THE URBANWORLD® FILM FESTIVAL
ANNOUNCES 2021 VIRTUAL FESTIVAL SLATE
Ava DuVernay, Patina Miller, RZA, Shameik Moore, Reinaldo Marcus Green, Aunjanue Ellis, Haile Gerima and Many More To Appear
NEW YORK, NY – The 25th Anniversary Urbanworld Film Festival along with founding partner HBO and prestige partners WarnerMedia and Ally, announced its 2021 hybrid festival slate. The slate of over 88 official selections, panels and conversations were online at urbanworld.org from Wednesday, September 29 through Sunday, October 3, 2021 with select events being shown in-person at Cinepolis Luxury Cinemas, Chelsea at 260 West 23rd Street in New York.
After 18 years with the festival, this year’s 25th anniversary also marks the final year for Gabrielle Glore, Festival Director & Head of Programming, as she will be transitioning from the position and leading the search committee for her replacement. “I cannot be happier to celebrate 25 years of Urbanworld with our amazing slate of films from Black, Indigenous, Latinx and content creators of color hailing from all over the world. As our world continues to change, our filmmakers continue to soar towards the highest heights of excellence with their work, as they connect with our dedicated audience,” said Glore. “After nearly two decades with Urbanworld and this being my last year with the festival, I am looking forward to working with our illustrious founder Stacy Spikes to find the next person to lead the festival.”
Some of the panels and clips and conversation virtual spotlights of the festival included, director Reinaldo Marcus Green and star Aunjanue Ellis as they discussed Warner Bros. Pictures’ King Richard. Armed with a clear vision and a brazen 78-page plan, Richard Williams is determined to write daughters Venus and Serena into history. Training on Compton, California’s abandoned tennis courts, the girls are shaped by their father’s unyielding commitment and their mother’s balanced perspective and keen intuition, defying seemingly insurmountable odds and prevailing expectations. The family’s unwavering resolve and unconditional belief ultimately deliver two of the world’s greatest sports legends.
RZA, Erika Alexander, Shameik Moore, Zolee Griggs and TJ Atoms also appeared at the festival to discuss Hulu’s Wu-Tang: An American Saga. Based on the true story of hip-hop supergroup, Wu-Tang Clan, the series is set in NYC in the early 1990’s. Viewers will see the group’s formation, and Bobby “RZA” Diggs’ vision to unite a dozen young, Black men torn between music and crime as they eventually rise to become the unlikeliest of American success stories.
Aliyah Royale, Alexa Mansour and Joe Holt from AMC’s The Walking Dead: The World Beyond joined the festival to discuss the show’s upcoming second season, which concludes the story of two sisters who journeyed across the country on a mission to find their dad, transforming everything they knew about themselves and the world. As they prepare to face off against the Civic Republic, goals will shift, bonds will crumble and innocence will be both lost and found.
Patina Miller and MeKai Curtis from Power Book III: Raising Kanan appeared at the festival to discuss their Starz family drama series. Set in South Jamaica, Queens in 1991, the show is a prequel to the original Power franchise exploring themes of identity, violence and legacy, but also takes a deep dive into the pathology of family, discovering that those closest to us are the ones who betray us most. The conversation was moderated by Terrence J.
Emmy Award winning and Academy Award-nominated executive producer Ava DuVernay shared the first episode of NBC’s Home Sweet Home in a special advanced screening on Saturday, October 2, 2021. In each episode, two different families learn what it is like to walk a mile in another person’s shoes by challenging racial, religious, economic, geographic, gender and identity assumptions as they exchange homes for a week and experience the life of someone unlike them. At the end of each episode, the two families reunite to share their eye-opening and life-changing experiences.
Also from award-winning filmmaker Ava DuVernay, the contemporary drama from OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network, Queen Sugar, returned to the festival for a conversation with Costume Designer Christann Chanell, Set Decorator Kellie Turner, Hair Department Head Nakoya Yancey and Makeup Department Head Lalette Littlejohn. They discussed the behind the scenes of the series’ sixth season. The creatives shared returning to production during the pandemic, how their work was impacted by actors wearing masks and their personal journeys to serve as department heads of the award-winning series.
Nearly 30 years ago, independent filmmaker Haile Gerima wrote, produced, directed and self-distributed his acclaimed film Sankofa. Gerima will appear at the festival with his wife and co-producer Shirikana Gerima on Sunday, October 3, 2021 for an intimate conversation alongside Haki R. Madhubuti, Acklyn Lynch, Mama Rashida Foreman-Bey and Mashariki Jywanza to discuss the grassroots efforts to bring the resistance film to audiences around the world. Sankofa will receive a digital restoration release from Ava DuVernay’s ARRAY Releasing with a global premiere this week on Netflix.
Urbanworld Innovation, presented by WarnerMedia 150, took place on at WarnerMedia, 30 Hudson Yards in New York. All through the lens of content innovation, the day included pitch presentations to investors, industry case stories, artist installations and conversations around imagining the future of world building in storytelling and the importance of holistic wellness and mental health for creatives.
Launched last year as a result of the pandemic, Urbanworld’s uEmbrace initiative is a unique online program curated especially for Urbanworld content creators, available during the weeks leading up to the festival. This program, comprising a series of virtual events, offers a wide variety of skill-building opportunities and wellness-centric experiences to the festival’s global family of official selection storytellers, including discussions with Urbanworld alumni. The program expresses Urbanworld’s values of creativity, culture and community with the understanding that the festival’s content creators and their projects are at the heart of what Urbanworld does. It serves as the festival’s official welcome, and embrace, into the Urbanworld family. Programming highlights include a storytelling workshop, led by The Moth; a session on The Art of Listening, led by Lisa Cambridge Mitchell of Persist In Joy; an experimental session on Channeling Creative Flow, led byAki Hirata Baker; and The Virtual Hustle, a case study session on promoting projects in the era of virtual festivals, led by The Gates Preserve Media.
Urbanworld’s founding partner HBO is joined by key supporters including WarnerMedia and Ally as prestige partners. Supporting partners include AMC Network, Comcast Xfinity, Facebook, Hulu, OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network, NBCUniversal, Netflix, Shudder, Starz and The Steward Family Foundation. Industry partners include ARRAY, MPA, WGAE, DGA and PreShow Interactive. Essence, iHeartRadio/Power 105.1, TheRoot.com, HuffPo and BuzzFeed are media partners. Spirit and beverage sponsors are Bulleit, Diageo and Fever Tree.
ABOUT URBANWORLD FILM FESTIVAL
The Urbanworld Film Festival was launched in 1997 by founder Stacy Spikes, co-founder of MoviePass, founder of PreShow Interactive, and a former executive at Miramax and October Films. With estimated attendance reaching over 15,000 in-person, the five-day festival showcases narrative features, documentaries, short films, web originals, experimental, spotlight screenings and conversations, and music performances. Urbanworld’s 2021 25th Anniversary edition will be available as a hybrid festival featuring an in-person footprint in NYC, as well as an online platform showcasing official selection projects and virtual spotlight conversations. Hollywood studios, networks and streamers, as well as established and emerging content creators, have consistently chosen Urbanworld to premiere box office hits and award-winning projects. Anchored in creativity, culture and community, Urbanworld is an initiative of the Urbanworld Foundation, which advances the inclusion and impact of diverse content creators through its platforms provided to storytellers from around the world. Gabrielle Glore serves as Festival Director and Head of Programming. Follow @UrbanworldFF on instagram and Twitter and use #UrbanworldLegacy25 to join the conversation about the festival on social media. The organization’s website is urbanworld.org.