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.
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?