While introducing her opening night film at the Urbanworld Film Festival this week, director Gina Prince-Bythewood says it has been a fight getting her latest movie, “Beyond the Lights” made.
The narrative feature, about a superstar singer who is on the edge until she meets an aspiring politician who encourages her to find herself, received a standing ovation last night – hopefully validating the struggle to breathe life into a project formerly titled “Blackbird” that she penned in 2007.
When learning about the movies I want to watch over the next few days, it appears that Urbanworld’s 2014 lineup demonstrates that the fighting spirit is very well alive, on the screen and behind it.
In almost every premise I read and every trailer I watch on this festival’s schedule, it seems like men and women all over the world are fighting – either for themselves or someone else. The festival’s short film program is among the most interesting and must-see screenings along these lines, such as Indian American filmmaker Puja Maewai’s “Jaya.” Shortlisted for a Student Academy Award, this narrative drama follows a young girl’s path to reclaim her identity after posing as a boy to survive gruesome gang life in Mumbai.
Like many film festivals, there are good movies in the lineup that either share a showtime or overlap one another by 30 minutes to an hour. This means attendees have to pick and choose since being in multiple theaters at once is impossible. The choice, however, is clear when a movie such as Charysse Tia Harper’s “12 Months” is on the schedule. Her documentary is about a Los Angeles man who rented his 3-bedroom home to a family of four who never met, at the price of $1 per month, giving them a chance to get back on their feet. My interest in Harper’s feature stems from it being one of those stories of ordinary people doing extraordinary things.
It ceases to surprise me that documentaries with strong lessons of bravery and hope for a brighter future -- or better yet – a promising now, are in full force at Urbanworld this weekend, considering that Laura Checkoway’s “Lucky” stands out among them. The movie’s synopsis piqued my interest but it’s the trailer that won me over, in high anticipation of this screening at AMC Theatres. “Lucky” follows a homeless mother who masks her pain in tattoos while yearning to overcome darkness. I’m especially drawn to Checkoway’s documentary because this is one of those movies where you're like “woah! I HAVE to see that shit!” All films should be like that.
The overall message I’m getting from the movies playing in this year’s Urbanworld lineup is that all hope is not lost if you believe in yourself enough to fight through hardships and seek out the possibility of something different; something greater than the unfortunate nature of the predicaments in which you find yourself, or others. We not only have the power to save ourselves from falling off of the edge, we possess an ability to show our communities that they can do the same. That is, without a doubt, the type of message I can get behind.
What mark do YOU want to leave on the world?