of the Shadows” (2020 – USA) Dir: Rafael Samanez
An interesting documentary short about a Mexican transgender immigrant woman and finding community in the first trans-owned cooperative beauty salon in the U.S.
- “4Melvin” (2020 – USA) Dir: McCristol Harris III/Du’anna Speights
I felt like this one was doing too much…but not quite enough. It seemed a little over-acted and over-produced. But it was a interesting and timely story and concept (shooting a film completely through Zoom).
- “Heading South” (2020 – China/U.S.) Dir: Yuan Yuan
Very heartfelt and authentic — and a story not usually shown or seen in these parts. A 8-year-old girl travels back and forth between her mother’s home on the grasslands and her father who lives in the big city. She’s a fish out of water and feeling awkward around her father and his new Chinese wife. Shines a spotlight on the effects of urbanization and how its splitting up families in the certain parts of the world.
- “American Dream” (2019 – France) Dir: Nicolas Polixene & Sylvain Loubet
Another one of my faves (and yes, I might have a slight bias because of my fascination with French…so shoot me lol). Heartbreaking and a scathing indictment of race relations/biases in the world…particularly America. There were so many times when I got frustrated. Very impactful and got its message across. CONTENT CREATORS ARE SO ESSENTIAL TO THE CULTURE!!! IT IS UP TO THEM TO TELL THE STRUGGLES OF THE HUMAN EXPERIENCE!!!
- “Oh Geno!” (2019 – UK) Dir: Onyinye Egenti
An interesting peek at singular moment in time in the life of Geno Washington, one of the 1st Black soul singers in Britain on the night he met his future wife. Played with gender role assumptions and that was fun. There was archival footage mixed in with live action reenactments (that kind of felt and looked like a bootleg 60s costume party). But Geno’s interview segments were entertaining.
- “I’m Not Bad Luck (The True Story of Kesz Valdez)” (2020 – Brazil/USA) Dir: Marcos Negrao & Johanna Schnell
This one might be may favorite short of the festival! It was heartbreaking and hopeful and inspiring all at one. Its the story of a young boy growing up in poverty as a street kid and how with the support of a caring social worker, he sets out to change the world. His parents tried to get rid of him at the age of 5 saying he was “bad luck.” But by the time he’s 8, he’s stored his own nonprofit organization to help other street kids. It’s awe-inspiring that he can do so much with so little…and to see children supporting other children makes you not want to give up on the world just yet…Definitely check out his story and his organization C3 (Championing Community Children).
- “Crutch-Tap” (2020 – USA) Dir: Michael Basha
This one was kind of meh 😐
- “Headlock” (2020 – USA) Dir: Damon Laguna
A heartfelt father-son relationship and coming out story. It’s not a new story, but it felt like a very authentic story about an introverted high school athlete navigating being a teen and what it means to be a “man.”
- “Beef” (2019 – Spain) Dir: Ingride Santos
An interesting story about a young student (10th grade) in Spain who feels like the internet and social media are all she needs and she doesn’t need school. She has a confrontation with her teacher about just that. Interesting, fun little twist at the end. “How can you be revolutionary without nothing the history of the revolution?” The eternal conflict between teachers and students…
- “Rosa” (2020 – USA) Dir: Suha Araj
Another one of my favorites. Beautiful and well-crafted. Starring Jackie Cruz from “Orange is the New Black.” It’s the story of an underground operation to help ship undocumented bodies back to their home countries for burial. Another glimpse at an issue that only a segment of the population would ever have to deal with…it’s an intimate story yet still universal.
- “What the Wind Carries” (2019 – USA) Dir: Trey Ellis/Chris Chuang
An up-close look at how slavery tore families apart. It’s a silent film that was beautifully shot. Actually commissioned by Bryan Stevenson and the EJI. Dope.
- “Phony” (2019 – USA) Dir: Jess dela Merced
A story about being a fish out of water and returning home to ground yourself. Interesting watch…
- “Leave Us Here” (2020 – USA) Dir: Tari Wariebi
I didn’t quite get this one…well-shot though…
- “The Price of Cheap Rent” (2020 – USA) Dir: Amina Sutton/May Tanaka
A fun little satire about gentrification. Well-acted, well-shot and well-directed. I’ll take a haunted studio in BK for $1100 too lol. And a cute, funny ending. Well-worth the 6 1/2 minutes to watch!
- “Your Child” (2020 – France) Dir: Nelson Foix
Taking place in Guadeloupe, this is an interesting story that is raw and touching and even a bit depressing. But very well done.
- “A New York Christmas Wedding” (2020 – USA) Dir: Otoja Abit
I started this one, but didn’t finish unfortunately…not because it was bad, but life happens. I will say that this was probably one of my only complaints about the festival…you only got 24 hours to screen the films after they were released…not really conducive for someone who is working full-time. But hey, I did what I could. I did peep Chris Noth (“Sex and the City”) in it though…
- “Waikiki” (2020 – USA) Dir: Christopher Kahunanhana
Beautifully tragic…check out my full review over at We Live Entertainment.
- “Lily of the Valley” (2020 – Indonesia) Dir: Giovanni Rustanto
This film (relatively short at only 45 mins) really had me feeling some type of way. And there was so much ambiguity…gotta love a well-done family drama.
- “Hoy” (2020 – El Salvador, France) Dir: Ricardo B’atz’
I still don’t know how I feel about this one…I think I’m still processing it, even though it was the very first film of the festival for me. It was kind of all over the place (with you just waiting to see how this all interconnects) and somewhat boring until the very end when the worlds collided…somewhat predictably.
- “Millenium Bugs” (2020 – USA) Dir: Alejandro Montoya Marin
This one had potential, but it was missing something. The female lead reminded me a lot of Alia Shawkat (Maeby from “Arrested Development”). It’s a film about the days leading up to Y2K and chasing your dreams and doing what makes you happy. There were some scenes (like the cocaine bender) that went on a little too long. There were some points when I got a little bored and the film was doing a little too much…mixing too many genres.
- “Paradise City” (2020 – USA) Dir: John Marco Lopez
This movie was bananas…doing the absolute most. It was so over the top. It was kinda like a Black/minority version of “The Departed.” I didn’t know if I was coming or going…and it had Sticky Fingaz in it. I may do a full review later…
- “The Killing of Kenneth Chamberlain” (2020 – USA) Dir: David Midell
Based on the true story of the events that led to the death of an elderly Black man, Kenneth Chamberlain Sr. Definitely left me absolutely wrecked! Full review coming soon.
- “Take Out Girl” (2020 – USA) Dir: Hisonni Mustafa
Very over the top…doing a little too much…trying a little too hard…but well-shot.
- “Malpaso” (2019 – Dominican Republic) Dir: Hector M. Valdez
Beautiful yet heartbreaking film. Very well done with an interesting story about prejudice, poverty and family. The film gives voice to the youth in the neglected region of the Haitian-Dominican border.
- “Farewell Amor” (2020 – USA) Dir: Ekwa Msangi
I was really looking forward to seeing this one…and it didn’t disappoint. Full review here.
- “Death of Nintendo” (2020 – USA/Philippines) Dir: Raya Martin
Hands down one of my favorite narrative features at the festival. Well-done! Full review coming soon.
- “Charm City Kings” (2020 – USA) Dir: Angel Manuel Soto
Better than I expected…full review over at WLE coming soon.
Obviously, I didn’t get a chance to see everything…but I did see a lot. And I absolutely loved the diversity of the stories, the voices and the visual styles. I saw some really great films and I look forward to seeing much more from these filmmakers. And I look forward to covering next year’s Urbanworld Film Festival…hopefully in person! 🤞🏾