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Sundance 2012 Predictions - 10 Black Films That May Debut At The Festival In January

Features
by Tambay A. Obenson
November 21, 2011 3:21 PM
15 Comments
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The 2012 Sundance Film Festival is almost upon us - just shy of 2 months away actually. The festival usually starts to unveil its lineup during the first week of December (next week Thursay is the first of the month), and I'll assume that those filmmakers who submitted their films for selection consideration likely already know whether they're in or not.

Not that I've heard anything directly, but I'll go out on a limb (ok, not really) and say that there are lots of excited filmmakers booking their January trips right now; but there are also lots (a LOT more actually) who might be moping about, feeling dejected. And to those folks I say, c'est la vie!

What? You were expecting some expression of sympathy? I'm singing that old Frank Sinatra tune in my head right now, that goes something like this... "I said that's life, and as funny as it may seem, Some people get their kicks, Stompin' on a dream; But I don't let it, let it get me down, 'Cause this fine ol' world it keeps spinning around..." :)

I digress somewhat...

Anyway... in anticipation of the festival's upcoming lineup announcement, I thought I'd take a look at 10 films by black filmmakers, or films that feature black people in starring roles, that might, MIGHT be included on that official selection list when it drops soon.

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 forthcoming, this is all really just conjecture on my part... conjecture based on available evidence.

Might we see a repeat of Sundance 2011, aka Blackdance 2011, as I believe it was Ava DuVernay who initially used the term, highlighting the fact that there were a good number of "black films" that screened in Park City, UT last January - more-so than any previous year I believe; and some of those films also won awards (Pariah, Kinyarwanda, The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975, and The Redemption of General Butt Naked, specifically). Or will Sundance 2012 be an unfortunately "color-free" year?

I'm not clairvoyant, but what I do have is Shadow And Act's extensive database of films and filmmakers we've written about in the last 2 1/2 years, as well as IMDB, Google search, email, and social networking sites to help compile the list that follows below.

Of course, there might be a few that I miss... it's only natural. I don't know everything. If you can think of others that should be on this list, feel free to add via the comments section underneath this post.

Let's see how many on this list will be January hot conversation topics.

In absolutely no specific order, here are the 10 films, and then some:

1. Julius Onah's The Girl Is In Trouble. Columbus Short stars in this New York City-set crime caper, exec produced by Spike Lee. We've been ontop of the film since it was announced back in 2010, and I actually thought it would debut at one of the major festivals this year, but it didn't. I've reached out to Julius a number of times, over the course of the year, and he certainly doesn't give anything away. But, given how long it's been since it completed production, and that it didn't debut at any of this year's majors, I'd be surprised if it's not on Sundance's 2012 lineup list.

2. Rodney Evans' The Happy Sad. Another film and filmmaker we've featured on S&A. Principal photography wrapped on July 30th, and within a matter of 2 or 3 days, post-production began on what will be his second feature film. While he certainly wouldn't have had time to complete full post-production on the film by Sundance's late September submission deadline, a rough cut certainly could've been completed in enough time; also Rodney is no stranger to Sundance. His feature debut, Brother To Brother, won the Special Jury Prize at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival. Being an *alumni* could assist. UPDATE: As of this evening, Rodney says he didn't even submit, so the film definitely won't debut at Sundance next year; he says he's taking his time in post production, instead of rushing to get it into the festival, and that the film will surely be better for it! Go Rodney!

3. Matthew Cherry's The Last Fall. Certainly a name and film most of you are familiar with by now, if only thanks to his filmmaker diary series. Matthew has been fearlessly transparent (a nod to the name of his production company) about his feature debut, which stars Lance gross, Nicole Beharie and others. You've all seen the teaser trailer, which provides some idea of what to expect from this sports/family drama. I expect a longer, more revealing trailer is forthcoming. Matthew worked feverishly during post-production, and managed his first cut of the film not-so long after principal photography ended. Will his feature film debut make Sundance's short-list? We'll just have to wait and find out in a couple of weeks or so.

4. Ava DuVernay's Middle Of Nowhere. Another one of a handful of feature projects by black filmmakers we've covered quite a bit here on S&A, so you should be familiar, if only with the director's name. Middle Of Nowhere, Ava's follow-up to her acclaimed debut, I Will Follow, stars David Oyelowo and Emayatzy E. Corinealdi. Principal photography wrapped mid-summer, and Ms DuVernay's been in post-production since then (amongst other things, like prepping AFFRM's second release, Kinyarwanda, for a December 2 opening in 7 cities). If Middle Of Nowhere makes its debut at Sundance 2012, this will be Ava's first at the festival. We haven't seen any of it (a few stills, no clips), so I have no idea what to expect here. But given her impressive debut, as well as the fact that Bradford Young shot Middle Of Nowhere, I'd say expectations are high.

