Now in its 22nd year, the Urbanworld Film Festival showcases the work of up-and-coming and already well-known directors creating feature films, short films, documentaries, and more. The festival dedicates itself “to expand the definition of ‘urban’ beyond ethnicity to include sensibility, culture, and proximity,” which it has done by creating a five-day event that brings some of today’s most interesting visual creators together to celebrate and tell their stories.
There are a lot of choices to choose from this year and although you’ve missed out on the event’s opening night showing of Night School, there’s still plenty to see. So, we’ve helped compile a list of films to check out — from Steve McQueen‘s Widows to Naima Ramos-Chapman‘s Piu Piu. These movies — and others — are the ones to see at this year’s Urbanworld Film Festival.
Widows is the story of four women with nothing in common except a debt left behind by their dead husbands’ criminal activities. Set in contemporary Chicago, amid a time of turmoil, tensions build when Veronica (Viola Davis), Linda (Michelle Rodriguez), Alice (Elizabeth Debicki), and Belle (Cynthia Erivo) take their fate into their own hands and conspire to forge a future on their own terms. Also, a new Sade song will reportedly be debuted during the film’s ending credits.
Directed by: Steve McQueen
From 1968 to 1973, the public-television variety show SOUL!, guided by the enigmatic producer and host Ellis Haizlip, offered an unfiltered, uncompromising celebration of black literature, poetry, music, and politics — voices that had few other options for national exposure, and, as a result, found the program an improbable place to call home. With participants’ recollections — Harry Belafonte, Questlove, Nikki Giovanni, and others make appearances — and a bevy of great archival clips, Mr. SOUL! captures a critical moment in culture whose impact continues to resonate.
Directed by: Melissa Haizlip
At a time when our country feels painfully divided and fly-over states are often overlooked, the story of a community crisscrossing our nation to celebrate what unites them is more important than ever. Few are aware that roller rinks remain a segregated space in America. “Black nights,” referred to as “Adult Nights,” can be found in nearly every major city in the country, boasting vibrant music and skate scenes. From Queen Latifah, Salt-N-Pepa and Naughty by Nature in New York/New Jersey to Dr. Dre in Los Angeles, roller rinks have and continue to be a mecca for music and creativity.
Directed by: Dyana Winkler and Tina Brown
It’s A Party
Successful Atlanta rap artist Cory Masters is late for his own surprise birthday party. While his friends anxiously await his arrival, each one individually addresses their own existential crisis. As the night drags on, hilarity ensues amongst the party-goers as they ponder life, careers, and relationships with Cory. Get yo’ ass to the party.
Directed by: Weldon Wong Powers
A routine trip to the city turns into a surreal nightmare when a restless young woman tries to escape the confines of romance in order to find her superpower. The film is directed by Random Acts of Flyness writer Naima Ramos-Chapman, as well as features the show’s creator, Terence Nance.
Directed by: Naima Ramos-Chapman
Blood Runs Down
It’s the night before Ana’s birthday and Elize wants to make sure all is in order to give her daughter the best celebration yet. Weary from the never-ending job of single motherhood with no outlets for her own care, Elize searches for a place for her own peace and vulnerability. But for women like her, vulnerability comes with a price. When Elize undergoes a frightening transition, Ana must decide between saving her or protecting herself in this haunting account of inheritance, daughterhood, and demons.
Directed by: Zandashé Brown
1 Angry Black Man
Mike Anderson is a senior at the quintessential New-England liberal arts school, Frost College. And Mike is eight weeks away from graduation. On this particular day, he has his African-American Literature class with his favorite professor. But today, Mike is feeling sadness. He’s feeling isolated. He’s feeling Angry.
Directed by: Menelek Lumumba
Let Them Die Like Lovers
A body-jumping soldier grapples with the morality of her missions in this emotionally charged sci-fi thriller starring Mustafa Shakir (Luke Cage’s Bushmaster) and Angela Lewis (Snowfall‘s Aunt Louie).
Directed by: Jesse Atlas
The Hate U Give
Starr Carter (portrayed by Amandla Stenberg) is constantly switching between two worlds: the poor, mostly black, neighborhood where she lives and the rich, mostly white, prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Now, facing pressures from all sides of the community, Starr must find her voice and stand up for what’s right. Issa Rae, Common, Regina Hall, and others also star in the film.
Directed by: George Tillman, Jr.
I Used to Love Her
Caleb Jackson is a 28-year-old hip-hop journalist, who lives in present-day Los Angeles. He works at Mighty Menace — the online bible of all things hip-hop, fashionable, and urban. Unfortunately, as a writer, his salary does not afford him the ability to pay his bills or rent in a timely manner. A friend tells him about an opportunity as a part-time dating columnist at The LA Chronicles, which he ultimately takes. Under an alias, he writes about his personal love life and his closest friends’ romantic experiences as well, which create juicy details for his column.
Directed by: Steven Chew
Summer is a carefree, black teenage girl whose world is turned upside down when her mother (played by Luke Cage‘s Simone Missick) abruptly converts to Islam and becomes a different person. At first resistant to the faith, she begins to reevaluate her identity after becoming attracted to a Muslim classmate, crossing the thin line between physical desire and piety.
Directed by: Nijla Mu’min