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Entries in Documentaries (20)


Muhammad Ali, Mexican Culture and Murder Mysteries Headline Urbanworld's 2015 Film Slate

"Carmín Tropical" is among the movies playing in the Narrative Feature Film competition at Urbanworld 2015.Muhammad Ali: The People’s Champ, a biographical tribute to the former heavyweight boxing champion will serve as the opening night film at the 19th Annual Urbanworld Film Festival, presented by BET Networks (BET) with founding sponsor HBO.

Directed and executive produced by Clarence “Coodie” Simmons and Chike Ozah, this documentary features exclusive interviews with a who’s who of the sports and entertainment world including Muhammad Ali’s daughter Laila Ali, Mike Tyson and Sugar Ray Leonard. “We are excited to launch BET's original news documentary series with the film,” says Constance Orlando, Senior Vice President of Music, Specials and News for BET Networks. Muhammad Ali: The People’s Champ connects the fighter’s boxing prowess as well as his social media activism, to the millennial audience to reveal Ali’s meaning in the world today. It also headlines a fierce program lineup as Urbanworld, the nation’s largest competitive multicultural film festival, announces its 2015 slate.

The festival will screen over 80 films September 23-27, 2015 at Manhattan's AMC Empire 25 on 234 West 42nd Street in New York. An underlying quest for victory is the name of the game, as Urbanworld showcases stories about people fighting for redemption in one way or another. In the psychological drama Carmín Tropical, a transgender woman named Mabel returns to her hometown to investigate the murder of her friend Daniela. Directed by Mexican filmmaker Rigoberto Perezcano, this narrative feature explores gender and culture while taking the main character on a journey of revisiting the life she left behind in a town plagued with senseless violence, homophobia and intolerance.

"In Football We Trust" is among the select documentaries in the 2015 Urbanworld lineup.Urbanworld’s documentary lineup features the New York Premiere of In Football We Trust, about four young Polynesian athletes struggling to overcome gang violence, family pressures and near poverty as they enter the high stakes world of college recruiting and the promise of professional sports. Directed by first-time filmmakers Tony Vainuku and Erika Cohn, the movie explores how professional sports play a role in the “American Dream” phenomenon that fascinates our society.

“I believe In Football We Trust will illuminate how our country’s infatuation with chasing the ‘American Dream’ can often leave people entrenched in the very conditions they are striving to overcome,” says Cohn. Famed wrestler and Hollywood actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson mentioned the film is close to his heart and also helped produce it.

The documentary 3 ½ Minutes, Ten Bullets is among the Spotlight selections at Urbanworld. Directed by Marc Silver, it follows the journey of unraveling the truth behind Michael Dunn’s claim of self-defense in a shooting that led to the death of 17 year-old Jordan Davis. In what IndieWire calls “A harrowing exploration of criminal justice gone awry,” 3 ½ Minutes, Ten Bullets reconstructs the night of the incident and reveals how hidden racial prejudice can result in tragedy. Forgiving Chris Brown joins the narrative short films that are in abundance at this year’s Urbanworld film festival. Directed by Marquette Jones, this dark comedy about a group of heartbroken friends who unite over plans to get revenge on their boyfriends, is set in the hot desert.

Performing arts also takes center stage as A Ballerina’s Tale, a documentary focusing on a crucial period in the career of principal dancer Misty Copeland, is slated to close the festival. Directed by Nelson George, the movie examines issues of race and body image in the elite ballet.

Following Misty’s triumphant lead performance in Igor Stravinsky's Firebird at New York's Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center, through her painful injury and recovery that followed, to her return to ABT and subsequent pop star status, A Ballerina's Tale  is the story of how great talent and a powerful will combined can open doors within a very cloistered world.

What are YOU watching this weekend?


The Price we pay for Switching Paths: A Moviemaker’s Perspective 

“The good news is you came a long way. The bad news is you went the wrong way” – J. Cole in Love Yourz

The Album Cover for "2014 Forest Hills Drive" by J. ColeA lot of the dissatisfaction I’ve had with my pursuit of a career in film directing is what makes the lyrics in rapper J. Cole’s song “Love Yourz” (from his album 2014 Forest Hills Drive) oh so relatable. Every quest has its challenges but I cannot say whether I would’ve still chosen this path if I had to do it all over again.

Just when I think I’m making headway, something brings me back into the reality that I’m not only nowhere near where I thought I’d be, there is also no telling whether I’ll ever get there.

Sometimes it feels like I need to just put in more work to master the craft, as the saying goes. Other times it feels like I need to network with the right people or chuck directing altogether, in favor of another area within the entertainment field, such as screenwriting or casting or storyboarding or something. This is one of the reasons why I started considering television as a serious alternative. Producing community TV programs might provide more bang for my buck in terms of better results, faster turnaround and the opportunity to make a difference in the world.

More often than not, however, I’ve wondered if I wasted years, relationships, resources and money going after the wrong dream – one that I probably had no business pursuing in the first place, given that I did more writing and drawing in my youth than anything else. Perhaps I would have been better staying on the path of fine arts, for if I kept at it, I imagine I’d be a lot better at it today than my present sketchbook shows.

