With 68 official selections and 7 spotlight selections, this year’s Urbanworld Film Festival is proving that finding inclusive and diverse films in 2018 isn’t hard if you’re truly committed to it. As Gabrielle Glore, the fest’s Director & Head of Programming, put it, this year’s slate is a firm example of what Urbanworld’s mission is. “As we continue to evolve our programming slate to reflect the broadest lens of inclusion across stories, characters, themes and cultures, we are thrilled to collaborate with our presenting partner AT&T and founding partner HBO to showcase a collection of films, web originals, screenplays and music videos that represent distinct voices from around the world.”
The fest will not be wanting when it comes to high profile names. Fans of Michelle Rodriguez will be able to check out Steve McQueen’s heist flick Widows, and if you need more evidence that Tessa Thompson is having a great 2018, you can check out Little Woods, a quiet drama about two sisters smuggling drugs across the Canadian border. Furthermore, there’s a handful of Latino-centered stories that you won’t want to miss.
First up is The Sentence. Rudy Valdez‘s personal doc has him following his nieces and brother-in-law as they cope with the absence of his sister, Cindy. Serving a 15-year sentence because of charges filed against her then-boyfriend, Cindy becomes a poster girl for a cruel justice system whose mandatory minimum sentences keep mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters away from their families. Filmed as a series of home movies over close to a decade, The Sentence is sobering and a true tearjerker.
Treading similar ground is The Pushouts. Katie Galloway and Dawn Valadez‘s film tells the story of Dr. Victor Rios who, by age 15, was a high school dropout and gang member with multiple felony convictions and a death wish. In theory, he was the type of person destined to land and stay in prison, fed to that ever-churning system of “justice.” Instead, Rios became a professor who has dedicated his life to helping young, at-risk Latinos stay in school. Through Rios’s personal lens and its interplay with the stories of the young people of the YO! Watts youth center, The Pushouts interrogates race, class & power – and the promise and perils of education – at a particularly urgent time.
If you’re less into docs and more into fiction films, Urbanworld has you covered. There’s Sebastian Silva‘s powder keg of a film Tyrel, about what it’s really like being the only black guy at a weekend birthday party in ‘Whitesville,’ and El Chata (The Sparring Partner), directed by Gustavo Ramos Perales which centers on a Puerto Rican ex-con and fading boxer, who has the heart of a champion but has to endure life’s punches.
And with plenty of shorts — about post-María Puerto Rico, would-be abortions, border life, addiction, and gentrification — the fest is truly committed to showcasing every kind of American experience you can dream up. So be sure to check it out and grab tickets for any of these year’s films.
Urbanworld Film Festival runs September 19 – 23, 2018.