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Beyond the Lights – Everyday Heroes Unite at Urbanworld 

(l-r): Actor Nate Parker and English actress attend the opening night screening of "Beyond the Lights," directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood, at the 18th Annual Urbanworld Film Festival.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.

(l-r): WBO lightweight champion Terence Crawford attends the opening night screening of "Beyond the Lights" at the 18th Annual Urbanworld Film Festival. 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?


Monday Movie Meme – Sunflowers for Tina #LifeisGood

“Turn your face toward the sun and the shadows will fall behind you.” - Maori Proverb

Today, the A-to-Z Team is hosting Sunflowers for Tina, a tribute of sunflowers posted in memory of our late Co-Host Tina Downey at Life is Good.

To honor her love of sunflowers, we are splashing the blogging community with photos of a sunflower that we’ve either purchased or planted to remember the woman who, in many ways, embodied the true meaning of what it means to be a great friend.

This week’s Monday Movie Meme is also centered on this tribute: Sunflowers for Tina. Share on your blog or in the comments section, movies featuring scenes where someone offers flowers to another person.

My selections for this week’s theme are pretty slim as only a few come to mind such as the scene where Carrie smashed her bridal bouquet of roses and gardenia during a heated confrontation with Big in “Sex and the City: The Movie,” the scene where Marisa puts a bundle of lavender on Caroline’s bed in “Maid in Manhattan” and of course, the famous scene where a businessman brings roses to his, um, lady friend while professing his love for her in “Pretty Woman.” That’s all I have at the moment.

Today is the day that bloggers around the world are joining us as we brighten the internet with sunflowers the way Tina brightened the lives of so many people. You are welcome to participate by sharing this post on your social media channels or posting a photo of a sunflower on your blog or Instagram page with the hashtag #LifeisGood – right now!

What movies have YOU watched featuring people offering flowers to one another?

Besides flowers, what reminders in YOUR life convey the message that Life is Good?



Monday Movie Meme - In Memory of Tina Downey

Today I ask you to join me in dedicating this week’s Monday Movie Meme to the memory of my dear A-to-Z Challenge co-host, Tina Downey, who passed away on Saturday. It is a shocking turn of events that I’m still trying to soak in, understand, and accept.

She was a brave woman, mother, daughter, wife and friend who found ways to encourage us all through laughter and discovery, all while fighting her own battles with health on many occasions. Before this past weekend, no one could have told me she wouldn’t be returning home from the hospital. That was out of the question, given the type of person she was – a survivor who always took the time to remind us that Life is Good.

A few days ago, Ninja Captain Alex J. Cavanaugh (along with Father Dragon Al) suggested that we unite in prayer; using the power of many to send healing thoughts to Tina “for one minute (or more) daily, exactly at the hour specified for your Time Zone, so all prayers/thoughts come out in synchrony.”

To celebrate Tina’s beacon of light that reached so many people during her time on this earth, I am lighting a candle for her on Saturday and sharing a photo of it with my readers and social networks. I welcome you to join me by lighting a candle where you are, in the name of Tina Downey. Let’s keep her memory alive by showing that she was a beacon of light to those who knew and cared for her, for we are lucky to have been a part of her world – online and offline.

In the meantime, share on your blog or in the comments section, movies featuring scenes where people turned to prayer and/or healing practices during trying times.

Here are my selections for this week’s theme – A Time of Healing for the Downey Family.

John Q

A frightened mother prays for a miracle for her son; who is in the ICU in need of a heart transplant, in this crime thriller starring Denzel Washington and Kimberly Elise.

What’s Love Got to Do with It?

A battered singer finds inner peace and strength through meditative chants, in this biographical music drama starring Angela Bassett, Laurence Fishburne and Vanessa Bell Calloway.

May the Downey family be blessed.

May Tina Downey rest in peace.

Will YOU light a candle for Tina?

What movies have YOU watched that feature prayer or healing practices during trying times?