Nice job, Urbanworld Film Festival programmers: you've turned what’s already a great weekend for high-quality independent cinema (see the four movies above) into a reason to spend upwards of 48 hours inside movie theaters. Goodbye, sunlight; see you next week, friends.
That's all meant sincerely, by the way.
Now in its 18th year, Urbanworld has earned a strong reputation for giving young, up-and-coming filmmakers of all backgrounds a splashy NYC platform to show their work. This year's lineup includes 14 narrative features, eight documentaries, and over 60 short films, including the intriguingly titled Forgiving Chris Brown, directed by Marquette Jones, and OkayPlayer Films’ Quest for Cuba: Questlove Brings the Funk to Havana, for which co-directors Jauretsi and Daniel Petruzzi followed The Roots' band leader Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson as he played two club nights in Havana the day after President Obama met with Raul Castro in Panama.
On the starrier side of things, Urbanworld's higher-profile Spotlight program is first-rate. The fest wraps up this Sunday night with A Ballerina’s Tale, esteemed hip-hop journalist turned filmmaker Nelson George’s poignant doc about Misty Copeland, who recently made history by becoming the American Ballet Theatre's first black female principal dancer.
Also featured in Urbanworld's Spotlight section are a pair of world premieres with serious rap pedigrees. The first comes from Paul Hunter, one of the hip-hop game’s most decorated music videos directors and the cameraman responsible for Puffy's "Been Around the World" clip, as well as Usher’s "My Way," Eminem’s "The Way I Am," Michael Jackson’s "You Rock My World," and the Pink/Lil Kim/Mya/Christina Aguilera collabo "Lady Marmalade"; Hunter will be at Urbanworld with Shame, his new R&B-minded narrative short that stars Tyrese Gibson and Jennifer Hudson and boasts Denzel Washington as a producer. Shame premieres Saturday night, at 6:00 p.m.
Urbanworld's main attraction, however (at least in our book), is Stretch and Bobbito: Radio That Changed Lives, a feature-length doc that pays tribute to the untouchable legacies of NYC radio pioneers Stretch Armstrong and Bobbito Garcia. Launched in the early '90s via Columbia University’s radio network, Stretch and Bob's late-night mix show legitimized the careers of damn near every rap icon you can name by giving their then-unknown skills a public arena: the Notorious B.I.G., Jay Z, Eminem, Nas, Fat Joe, Busta Rhymes. The list is major, and so are the laughs in, and fond memories conjured up via, Radio That Changed Lives, directed by Bobbito himself. It's [ure gold for rap-loving '80s babies. The film premieres tonight at 7:30 p.m.
Check out Urbanworld's entire schedule here.