Fearless Filmmaking at Urbanworld 2011

l to r: NaShawn Kearse, Phyllis Toben Bancroft, Bianca LaVerne Jones, Josef Cannon and Jas Anderson.

Quite naturally, I attended this year’s BET-presented Urbanworld Film Festival presented in New York City, a world renowned showcase of filmmakers of color. There were dozens of great films that people were raving about and lining up to see, and the films I saw were incredible.

Yelling to the Sky, starring Zoe Kravitz and Gabby Sidibe and directed by Victoria Mahoney, is a coming-of-age story about a troubled teen girl who fights to survive a tough neighborhood and home life. Closing night film Kinyarwanda showed young love across tribal lines in the backdrop of the Rwanda Genocide; it was directed by filmmaker Alrick Brown and is part of the Ava DuVernay-led AFFRM film releasing movement, in partnership with Urbanworld.

actress Bianca LaVerne Jones (l) and filmmaker Olu Gittens (r)

I also caught an impressive lineup of short films with riveting stories that gripped the audience. Karim, directed by Carl Seaton (One Week), with orchestral music and absolutely no dialogue, is a darkly poetic story of justice and retribution. Burned, directed by BET Lens on Talent winner Phyllis Toben Bancroft (Spent) showed a female veteran, played by Bianca LaVerne Jones, struggling with alcoholism and PTSD; noted Hollywood actor Eric Roberts made a key appearance in the story. In The Boxer, directed by David Au and Teddy Chen Culver, who also starred, a young Asian-American boxer gets schooled by his ailing grandfather. In Geoff Bailey’s Counterfeit, a naive African street vendor finds out the hard way that anyone can be hustled. And in The Tombs, feature film director Jerry LaMothe (Amour Infinity, Blackout) tells the compelling story of a black man in NYC spending three days in a notorious holding area for the recently arrested, and the psychological torture incurred. The Tombs’ cast of noted actors included veteran actor Arthur French.

There were many more films and television series premieres, as you can find out at urbanworld.com. I have to say it was a very good year.

Shout out to Urbanworld Executive Producer Gabrielle Glore and Founder Stacy Spikes!


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Oh Gee Productions

Oh Gee Productions is the film production company behind writer-director-producer Olu Gittens. The mission of Oh Gee Productions is simple: to make film and television projects that reflect a diverse American experience. As a director, Olu Gittens works on projects through Oh Gee Productions and beyond. Her experience includes film, theater, television, webseries and commercials/branded content.

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