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
Welcome to NYWIFT, Toby Perl Freilich! Toby is an Emmy-nominated documentary filmmaker and writer, focusing on cultural reporting. Her work explores all sorts of perspectives, from senators to artists, spanning across the world. She co-produced and co-directed Moynihan, a film about the late New York senator, policy expert, and public intellectual. She also directed, produced, and wrote Inventing Our Life: The Kibbutz Experiment, about one of the world's longest running and most successful experiments in radical, secular communal living. Right now, she is producing and directing I Make Maintenance Art: The Work of Mierle Laderman Ukeles about the pioneering ecofeminist and the first Artist in Residence at the New York City Department of Sanitation. Read about Toby’s inspiring past and future projects here!READ MORE
Finding your tribe is one of life’s greatest pleasures—and losing it is one of the greatest sorrows. In NYWIFT Member Amy Nicholson’s beautifully observed film Happy Campers, working-class Americans gather every summer at a seaside trailer park in Chincoteague, Virginia, to enjoy the simple pleasures of a scrappy, no-frills vacationland, and each other’s company. When a developer buys the land and reimagines the property, the inhabitants of this shabby Shangri-La wistfully eke out the joys of one last summer together as a melancholic twilight hangs in the air. Happy Campers just made its world premiere at DOC NYC, where it received a Special Mention for the Grand Jury Prize. Amy spoke to us about her unique process making this film, biggest challenges and triumphs, and the commodification of some of life’s simplest pleasures.READ MORE
Welcome to NYWIFT, Melisa Ramos! Melisa is a filmmaker and professor from Puerto Rico, bringing 14 years of post-production and motion graphics experience to New York. Her first production, Puerto Rican Voices, a docu-series about the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. Following Puerto Rican Voices, Melisa continued to share Puerto Rican and Latin American stories. In 2020, she directed and produced From Performers to Spectators, a doc-series showcasing New York City performers during lockdown. She is currently in production on Hoop Warrior, her first feature film. Read all about Melisa’s journey as an editor and artist here!READ MORE
NYWIFT Member Emily Sheskin’s return to DOC NYC 2023 is particularly meaningful. In 2017, she attended the festival with her short film Girl Boxer, about a 10-year-old champion female boxer and her adoring father. Six years later, Sheskin returns with a feature-length film following the same family, now facing an entirely new set of challenges. In Jesszilla, New Jersey’s own Jesselyn Silva, a three-time national boxing champion, is on her way to superstardom, dominating the junior ranks at the age of 15. With her every step of the way is her father, Pedro, a single parent who helps her navigate coaches, training schedules, and the angst of teenage life. When a devastating diagnosis threatens the father-daughter tandem, the pair turn to each other to fight their greatest opponent yet: cancer. Director and Executive Producer Emily Sheskin spoke to us about her unique journey following this family.READ MORE