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African/African American Feature Films & Shorts To See At The 2012 Tribeca Film Festival

by Tambay A. Obenson
April 4, 2012 11:18 AM
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We've profiled almost all of these (except the shorts mostly) so the titles should be familiar; but no matter, this list is a good place to start for those of you planning to attend screenings at the festival and want to know what "black films" you should be looking out for.

The 2012 installment of the Tribeca Film Festival here in NYC runs from April 18 to 29. And if you don't have tickets or passes, click HERE to find out what's available currently.

Here's the list (photo above is from War Witch (or Rebelle):

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  • NinaG | April 4, 2012 1:39 PMReply

    So excited for Stones in the Sun

  • Charles Judson | April 4, 2012 1:03 PMReply

    When it comes to festival programming don't concentrate on the who, concentrate on the what. Yes, these are mostly White filmmakers telling these stories, but as a film programmer, I can tell you, if I just go by what's been submitted to us as an organization over the last 5 years, not many African American filmmakers are choosing or looking for those stories to tell. I have noticed it slowly changing over the last 3 years. However, I've been going to film festivals and arts festivals since the late 1980s as a teenager. I see many of the same types of films I saw when I was 17 still being made and submitted now that I'm 39. I've also seen squandered opportunities, particularly with the Docs, for filmmakers to dig deeper. As an example, as a programmer, I was disappointed that several of the Civil Rights docs we had submitted to us this year still spent an inordinate amount of time going over material that's been covered in a myriad of other films. The biggest let down was that many of them were covering parts of the movement that haven't been touched on, however, those elements weren't made the true focus. Then there are the crazy number of White filmmakers going to Africa docs we continue to get each year, yet I can I loose all but three fingers and still count on one hand the number of African Americans going to Africa docs we were submitted. Films like AN AFRICAN ELECTION seem to be an anomaly. So to answer your question Darkan, the answer is probably yes, they weren't interesting enough, or--and worthy isn't a word I would choose--were not films that got the programmers excited. And this raises a point about film festivals; Sundance, Tribeca, Cannes, etc. all have a particular bent. Film festivals should branch out and be as expansive as their mission will allow. At the same time, filmmakers need to do their research and really look at what kinds of films and what kind of stories resonate with particular festivals. There are films SXSW programs that will never get into Sundance and films that Slamdance programs that will never make it Cannes or Toronto. If we know of films that would have matched Tribeca's curatorial mission and were rejected, that's one thing. Just looking for a Tribeca to program more films from African American filmmakers or featuring African Americans in general isn't all that useful for either filmmakers, the festivals or audiences. Let's start naming names of films that SHOULD or COULD have been at a Tribeca or any other festival. It's not a huge step, but for programmers like me who may have not have heard of these films or may have them sitting in our submission piles, it may get them on the radar. At least 4 films from this year's ATLFF I saw on Shadow and Act and I had my team start tracking the ones we found interesting and thought might fit what we look for. We received 2200 submissions this year. If I hadn't seen those projects here, there's a good chance a few of them would have slipped past us.

  • Darkan | April 4, 2012 3:43 PM

    Point taken and point made Charles. Thank you for taking the time to educate and respond. But still and all, game recognizes game and as I've learned for my many years in this industry everything changes and nothing stays the same. The cream always rises to the top. Be well.

