The Sundance Film Festival is the annual who’s who in indie films from around the world and this year, black films are staking their claim in the arena. Big names such as Spike Lee, Viola Davis (How to Get Away with Murder), Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years A Slave) and Zoe Kravitz (smaller roles in big movies, but who cares because she is the seed of Lenny Kravitz AND Lisa Bonet so it’s OK) are just a few of the Black Hollywood heavyweights attending this year’s festival in Utah from January 22 to February 1.
Films like Fruitvale Station and directors like Ava DuVernay are Sundance alumni that gained traction in the mainstream world after great success at the festival, showing it is a pretty accurate judge of excellence. There are quite a few films making a name for themselves this year at Sundance, which can be a strong indicator that you may be seeing them soon on a movie screen near you.
Wrote and directed by Rick Famuyiwa, the creative force behind the classics The Wood and Brown Sugar, this is a coming of age story of teens growing up in IngleHOOD, California and follows one young man as he tries to navigate through his neighborhood, school, college applications and peer pressure. Forrest Whitaker, Zoe Kravitz, Kimberly Elise, A$AP Rocky and Tyga also lend their talents to this film.
3 1/2 Minutes
The most relevant film due to current tragic events, 3 1/2 minutes shows the events that lead to the ridiculous shooting murder of 17 year old Jordan Davis. The unarmed teen was killed by a white man, Michael Dunn, in a gas station as he felt “threatened” by the loud music coming from their car. Unlike other similar recent cases, Dunn was brought to justice and sentenced to life in jail (seriously, other juries and judges need to take note.)
Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution
Witness filmmaker and Sundance veteran Stanley Nelson’s take on the history and impact of the notoriously popular civil rights group, the Black Panthers. Founded in 1966 to monitor police brutality on blacks (we could SURE use them and Assata right now), the group may have been linked to a few of the more violent and extreme acts of defiance, but should be remembered more for their contributions to the black community, including advocating self-love, pride and brotherhood.
Lila & Eve
While none of Jennifer Lopez’s movies have me running to the theatres, let’s hope that her co-star in this one, Viola Davis will make the execution of this movie as good as the plot. With multiple references to a modern day “brown” Thelma & Louise, this film tells the story of Lila (Davis), a still pained mother of a murdered son, who meets Eve (Lopez) at a support group, and is inspired by her to take justice for her son into her own hands.
Other movies include Fresh Dressed, which takes a look at the evolution of hip hop fashion through the eyes of the film’s producer Nas (#YES), Dreamcatcher, the story of two sex slave survivors who now help save other women through their Chicago-based foundation and a documentary about the life and times of the great Nina Simone.
We definitely have our eye on a few of these and have a good feeling they will be picked up for mass distribution soon.
To see the full list of films at this year’s festival, click here.