September 18th through the 22nd, the 17th annual Urbanworld Film Festival presented some of the most interesting feature films, shorts, documentaries, readings, and panels. Although many of the films shown were by male directors, there was a large female presence, both in front of and behind the camera, as well as behind the scenes helping to put the festival together.
Stacy Spikes founded the Urbanworld Film Festival, but he admitted during Opening Night that the festival could not come together without Executive Producer/Head of Programming Gabrielle Glore. Glore’s tireless effort and dedication has been instrumental in allowing the festival to become as successful as it has been over the last 17 years.
For the past 6 years, BET Networks has been a sponsoring partner at Urbanworld with Loretha Jones, President of Original Programming for BET Networks, representing BET at the festival, providing a sponsor welcome in the festival program.
Although not present at the festival, Grammy Winning Singer Alicia Keys was probably the most high profile producer with a film at the festival this year. Keys is the Executive Producer of George Tillman’s film, The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Peter. Starring Academy Award winning actress Jennifer Hudson, the film closed the festival and is an example of powerful women in the film industry holding the spotlight, whether in front of the camera or behind.
In addition to movies produced and distributed by major studios, there were quite a few features and short films by women directors. They included: The Volunteer by Vicky Wright, Boneshaker by Frances Bodomo, El Doctor by Heather de Michele, Journeymen by Sarah Jenkins, Rosita Lopez for President by Rachel Goldberg, Say Yes by Ava DuVernay, Sweet Honey Chile by Talibah Newman, The Grown-Ups by Kaliyah Warren, A Lovely Day by Kerri Gawryn, Children of the Wind by Daphne Schomon, Lillie Baller by Crystal McCrary, The New Public by Jyllian Gunther, Colored My Mind: The Diagnosis by Nia T. Hill, and Nailgasm: The Nail Art Documentary by Ayla Montgomery.
As the Urbanworld Film Festival continues to grow and showcase women’s talents, it is indeed cause to celebrate some “Girl Power.”
– Judith Davis @WriterJudy
Let’s welcome new member Arielle Duran to NYWIFT! Having been raised in Ridgewood, Queens, Arielle Duran is a proud New Yorker and versatile storyteller of Puerto Rican and Dominican descent. Since graduating from the University of South Florida's Zimmerman School, where she studied broadcasting and production, Arielle’s theatrical talents have been showcased in notable television shows such as The Calling and American Rust, among other projects. In addition to acting, Arielle is currently pursuing screenwriting as a graduate student at the Feirstein Graduate School of Cinema. Arielle spoke to us about her New York roots, storytelling, and honing her craft.READ MORE
In the 2023 Sundance Film Festival short film Take Me Home, a cognitively disabled woman and her estranged sister must learn to communicate in order to move forward after their mother’s death. It captures of a moment of terror experienced by so many siblings of those with disabilities, when they are suddenly responsible for making a plan for a loved one who cannot live on their own, potentially upending both their lives as they also work through their grief. For writer and director NYWIFT member Liz Sargent, the story hits close to home. And she cast her own mother and younger sister to play versions of themselves. Sargent spoke to us about finding support in her identity as a sibling guardian, beautiful moments working on set with her family, and her joyous Sundance experience.READ MORE
Many children – and more than a few adults – dream of long-distance space exploration. But what about the real human toll of that kind of journey? The new documentary The Longest Goodbye, which debuted at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival, takes a poignant look at the fundamentals of day-to-day reality in space: the isolation, confinement, and lack of privacy and social contact. Executive producer Valda Witt spoke to us about the project, her childhood dreams of space travel, favorite moments making the film, and getting to know scientists and astronauts in a deeply personal way.READ MORE
NYWIFT member Caitlin Gold is the Co-Founder and Co-Head of Film, a private equity fund dedicated to financing narrative and documentary films directed by women. The fund’s tagline is “Films by women make more money, but Hollywood isn’t making them….” Thanks to Gold and her colleagues, that very well may change! Their most recent feature is the Australian film Shayda, which premiered at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival in the World Dramatic Competition and won that category’s Audience Award. Gold spoke to us about Shayda’s path to the screen, funding work by women, and what’s next on her horizon.READ MORE