  • Charles Judson | April 4, 2012 3:28 PM

    First, we continue using terms like "Black Directors" and "Black American Experience" as if those terms have any qualitative or conceptual meaning like French New Wave or New Hollywood. The range of works, styles and quality of Black Directors is vast. My Black American Experience in Atlanta will not be your Black American Experience. We will get nowhere if we continue to treat our own work the way people treat Africa, as a cinematic monolith, with little diversity within. Just as there are thousands of different groups and dozens of countries in Africa, there is, and there should be, a great variety in our cinema. Secondly, it is subjective for programmers to say they don't find a film interesting, but that's not a bad thing and for festivals that is a key component. That is partially what film programming is. Sundance chose the film CHASING GHOSTS over KING OF KONG and Slamdance chose the later. Slamdance programmed Christopher Nolan's films before Sundance did. There are objective and subjective reasons one film is chosen over another. Without that subjectivity, festivals could not cultivated an identity. You can look to Tribeca as an example. Almost the first half of its existence it was criticized by many for not having an identifiable focus or a reputation for creating a strong lineup that matched the buzz SXSW or Sundance could generate, which was to be expected because Tribeca wasn't started with a super clear curatorial purpose or mission. It was their money, having Robert Deniro on board and instant size, that gave it buzz. Many other festivals would have died off much sooner. Subjectivity is not something you can or should remove from the process. Third, yes, you may need to go to other forums to garner relevance, buzz or interest. Again, we got 2200 submissions. That's just us. There are festivals not named Sundance or SXSW getting 5000 submissions. If a filmmaker's festival strategy is to just rely on the brillance of their filmmaking to get them in, and that same brillance to get them noticed after they get in, and that notice to help them build a career, they better start rethinking that. There are filmmakers who have been doing the lower festival circuits for years before they made it to Sundance, or SXSW or Tribeca or even Toronto. There are some that do very well having never gone to any of the "majors". That's how this works for many. Yes, this process can at times be political, and I would be a hypocrite to say there is none in the festival world, but filmmakers grossly overestimate how much that plays a role. The process is way too huge and in constant flux for festivals as a whole to play politics with every film. And no festival wants to be the one that let the next great film or director get away just because they had to coddle another filmmaker or appease a certain group or company. You can even look at Sundance's own labs and people are often shocked at how many of the films or directors that go through the lab are NOT accepted by Sundance Film Festival. You can go back through the filmmakers to watch list from the last 10 years and you'll find many of them have dropped off the map even after been lauded as the next big thing. Film is no different than basketball. You may not have gotten noticed as a high school all star, but at the college level people may start to notice you. You may have to go to Europe and play for a while and come back. You may have to keep coming back to tryouts for different teams over and over again. As a filmmaker you may have to take your films to smaller festivals, or get into programs like IFP or regional equivalents to start building your rep. You may need to start critiquing films or serving on a film festival to start working your way in and get your name noticed and start networking. All filmmakers have to create an in and fight to stay in, and that's hard regardless of who you are. This process is not as simple as write check, mail in film, wait for the magic to start. It just isn't and never will be.

  • Darkan | April 4, 2012 1:50 PM

    Thank God that you guys did slide the Tombs in and the several Black American feature films you had on your lineup. But... You cannot defend the fact that a majority of film festivals are VERY political and that many agents use those forums to build the careers of the directors that they represent who are MOSTLY if not all White American or European. That is an OBVIOUS TRUTHFUL FACT. (What would we do with the resource of IMDB to see the truth in this?) All in all it is a disturbing trend. If black directors have to use other forums to "Market" their films to garner relevance, buzz or interest for a film festival to consider it for acceptance then whats the point of even submitting? Doesn't make any sense. To say that a specific film is not interesting enough is truly subjective. How many films can white guys make about Africa when there ARE stories being told about the Black American experience that never get to see the light of day due to someone who cannot understand the film's relevance? But in the programmer's mind the plight of Africa is considered more relevant? You're right, I have learned this year that a LOT of film festivals are not for black filmmakers except for the black film festivals. I will continue to support them and stay away from the more popular, political ones especially the "Oscar Qualifying" fests. Shame on us filmmakers who thought otherwise. You live and learn.

  • CareyCarey | April 4, 2012 1:35 PM

    EXCELLENT POINTS Mr. Judson! I heard the message loud and clear. I believe you said if a person is hell bent on crying about or complaining about something, they should talk about something they know. In other words, a person should not take a leg-less man to an ass kicking contest. And, I believe you were being nice (politically correct) or sugar-coating the issue when you said "the answer is probably yes, they weren't interesting enough, or--and worthy isn't a word I would choose--were not films that got the programmers excited". The truth is, I believe it's safe to say many products submitted by our present crop of "filmmakers" are "subpar". Yes, I said it. Although many point fingers at Tyler Perry and insist that his success is directly related to some ambiguous "agreement" between Hollywood and white filmmakers, the truth is, many of his competitors, black filmmakers in particular, are not producing interesting enough, or "worthy enough" films to garner the interest of the average American film viewer.

  • Charles Judson | April 4, 2012 1:07 PM

    I wanted to clarify this point: I know Jareth isn't African American, but I wanted to use AN AFRICAN ELECTION as an example of a doc I don't see being submitted by anyone of color as often as I do White filmmakers.

  • Darkan | April 4, 2012 11:43 AMReply

    I did a check and saw how disturbing it is that almost all the short films in this list is about people of the African Diaspora but is not directed by someone black? How is that possible? Really Tribeca? You mean to tell me that no black short/feature film directors submitted a film or wasn't worthy enough or interesting enough to be in your festival?! This is becoming a disturbing trend. Really "shocked" about the directors already repped by the big agencies. *Rolling my eyes.*

  • Karen | April 4, 2012 11:41 AMReply

    I had the same reaction to this article - so many films about Black people, but not made by Black people...not even the shorts.

    As I try to understand what is going on here, I have a hard time believing that no Black filmmakers submitted.

  • ? | April 4, 2012 11:27 AMReply

    So many white filmmakers being patted on the back for telling our stories. I plan to support a couple of these films but the whitewashing taking place behind the scenes is disheartening.

    Africans will always be more digestible to American film festivals than the African Americans in their own yard.

    Not a single AA short piqued the programmers' interest?

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