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shnit Happening in Philadelphia: Advance Movie Tickets, Feria del Barrio and Global Expansion

Travel lover Lena visits my pop-pp shnit CINEMAS box office at 31st Annual Feria del Barrio.For several years, I’ve championed the community building endeavors of Couch Fest Films, an annual event where people meet to watch award-winning motion pictures in strangers’ houses, aboard their boats and inside other unconventional venues around the world -- all on one day. During that time I also became an official ambassador for this cozy “little festival that could,” hosting movie screenings in Philadelphia.

So when Couch Fest -- which was founded on the west coast -- became part of the shnit International Short Film Festival (juried in 2014 by Oscar winning screenwriter Paul Haggis of Crash, Million Dollar Baby, Casino Royale) based in Switzerland, I jumped at the chance to bring their 2015 shnit CINEMAS worldwide installment to the city known as the birthplace of America.

The British romantic comedy "Love is Blind," directed by Dan Hodgson is among several short films playing at shnit CINEMAS Philadelphia.shnit International Short Film Festival is the first global, multicultural event catering to motion pictures that are 40 minutes or less.

Hosted simultaneously in select cities across 5 continents, the festival unites filmmakers and movie lovers for an exceptional short film experience.

Now, film fans in Philly have an opportunity to watch a curated selection of 8 shorts from around the world that are nominated for the international competition of this festival. The Philadelphia audience will also operate as the jury by choosing the winner of THE FLAMING FAUN award, which includes prize money of $20,000 for the winning filmmaker.

On Saturday October 17th, the shnit CINEMAS worldwide exhibition hits the big screen in the Roberto Hernandez Theater at Taller Puertorriqueño (2557 N. 5th Street, Philadelphia, PA; map address here). Residents in the Greater Philadelphia area were able to score Early Bird tickets to this upcoming event during my pop-up shnit Cinemas box office launch at the Feria del Barrio arts celebration that took place in September. Advance Tickets to see this diverse collection of short films, including an Academy Award contender, two successfully backed Kickstarter projects, and a Palme d’Or nominee from Cannes, are ON SALE NOW!

Let’s come together to watch, discuss and vote on some of the world’s best films!


A Taste of the Short Film Scene at Urbanworld

(l-r): Jesse Loncraine and Flannery Miller attend one of several Q&A sessions at the 19th annual Urbanworld Film Festival.AMC Theater in Times Square was among the most essential places to visit in New York City this past weekend. It’s where movie lovers gathered to enjoy live Q&A sessions, panel discussions about digital media and share a room with public figures such as lead actress Garcelle Beauvais, radio personality Charlamagne Tha God and ballet dancer Misty Copeland during the 19th Annual Urbanworld Film Festival, presented by BET Networks with Founding Sponsor HBO.

While the Pope visit and Taste of France hit the streets of NYC, feature films such as Ty Hodges’ debut A Girl like Grace, Ernest Nkosi’s South African movie The Two of Us (Thina Sobabili) had audiences gasping and in the case of Nelson George’s documentary A Ballerina’s Tale, cheering with pride. Most of the festival’s 80 titles that screened at AMC comprised of an electrifying lineup of short films. Audiences lauded filmmakers in the shorts competition for making movies with diverse storylines – no two films were the same in their tone – great soundtracks, and producing projects that represent the neighborhoods where they came from. The latter gave people in communities with at-risk youth a voice and assurance in knowing their stories are being told.

Meeting the filmmakers behind the shorts was the icing on the cake for a healthy mix of individuals, from aspiring movie makers to New Yorkers who return to Urbanworld every year to see what’s happening on the independent film circuit. Fortunately for these audiences, many filmmakers were in attendance including Tough director and producer Alfonso Johnson who cites the festival’s stellar reputation amongst the filmmaking community as the reason why he submitted his movie here. “It’s like the BET Awards – you have the old-school legends such as Loretta Devine and the new-school kids like myself, all in the same place. So, it provides the opportunity for incredible networking but also for the passing of the torch,” says Johnson.

(l-r): Director Alfonso Johnson and Writer/Actress Gillian Glasco of the short film 'Tough' at Urbanworld 2015Written by Gillian Glasco, Tough is a family drama that questions how masculinity is defined within American society and the African American community.

The narrative tale follows a complicated father and son relationship caused by years of disconnect. It confronts issues of identity, self-awareness and fatherhood.

Johnson also praises Urbanworld for providing what he calls the true “theater experience” for Tough on 42ndstreet, adding that there's "validity when people see it; it's a rite of passage, especially if you’re a filmmaker of color in New York City…[better yet]…in the United States, Urbanworld is the place you want to be.”


From an audience member’s perspective, the technical aspects of Sahim Omar Kalifa’s short film Bad Hunter was among London native Jesse Loncraine’s favorites due mostly to its fine cinematography. Made in Belgium, this movie is about a young man named Bahoz who witnesses the rape of a young woman by an older man during one of his hunting trips.

After chasing away the assailant, Bahoz helps the woman mend her clothes so she can conceal the rape from her family. That evening, Bahoz receives an unexpected visit. Loncraine also named Pete Chatmon’s Blackcard as the funniest short film he’s seen at Urbanworld this year.

Unlike Tough, matters of self-awareness and identity are dealt with using humor in Chatmon’s movie about a couple living in a culture that requires an ID and code. They find out how far the boundaries can be pushed when an organization tasked with keeping members up to snuff on their “blackness,” goes after one of them for his latest infraction. Director Pete Chatman notes that the film is shaped by the universal question that we face as individuals - Who are you?

