Predictions, PART 2: Black Films That Might Make Their Debuts At The 2013 Sundance Film Festival

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by Tambay A. Obenson
November 27, 2012 5:51 PM
2 Comments
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If you missed yesterday's write-up on the first 5 films (Newlyweeds, Big Words, Blue Caprice, In The Morning and Ma'George), click HERE to read and catch up.

Otherwise, here is the second set of 5 films, as promised. 

First, a recap...

The 2013 Sundance Film Festival is almost upon us - just shy of 2 months away actually. The first film festival of each year that many filmmakers work to get their films into; most don't make the short list, and for those that do, it could mean the beginning of an extra special year.

What film might be next year's Beasts Of The Southern Wild? What director might make history like Ava DuVernay did this year, becoming the first black woman director to win the covetedBest Director award? What trippy, experimental features will challenge and astonish us like Terence Nance's An Oversimplification Of Her Beauty? Might there be any wonderful documentaries on the *black experience* globally (historical, present, or future) that will enlighten us - like The Black Power Mixtape from last year's festival, and Slavery By Another Namefrom this year's lineup?

If past years are any indication, the festival usually starts to unveil its lineup during the last week of November or the first week of December (the 2012 lineup was revealed on November 30 last year), and I'll assume that those filmmakers who submitted their films for selection consideration likely already know whether they're in or not, at this point. Although no one's telling...

Not that I've heard anything directly, but I'll go out on a limb and say that there are lots of excited filmmakers booking their January trips right now (or who have already booked their January trips); although there are likely also lots (a LOT more actually) who might be feeling dejected from the rejection. And to those folks I say, there are other festivals! 

In film history, there have been films that were rejected by the Sundance Film Festival, that went onto premiere at other prominent festivals, did very well, were picked up for traditional theatrical distribution, and the filmmakers went on to have illustrious careers - or, at least, they were able to continue working as filmmakers.

And in anticipation of the festival's upcoming lineup announcement, as I've done every year for the last 2, I thought I'd take a look at films by black filmmakers, or films with stories that center on the lives of black people (whether made by black filmmakers or not), that might, MIGHT be included on the official selection list, when it's revealed likely by the end of this week.

Again, this is mostly speculation; I don't have any insider info. I did talk to some of the filmmakers about this specifically, and while a few were a little forthcoming, this is all really just mostly conjecture on my part.

Again, I'm doing 5 at a time, so don't post any comments asking me why I didn't include this film, or that film - at least, not until I've posted every film I have. Filmmakers can think of this as an opportunity to alert me to their projects (preferably via email at obensont@gmail.com), if they feel they belong on the list.

This is PART 2 in a series that will continue daily, until likely Thursday, or I run out of titles. I can tell you that, as of right now, I have a list of 20 films that could make the cut; I've already feature 5 of them; here are another five, in absolutely no specific order:

6-  Ryan Coogler directed Octavia SpencerMichael B. Jordan, Tristan Wilds and Melonie Diaz in the indie drama Fruitvale, based the murder of 22-year old Oscar Grant - a film produced by Forest Whitaker

The question with this one is whether it met Sundance's submissions deadline; as of the beginning of August, it was entering post-production. The late submission deadline was September 24, which would've given them less than 2 months to get a rough-cut together to show Sundance curators. Obviously not a lot of time, when you're talking about a feature-length film; BUT that certainly hasn't stopped past films from eventually making the lineup. The film may not have been entirely ready for screening by the Sundance submission deadline, but given the names involved, I'd think that Sundance would be willing to make an exception. This is after all, a "who you know" business. A rough-cut of the film, or even some footage from it that impresses could be enough to get the nod, with expectation that the filmmakers will have a print ready to screen for audiences by the time the festival comes around in mid-January.

7- Vipaka - another Forest Whitaker project. The southern gothic psychological thriller stars WhitakerAnthony MackieSanaa LathanNicole Ari Parker and Mike Epps, and centers on 2 enemies who eventually go head-to-head in a match that will "test each man's belief in what they're certain is the truth."

The film was shot in New OrleansLouisiana, in the summer/fall of 2011, so it's been a little while since photography ended, and post-production began. IMDBPro lists a completion date of November 17, 2013, which was obviously very recent.  and, as far as I know, is complete - at least, principal photography should be done.

