Your must-see guide to black feature films • EBONY
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Tribeca Film Festival, which takes place June 9-20, and it’s a welcome sight after more than 365 days under lock, key and quarantine.
With a lineup that includes 66 films by visual creators from around the world, the 2021 Tribeca Film Festival boasts 54 outstanding world premieres. Selected from nearly 3,000 submissions, it’s safe to say that the film community is ready to make their voices heard. According to Tribeca News, 60% of this year’s contributions are âmade by women, BIPOC and LGBTQ + filmmakers, which should please the #OscarsSoWhite AF followers.
“After a year of closed theaters, canceled gatherings and everything virtual, it is with joy and hope that we finally invite New Yorkers out of their homes and back to the movies,” said Cara Cusumano, director of festival and vice president of Programming for the Tribeca Festival. “Tribeca 2021 will bring unique experiences to the big screen for filmmakers and audiences as we reconnect, re-imagine and reopen through the shared experience of the film.”
A panel of renowned jurors including Sanaa Lathan, Warrington Hudlin, Delroy Lindo and many more are on board to honor these distinctive films ranging from sci-fi to documentaries to the complete abstract. That said, it is with pleasure that we share this list of projects that come from black directors, producers and / or directors. Check out the recap below.
A documentary directed by Dan Chen (The Disunited States of America) finds viewers witnessing the viral phenomenon involving students at TM Landry Prep School. Ambitious and determined to find a path to higher education, Accepted shines a light on those students who gave prep school an incredible 100% acceptance rate at the country’s most elite colleges, that is, until an explosive New York Times article exposes the controversial teaching methods behind the successes.
A Choice of Weapons: Inspired by Gordon Parks
Produced and directed by John Maggio (The perfect weapon), this documentary chronicles the legendary and iconic Renaissance man Gordon Parks and his brilliant career. Taking viewers out of his time as a personal photographer to LIFE Magazine, until his artistic development by photographing everyday Americans, A choice of weapons gives many different perspectives to appreciate Parks’ evolution as a novelist, rebel and revolutionary filmmaker.
Narrated by Alvin Ailey himself, this documentary, directed by Jamila Wignot (Culture shock), finds an audience mingled with the wonderful and impressive world of ballet. Ailey features never-before-seen dance sequences from his world-renowned dance company, while telling the story of his life, from a humble and shy Texan teenager to one of the most recognized and iconic choreographers of his generation.
BITCHIN ‘: The Sound and Fury of Rick James
Directed by Sacha Jenkins (Wu-Tang Clan: microphones and men) and written by Jenkins, Steve Rivo, Jason Pollard, BITCHIN ‘ is an incredibly entertaining high octane profile of funk / R & B icon Rick James. Music lovers and moviegoers alike come together to witness the peaks and valleys of Stone City’s OG, revealing a complicated and conflicted soul that was rebellions until the end, and yet gave us indelible moments to never forget .
Ferguson gets up
Directed by Mobolaji Olambiwonnu (Resist), Ferguson gets up recounts the tragedy, transcendence and hope that arose in the shooting death of Michael Brown, Jr. in 2014 by Officer Darren Wilson. Set six years later, Olambiwonnu sits down with friends of Michael Brown including Dorian Johnson, who was with him that day, Michael Brown’s father, and members of the community to tell a new story that reveals the humanity among the people of Ferguson and revel in the hope they represent in each of us.
The legend of the metro
Directed and produced by Giselle Bailey (slut) and Nneka Onuorah (First and last), this documentary premieres at the 2021 Tribeca Film Festival and is timely. Nigeria’s recent ban on Twitter is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the struggle people face against widespread discrimination. Bailey and Onuorah explore the lives of several charismatic and nonconformist young people who struggle through social media and daring creativity to live their lives out loud, while The legend of the metro sparks a cultural debate that challenges the ideals of gender and civil rights in West Africa.
Directed by CJ Hunt (producer on The daily show), this funny and insightful documentary chronicles the New Orleans city council vote to remove four Confederate monuments. As evidenced by the climate in the interior of the country, the demand of the population turns into an interrupted progress, led by death threats. When that happens, CJ seeks to understand why an army with an L major on its record since 1865 still holds so much power in America.
After screening Neutral ground, there’s a live conversation with CJ Hunt, executive producer Roy Wood Jr. (The daily show), and Pulitzer Prize-winning Project 1619 creator Nikole Hannah-Jones will find them confronted with America’s continuing legacy of original sin.
Queen of glory
Directed and written by Nana Mensah (An African city), Queen of glory is about a young Ghanaian-American named Sarah Obeng (Mensah), who is more than ready to drop her Ivy League PhD program to follow her married lover across the country. But before she can hit the road, her plans are dramatically altered when her mother’s sudden death leaves her the owner of a neighborhood bookstore in the Bronx.
The basketball queen
Ben Proudfoot has spoken to anyone within earshot of the Lucy Harris legend. Have you ever heard of her? In this short documentary film directed by Brandon Somerhalder, Basketball queen recounts the little-known journey of basketball’s greatest living legends. Lucy Harry, owner of three national trophies, scored the first basket in women’s Olympic basketball, and the first and alone the woman to be drafted into the NBA gets her blossoms in this must-see feature.
Sisters on the right track
This coming-of-age story is set in Brooklyn, New York, and is directed by Corinne van der Borch (LuLu sessions) and Tone GrÃ¸ttjord (All i am) and focuses on the Sheppard sisters: Tai, Rainn and Brooke. The three were propelled into American consciousness in 2016 after a trio of spectacular victories for the first time at the Junior Olympics. The film offers a rare intimate glimpse into the hope, belonging and metaphorical and literal brotherhood of three young athletes who find their voices and want to pass the baton of empowerment through athletics. Sisters on the right track is a heartfelt story not to be missed.
The One and Only Dick Gregory
Written and directed by Andre Gaines (The lady and the val), this honest portrayal of comedian and activist Dick Gregory comes at a time when the funny world has lost Paul Mooney, and documents the former’s many reinventions over the decades. The One and Only Dick Gregory will see viewers relive or learn the evolution of comics from celebrity to civil rights heroes to clean food advocate and beyond. Executive produced by Kevin Hart and Lena Waithe, this Juneteenth programmed doc features the voices of Dave Chappelle, Chris Rock, Harry Belafonte, and more.
Directed by Josh Ruben (Scare me) and with Sam Richardson (Veep), this thriller is a mix of Rian Johnson Knives Out meets John Carpenter The thing. Richardson plays Finn Wheeler, a ranger recently arrived in the city of Beaverfield, who harbors a chilling secret: a permanent werewolf threat. It’s up to Finn and a group of characters to figure out who the threat is and escape before they too become an all-you-can-eat meal.
Untitled Documentary Dave Chappelle
The 2021 Tribeca Film Festival Closing is an yet to be revealed documentary produced and starring comedian Dave Chappelle. In it, the funny man winner of the Mark Twain Award recounts his efforts to bring comic and financial relief to his Ohio community at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and in the aftermath of the heinous murder of George Floyd by Officer Derek Chauvin. It will make its debut on June 19 at the famous Radio City Music Hall in New York.
The 2021 Tribeca Film Festival begins June 9 and ends June 20. Click here for the full schedule, ticketing details, and in-person and virtual screening times.
Kevin L. Clark is an editor and screenwriter who covers the intersection of music, pop culture and social justice. Follow it @KevitoClark.