Following the Urbanworld screening, Blackcard writer Tony Patrick pointed out that the spectrum of what it means to be black is so wide, no one skill, or area of interest that will make you more or less able to identify as such. That said, Patrick considers political affiliation to be the underlying factor that our society uses to distinguish between races. “We know there are black republicans, we just don’t know who they are….except for Ben Carson, says Patrick while referencing a Blackcard scene where the main character’s voting practices are questioned. Knowing Democrats including Hilary Clinton have been popular in the black community for decades, Patrick asks “What if Condoleeza Rice ran for President?” – a possibility that would certainly shake up how our nation defines blackness.

'Blackcard' short film writer Tony Patrick gives advices to an aspiring filmmaker while director Pete Chatmon chats at Urbanworld.Through comedy and satire, Blackcard makes light of a complex subject matter; all of the laughs were surely welcome after Erica A. Watson’s heavy family drama Roubado. After his parent’s breakup, a teen photographer in the south of France develops a tense relationship with his mother’s new boyfriend, in Watson’s movie. I like the opening of this film and it has beautiful cinematography but as the plot thickens, it gets uncomfortable to watch.

New York based Flannery Miller cited Roubado as one of the shorts that made an impression on her while fellow audience member Jesse Loncraine describes Watson’s film in one word -- “distressing.” Loncraine and Miller agree that rape seems to have been the them for Urbanworld’s Shorts Program block #1. Having watched lot of films that screened at the festival this year and heard responses from theater goers who saw the titles I mised, I think there is some truth to Loncraine’s and Miller’s theory.

On a brighter note, Miller also favors Dubois, an “intriguing and well-acted” short by British director Kaz Ové. Filmed in Trinidad, this movie is about a grieving London girl who visits family on the island while recovering from her husband’s death. There, she finds herself drawn to a mentally ill homeless man. A metaphysical, spiritual journey follows, ending in an unnerving discovery.

Stay tuned for an on the spot interview with indie film producer/director Alfonso Johnson!

How do YOU define masculinity?

Who are the screenwriters and/or film directors YOU would like to meet?

What's YOUR idea of a fun weekend in NYC?


Urbanworld Film Festival Lights up the Red Carpet at AMC

Chef Roblé Ali from BRAVO TV and Project Runway model Shaya Ali attend the 19th Annual Urbanworld Film Festival.In the film business, a red carpet is akin to fashion industry runways, as big names and up-and-coming talent come out and strut their moneymakers. It’s more about substance over style for those appearing in support of movies that have people within the big and small screen arena talking. For audiences at the 19th Annual Urbanworld Film Festival taking place this weekend at AMC Empire 25 on 42nd street, Muhammad Ali: The People's Champ featuring stars such as rapper T.I. and actor Jaleel White stand among them.

On opening night Wednesday, the red carpet was also lit with surprises and fun times spearheaded by personalities who made their presence known.

During his hosting activities as 2015 Festival Ambassador, actor-singer Tyrese Gibson took a moment to plug the premiere of Shame, a short film set in the 1960s. Tyrese plays an abusive husband struggling with addiction in the pursuit of his musical dreams in this narrative drama playing Saturday at 6:30pm. Produced by Oscar winner Denzel Washington, the movie also stars Academy Award winning actress Jennifer Hudson and serves as the lead-in to Urbanworld's highly anticipated closing night documentary A Ballerina’s Tale about ballet dancer Misty Copeland. Latino writer Victor Cruz and Chinese filmmaker Trevor Zhou were also on hand to make sure their screenings get that extra push -- a necessity for the 80 titles competing for audiences, distribution, press reviews and awards at this year's Urbanworld film festival, presented by BET networks with founding sponsor, HBO.

Cruz is the writer behind The Stockroom, a narrative feature about a stockroom supervisor who, upon approaching his  10-year anniversary on the job, must choose between remaining there or pursuing dreams of being a stand-up comic. The Stockroom, which is also Cruz’s directorial debut, plays at 5:00pm today. Zhou’s short film The Waltz is about an immigrant mother who, in the midst of a crumbling marriage and hoarding compulsion, tries to reclaim her life when she stumbles upon dancing lessons. The Waltz plays in the festival’s 12pm noon “Shorts Program 3” lineup on Saturday.

Urbanworld Film Festival founder Stacy Spikes takes selfies with the red carpet crowd on opening night.Contrary to what it may seem, Urbanworld is much more than business, as shown by leaders who had a good time walking the red carpet including hip-hop music artist David Banner and Urbanworld Film Festival founder Stacy Spikes; both captured selfies with an eager crowd of men and women at the front lines of all the lights, cameras and Time Square action.

"19 YEARS!!!," yelled a cheerful Spikes -- one of several well-known figures unleashing a kind of energy in the air that let everyone watching know that a lot of the smiles on this runway are there for real, not for show.

Urbanworld’s long history is an example of what can be done when you make a commitment to providing opportunities for diverse stories about the African-American experience -- and universal tales involving people of color -- to get their time in the spotlight. 19 years of fulfilled dreams. 19 years of careers launched. 19 years of blood, sweat equity and tears to provide a home where creatives have a chance to share their vision with the rest of the world. It took 19 years to build a place that gives women, LGBT, black, yellow and brown communities ample representation in front of the camera just as well as behind the lens. That’s one of the reasons why attending film festivals and supporting the kind of films we want to see in the theater (and on television) helps to prove to the industry and narrow-minded members of society that all lives, stories and experiences do matter…including ours.