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Tribeca Film Festival Delivers on Diversity With an Extensive List of Films Featuring Black Talent

Mary J. Blige documentary

Mary J. Blige documentary

For far too long, the Black community has been left begging for more diversity in film and television — not just in the race of characters but in the variety of culturally authentic narratives as well.

While Hollywood has still been struggling to bring such a vision to fruition, film festivals touting independent filmmakers have become an oasis for such stories. The Tribeca Film Festival is no exception.

The festival officially started Wednesday and will continue until April 26.

Roughly 3 million people are expected to attend throughout the 12-day period, and it seems like a great amount of the buzz is centering on the impressive collection of Black filmmakers and other creative talent that the festival will highlight.

Festival attendees will have the chance to see the inspirational tale of a ground-breaking Black ballerina, get an inside look at Mary J. Blige’s experience recording her 13th studio album, garner a new perspective on beloved former Atlanta Falcon’s tight end Tony Gonzalez, follow the dramatized journey of two suburban youths struggling to cope with tragedy and so much more.

It’s quite a different lineup of authentic stories featuring Black talent compared to Hollywood’s typically limited list of slave tales and subservient Black people.

A detailed look at Misty Copeland’s journey to become only the third Black female soloist at New York City’s American Ballet Theatre will likely be one of the most popular films of the group after Copeland recently graced one of the coveted covers for Time’s “Most Influential People” issue.

A Ballerina’s Tale was already expected to leave the massive crowds in awe on its own accord, but filmmaker Nelson George has also arranged for a conversation with Copeland to take place after the film’s debut, along with a performance by Copeland’s protégés.

For a captivating movie experience that also draws on cultural and political commentary, film lovers will find themselves attracted to films like Mans Mansson’s Stranded in Canton.

The film follows a forlorn entrepreneur from the Democratic Republic of Congo as he travels to Canton, China, in hopes to arrange the type of business deal that could finally change his luck for the better.

With dreams of creating political T-shirts that he could sell back home in Africa, the film’s protagonist finds that China may not be the oasis of opportunity that many from his home country perceived it to be.

Mansson said that the film makes a point to address the “tens of thousands of sub-Saharan African merchants” who make their way to China believing it will be easier for them to create a promising future for themselves there.

In fact, the migration of entrepreneurial hopefuls from Africa to the Chinese megacity has earned it the moniker of the “Chocolate City” by locals.

Other must-see films connected to Black talent aren’t necessarily culturally specific stories about Black people but are giving Black stars the chance to show that Black characters can be connected to films everyone can relate to.

Necktie Youth is a film directed by Sibs Shongwe-La Mer that follows a diverse cast of suburban youth who are trying to navigate a life filled with drugs, sex and philosophizing.

Bonko Cosmo Khoza as Jabz in Necktie Youth

Bonko Cosmo Khoza as Jabz in “Necktie Youth”

The film rips back the curtains on the drug culture that exists in privileged neighborhoods and uses stunning black-and-white visuals that make still shots of the film look like they are worthy of being displayed in a prestigious photography exhibit.

The two main characters, Jabz and September, anchor the film as it shows how these two youths are incapable of dealing with one of the harshest realities a hopeful 20-something can ever face — witnessing a close friend’s death.

Jabz and September are left seemingly floating through life as a negative result of their friend Emily’s live-streamed suicide, which serves as yet another catalyst for the type of social commentary that is often missing from mainstream films.

Other films featuring Black talent and authentic culturally diverse stories include the Spike Lee-produced and Michael J. Larnelle-directed Cronies, Jonathan Hock’s Fastball, the Camilla Nielsson-directed film chronicling the political aftermath of Robert Mugabe’s 2008 presidential win Democrats, Andre Nicchol’s Good Kill starring Ethan Hawke, Bruce Greenwood, Zoe Kravitz, Jake Abel and January Jones and the emotionally charged Meadowland directed by Reed Morano.

(T)error is also expected to be another favorite at the festival, telling the story of a former FBI informant who goes on a dangerous mission to befriend suspected terrorists in order to infiltrate terror networks.

Documentaries about R&B star Mary J. Blige and former Falcons star Tony Gonzalez have also generated a lot of buzz ahead of their Tribeca Film Festival debuts.

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