On the set of a short film production.Even if I did switch careers, there is a steep price for doing so, according to author Steve Pavlina who points out that “most art forms are too crowded and too competitive to make a living from unless one commits to becoming outstanding. Dabbling in fields every few years or so will prevent you from reaping the rewards of building a financially sustainable practice that comes from long-term mastery.”

This is an understandable factor to consider, given that leaving film for something else would likely involve me starting from the bottom – once again. On the flipside, he also suggests that we get out of any project, relationship or career, etc. as soon as possible if we would not have embarked on it knowing what we know now. So what the hell is Steve Pavlina smoking?! I mean, it sounds like his advice rests on two sides of the fence. One minute he’s suggesting you spend a decade or so honing your skills and then the next minute he’s warning readers that there is no “honor in dedicating your life to the pursuit of a goal which no longer inspires you.”

In almost every step of my tv/film projects, I find myself bouncing back and forth between delight and frustration, asking myself if I should continue riding this rollercoaster of uncertainty any longer. This question is a no-brainer for Grant Peele, a husband and father who did the complete opposite, leaving a thriving career in Real Estate to achieve his life-long dream of becoming a filmmaker. The early days of his journey, along with those of other men and women who switched career paths, are chronicled in the documentary I’m Fine, Thanks, a film about complacency and whether the paths we ultimately choose to follow are connected to who we are or someone else’s American Dream.

Grant Peele preparing for the Midwest Premiere of his documentary film "I'm Fine, Thanks."One woman in the film describes what it's like to climb a corporate ladder and then reach the top, only to realize she had it leaned up against the wrong wall. Having not yet reached the middle of this current journey I’m on, I think I’d rather just take her word for it as opposed to finding that same thing out for myself when it’s too late.

I used to fantasize about how exciting it would be to win an Oscar and attend Cannes or get hired to work on some huge Hollywood production starring heavyweights like Denzel Washington, Jonny Depp or Meryl Streep -- accomplishments of which would be equivalent to the top of a ladder. Today, I rarely think about milestones like these and find myself feeling indifferent to them, when they do cross my mind. That’s an uneasy sign that something isn’t quite right. Although I have yet to figure out what that something is, I’ll be trucking along on this yellow brick road of motion pictures until I do.

P is for Perspective


When YOU were a child, what kind of career did YOU want to have?

How do YOU know when to hold onto the cards YOU’RE playing, and when to fold them?


Making a Living vs. Making a Difference: What being an Everyday Superhero Really Means

(l-r): Steven Samra and Tasha French Lemley, publishers of The Contributor newspaper.Of all the videos I’ve watched that highlight stories about disaster relief, the one where a Red Cross volunteer says she "worked in the corporate world for 30 years making a living,” and then retired, and now she wants to make a difference, stood out most. Her statement had me wondering how many of us choose one or the other, rather than overlapping them.

It concerns me that some men and women in communities across the nation feel like they aren't in a position to have a positive impact on other people while also being able to put food on the table. I don’t know about you, but when I picture what the right time to make a difference looks like, that image often doesn’t depict any one of us waiting until some abstract point in the future. After all, the future is uncertain and none of us can guarantee we’ll even be around to see it.

Of course, we all need to make a living to survive and have opportunities to enjoy our days here on this earth. Even in the midst of our daily hustle and bustle, there’s still room to make a difference at the same time, if each person puts forth effort in marrying the two. Prime examples of this can be seen in the tireless, underappreciated and often unglamorous work of everyday heroes who have a positive impact on other people or issues that matter to them upon noticing that something needs to be done.

Yoga training at Rachel Lloyd's GEMS are among the therapeutic and fitness services provided to young women.Thousands of teenagers, like those in the documentary film Very Young Girls would be in jail, dead, on drugs, or still exploited in sex trafficking rings across the U.S. if Girls Educational and Mentoring Services (GEMS) CEO and founder Rachel Lloyd waited until retirement to provide counseling, legal assistance and housing to children and young women in the sex trade.

Several hundred homeless veterans like those in the documentary film Street Paper would still be lacking a place to sleep at night if The Contributor newspaper founders Tom Wills and Tasha French Lemley waited for thirty years or until they were done with their careers in fine arts and outreach work, respectively, to provide jobs for men and women – some of whom served in the military -- affected by homelessness and poverty. Heck, most of us would even be up the creek without a paddle today, if the great inventors, activists, philosophers, leaders, and artists of previous generations decided to wait a few more decades before making their mark on the world.

People like Lloyd, Wills and French embody the fact that there is no better time to make a difference than now. We need not put off doing good deeds until later on in the future when it’s more convenient for us. After all, if you’re already on your way to mastering the art of being your own superhero, just imagine how wonderful it would be to teach someone else how it’s done.

M is for Meaning


What was the last documentary YOU watched?

If YOU inherited six figures from a long lost relative, conditional upon your using half of the money to impact other people’s lives, how would YOU make a difference in the world?