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Liani S. Greaves

The Urban World Film Festival marked its second year last month, with a star-studded lineup of features, shorts and documentary films.  This year, the festival attracted three major studio films – 20th Century Fox’s “How Stella Got Her Groove Back”, Warner Bros.’ “Why Do Fools Fall in Love?” and Miramax’s “Down In the Delta”.  The “Delta”, marked the opening night of the festival and the film directorial debut of acclaimed writer/actress Maya Angelou.
Urbanworld is the country’s largest showcase of work of independent Black and Latin Filmmakers.  Showcasing over 70 films in 5 days, UWFF proved its commitment to redefining and enhancing the role of Black films in contemporary cinema.  “This is our Sundance, this is our Cannes,” says festival founder and executive director Stacey Spikes.  The festival was not just screenings and networking, though there were lots of the two.  The fest’s directors also put together informative panels for attendees that were extremely well attended.
Director Mario Van Peeples was on hand to receive the festival’s best documentary award for “Classified X”  at the Festival’s Sunday afternoon Closing Ceremony.  Produced by Yves Jeanneau and Christine LeGoff, Peeples’ work explores the history of Hollywood’s portrayal of African-Americans.  Van Peebles encouraged the attendees to “keep the dream alive” and continue making movies that depict the true experiences of black people.  Clement Virgo’s “The Planet of Junior Brown” nabbed best picture honors.  Cameron Bailey wrote the screenplay based on Virginia Hamilton’s novel of a teen musical prodigy who builds a community of street children.  Sterling Macer Jr. won the audience award for “Park Day”.  Gabriel A. Tolliver and Jake Ann Jones received the screenplay award for “Spook City.”  Gabriel’s next project is a hip-hop/martial arts feature film he wrote called “Bring The Ruckus” being produced by Constant Pictures. 
If this year’s event is any indication, next year’s film festival will be even larger.  The community of African and Latin American filmmakers and filmgoers owe a debt to the Urban World Film Festival.  It’s “ours”, and now it’s up to us to keep the dream alive, and MAKE THOSE MOVIES!

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