5. Brandon Harris' Redlegs. Info on this one has been sparse. I believe our last post on it was many months ago, when Brandon was trying to raise money for it via Kickstarter (he did raise the money, by the way). I know that as of July/August or so, Brandon was pretty much done with post-production. Just in time to meet the festival's submission deadline too. Brandon's midwest-set Redlegs is his feature film debut. Long-time readers of S&A will recall that we posted his short erotic thriller Evangeleo on the old S&A site. Redlegs, as described, is "a comedic drama set amongst grieving twenty-something man-boys in the industrial Midwest who's black friend was recently murdered in a historically troubled part of Cincinnati, Ohio."

6. Andrew Dosunmu's Ma'George. His feature directorial debut, the mesmerizing New York City-set immigrant tale, Restless City, debuted at Sundance 2011, and we've covered it quite a bit here on S&A. Will Andrew make it a double in as many years? Possibly, since he's also an alumni. Although the film hasn't been in post-production for very long. I was actually surprised Restless City debuted at Sundance; its aesthetics suggested it was better suited for a Berlin or even Cannes debut. Alas, Sundance got it first, and it's played at a handful of festivals since then. I'm still not certain how it will eventually be officially released, but I hope it doesn't get forgotten. It needs to be seen, and I don't say that very often. Ma'George co-stars the likes of Isaach De Bankolé and Yaya DaCosta, amongst others.

7. RZA's The Man With The Iron Fists. The rapper turned actor/director's feature film directorial debut, and the highest profile project on this list. It stars RZA himself, Russel Crowe, Pam Grier and others; Quentin Tarantino and Eli Roth served as producers on this $20 million project. If it premieres at Sundance 2012, it'll likely be out of competition, as is often the case with films of this caliber that screen at the festival. Production ended earlier this year (shot on location in China), and it went into post-production soon after. This was all during the first 3 months of the year. So, I expect the film is already complete or nearing full completion. We haven't seen a single frame of it, which I find odd. Not a still image, not a clip, nada.

8. Byron Hurt's Soul Food Junkies. The director of the classic 2006 documentary, Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats & Rhymes, which looked at manhood, sexism, and homophobia in hip-hop culture, returns with another eye-opener, that, this time, asks the question, "Is African American culture a culture of soul food junkies?" Further, it explores "the dark side of the food industry and the growing food justice movement that has been born in its wake." A trailer and extended preview of the doc circulated the web earlier this year, with good results. I'd say it's a film many are anticipating in 2012. Our most recent post on the film was on a post-production fundraiser. Byron is trying to raise $25,000 to help fund a portion of the costs for editing, motion graphics, sound design and other expenses. So it's obviously not done! However, as I noted with other films on this list, that certainly doesn't mean it's out of contention.

9. Julie Delpy's 2 Days In New York. Not exactly what we'd call a "black film," nor is the filmmaker black (Delpy); however, Chris Rock co-stars opposite Delpy, in what's really the only other starring role in the film - that's a sequel to 2 Days In Paris, which also starred Delpy, but opposite Adam Goldberg. As far as I know, the film has been done forever. I (and other prognosticators) actually fully expected it to debut at Sundance 2011. That didn't happen; and when it didn't turn up at Berlin, Cannes, Venice, Toronto, etc, I thought it really odd. Unless it's just a sucky film. I don't know. I haven't heard anything. We've seen a few stills, but still no trailer, no clips.

10. Joshua Sanchez' Four, which stars Wendell Pierce and Yolanda Ross (and others), 2 names you all should be familiar with. Based on the film's synopsis, I'm guessing it will be one of those titles that's heavily-discussed amongst S&A readers; "On the 4th of July in Hartford, CT, June, a 16-year-old white boy, meets up with Joe, a closeted, married black man he met on the Internet. On the same night, in the same city, the black man’s 16-year-old daughter Abigayle, agrees to go out with Dexter, a white 20-year-old low-level drug dealer. In and around the city, on the American night of Independence, these 2 couples get to know each other, moving from strangers to intimates. In lonely landscapes of movie theaters, fast food restaurants, darkened churches and public parks, they discover the limits of desire and the possibilities of transcendence. Four juxtaposes the relationships of the 2 couples struggling with their desires and demons." 'Nuff said ;) Principal photography wrapped in July, and post-production is well underway. Nothing to show yet though.

So... there are my 10 Sundance 2012 potentials.

Some honorable mentions...