You'd probably think that this would go straight to theaters, bypassing festivals, given who's involved, but I won't be surprised to see it selected for a handful of early 2013 festivals, to help build buzz leading up to its eventual theatrical release. Note that it doesn't have a distributor yet.

French/Lebanese director Philippe Caland (Boxing Helena) directed the film.

8- Rodney Evans 2nd feature film titled The Happy Sad, which follows two couples, one black and one white, whose lives collide as they navigate open relationships and sexual identity.

Principal photography wrapped on July 30th last year (2011), and I actually expected it to make its world debut at this year's Sundance Film Festival. However, that didn't happen. As Rodney himself announced on Facebook the night before Sundance unveiled its lineup, he didn't even submit his film to the festival last year, and instead chose to take his time in post production, rather than rush to get it into the festival; and I'm sure the film will surely be better for it!

As of July of THIS year (2012) he was in post-production on the film (5 weeks of sound editing and mixing, he said), and was working to raise an additional $2,000 to cover his sound editor's salary. We'll assume he got his money. 

Rodney's first film, Brother To Brother (which starred Anthony Mackie) made its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in 2004, where it won the "Special Jury Prize: Dramatic," so it won't be a surprise if his second film does the same.

9- Shell Shocked: A Documentary About Growing Up In The Murder Capital Of America, (or just Shell Shocked), is the first documentary mentioned in this series (it won't be the last). 

The feature doc examines Louisiana, as the murder capital of the United States, with 80% of the victims being black males, mostly in their teenage years. This is the city’s greatest neglected crisis with profound implications for the issues of violence and crime most American cities face. New Orleans government, law enforcement, community leaders, and well-intentioned citizens cannot agree on a prognosis or a solution to this situation, and the film attempts to bridge the gap of this disconnect by hearing the ideas, opinions, and testimonies from activists, community leaders, police, city officials, youth program directors, family and friends of victims, and the children who live in these violent circumstances.

The feature documentary comes from director John Richie, who actually began working on the film 4 years ago, in 2008, when, while volunteering at a local high school, he heard firsthand accounts of young children living with violence & murder on a day-to-day basis. He also self-financed the film, which might partly explain the length of time it's been in production. Welcome to indie filmmaking!

Rough-cut screenings of the film took place over the summer, with great response; I assume they submitted it to Sundance.

10- The feature film directorial debut from rapper and music video director Slick (aka Solvan Naim) titled Full Circle, which centers on young pizza delivery boy who faces a life-changing crisis when his curiosity pulls him away from his delivery order into an adjacent apartment's open door, where he gives into temptation after stumbling across a large sum of money in the aftermath of what appearss to be a drug deal gone bad.

Slick/Solvan stars alongside Rob Morgan (Pariah, and the short film The Tombs), Kelvin Hale (Blue Bloods), Celestine Rae of the Off-Broadway hit show All American Girls, Devale Ellis formerly a wide receiver with the Detroit Lions who is making his film acting debut, and Skye Lastra, in her film debut as well. 

Slick wrote the screenplay and co-directed the film with Olli Koivula.

I attended a private preview screening of the film a few weeks ago, and based on the attending audiences' reactions to it, I'd say it's definitely one of those crowd-pleasers. That, as well as its indie pedigree (it was financed via Kickstarter primarily), and the fact that it's being repped by Ronna B. Wallace (her resume goes back many years, and includes exec producing films like Quentin Tarantino's Resevoir Dogs, and Abel Ferrara's Bad Lieutenant, and others), I won't be surprised if Full Circle makes its debut at Sundance 2013.

Alright - that's today's first list of 5 films that might be announced as selections for the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, at the end of this week.

Tomorrow, I'll return with another 5!

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2 Comments

  • ao | November 30, 2012 9:43 PMReply

    I wish these filmmakers would also submit there films to The Pan African Film Festival and other Black film festivals. We need to also build our own institutions.

  • PK | November 28, 2012 1:17 PMReply

    Those films sound pretty interesting. Anxious to see the outcome of it all. It'd be a great day if this was a list of films in theaters. Something for different kinds of black folks (and all moviegoers...but...ya know)

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