- Alfons Adetuyi's High Chicago: Brit Colin Salmon stars as a father with a gambling addiction; it's a Canadian film, and it already screened there, so I'm not so sure how Sundance would like that. It prefers world premieres; but the film looks good from the trailer);

- Carol Morley's Dreams Of A Life, which stars Zawe Ashton: again, another film that's premiered elsewhere - it's a British flick; but it might make its stateside debut at Sundance);

- Tina Gordon Chism's We The Peeples: Tyler Perry is a producer on this, and it stars Kerry Washington, Craig Robinson and other notables; it's likely not a festival film, but, who knows; Tyler Perry's name is on it, but only as producer; he didn't write nor direct it. It's Chism's directorial debut; previously, she penned the screenplays for Drumline and ATL);

- and finally, 2 French films that have both already screened in their native country, but have yet to debut Stateside, and we've written about them both: the "black/white buddy" dramedy Intouchables and the slavery time travel film, Case Depart (both could screen out of competition, if only as tests for USA audience reception; The Weinstein Company owns stateside distribution rights to Intouchables, by the way).

And that officially wraps this post up!

Again, I may have missed 1 or 2; so, if you think there's something else that should be on this list, say so in the comments section below. We try to stay abreast of all that's happening in black cinema, but I'm sure there are films and filmmakers we've never heard about for whatever reason. If you're out there, and you submitted your film to Sundance for 2012 consideration, send me an email with info about your film: obensont@gmail.com.

We should be covering Sundance 2012; I was there this year, and, even though I got sick half-way through, and actually wasn't too impressed with the overall selection of films that screened at the festival, I'll likely be there again next January. I'll know with certainty in about a month.

Till then... we wait for the festial to unveil its 2012 lineup.

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15 Comments

  • Alamin | November 28, 2011 10:19 AMReply

    Hi,

    Thank you for your nice article on Shadow and Act. It will help me.

    Thanks

  • Sean M. | November 23, 2011 11:24 PMReply

    Hopefully, African American documentaries will be featured. I am rooting for: Sacred Ground: The Battle For Mount Auburn Cemetery. There's the trailer:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_tn3K0jf7gM

  • harjeet | November 23, 2011 9:38 AMReply

    give the 15 topics of social networking

  • Barry Canty | November 23, 2011 12:29 AMReply

    Why isn't Sheldon Candis' film "L.U.V." on this list? The drama stars Common, Megan Good, Danny Glover, Dennis Haysbert, Michael Kenneth Williams, and Charles S. Dutton.

    Huge oversight...

  • Steve M. | November 22, 2011 6:03 PMReply

    What about MISS DIAL, the romantic comedy starring Robinne Lee? It's got Gabrielle Union, Hill Harper, Dule Hill, and more. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1819601.

  • Yasser | November 22, 2011 12:32 PMReply

    Spike Lee's Red Hook Summer??

  • DEE KAY | November 22, 2011 1:56 AMReply

    You missed the talented Sheldon Candis who did a film called LUV with Common that is an FilmIndependent lab participant. I liked I Will Follow and Beyond Beats and Rhymes and hope Ava DuVernay and Byron Hurt make it.

  • AQE | November 21, 2011 11:54 PMReply

    Happy to see FOUR on this! Saw a test screening, it should definitely make the cut!

  • Kia | November 21, 2011 11:14 PMReply

    I'll be giddy if the S&A anticipated films make the cut, however if the trend continues as was the case last year, expect a healthy chunk of IFP filmmaker lab participants (Pariah, Kinyarwanda and Restless City) to get that sought after invite to Park City.
    http://www.ifp.org/press/ifp-announces-participants-for-2011-narrative-independent-filmmaker-lab/

  • Quentin | November 21, 2011 10:03 PMReply

    I'll be there this year and I hope to see 1, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8 and just because a film didn't get into one of the top tiers doesn't mean it is "sucky". That said, I won't mind seeing No. 9.

  • colored | November 21, 2011 8:50 PMReply

    I am quite excited to see Rodney Evans' The Happy Sad and Ava DuVernay's Middle Of Nowhere. The term "comedic drama" of Brandon Harris' Redlegs intrigues me. I hope all these moviemakers remember to submit to community and black film festivals too.

  • RONK | November 21, 2011 5:33 PMReply

    Knowing Sundance, none of these good Black Brethren and Sistren will make it. Bump Sundance.

  • K | November 21, 2011 4:05 PMReply

    FYI: 2 Days in NY wrapped in Dec of 2010. Julie Delpy then began editing her film that she had finished shooting directly before starting 2Days, le Skylab. (which took home the top jury prize at the San Sebastian film festival in Oct.) Julie edits her films herself (and in the case of 2 Days in Paris previously, she even composed the score.) and there was never any question of 2 Days being ready in 1 month for Sundance 2011. As of late August 2011 she was still editing 2 Days in NY. It's nit as if the film has been finished but has been on a shelf.

  • Quentin | November 21, 2011 10:11 PM

    Thank you for the heads up, K.

    "Like" this!

  • Anton Jacoves | November 21, 2011 3:28 PMReply

    Our film, David, is directed by a black filmmaker and we actually haven't heard back either way yet (fingers crossed). It's a found footage drama centering on a coming-of-age story about a young gay filmmaker and his infatuation with a straight boy who revels in the camera's gaze.

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