Category Archives: Film

Kubo and the Two Strings coming to Theaters

Photos used with the permission of Focus Features.

Photos used with the permission of Focus Features.

In the world of animation another wonderful tale bout the adventures of a young boy.  The story is called Kubo and the Two Strings is an epic action-adventure set in a fantastical Japan from acclaimed animation studio LAIKA. Clever, kindhearted Kubo (voiced by Art Parkinson of “Game of Thrones”) ekes out a humble living, telling stories to the people of his seaside town including Hosato (George Takei), Hashi (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa), and Kameyo (Academy Award nominee Brenda Vaccaro). But his relatively quiet existence is shattered when he accidentally summons a spirit from his past which storms down from the heavens to enforce an age-old vendetta. Now on the run, Kubo joins forces with Monkey (Academy Award winner Charlize Theron) and Beetle (Academy Award winner Matthew McConaughey), and sets out on a thrilling quest to save his family and solve the mystery of his fallen father, the greatest samurai warrior the world has ever known. With the help of his shamisen – a magical musical instrument – Kubo must battle gods and monsters, including the vengeful Moon King (Academy Award nominee Ralph Fiennes) and the evil twin Sisters (Academy Award nominee Rooney Mara), to unlock the secret of his legacy, reunite his family, and fulfill his heroic destiny. Kubo’s quest begins nationwide August 19, 2016 from animation studio LAIKA and Focus Features.  Director: Travis Knight, Writers: Marc Haimes and Chris Butler (“ParaNorman”)

The Voice Cast is as follows: Charlize Theron, Art Parkinson, Ralph Fiennes, George Takei, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Brenda Vaccaro, Rooney Mara, and Matthew McConaughey

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‘Fruitvale Station’ Co-Creator Ephraim Walker Tapped as President of Production at D Street Pictures

Ephraim-WalkerMore strides are being made in film and it is very exciting.  The independent production and distribution company D Street Media Group, has tapped Ephraim Walker to be the President of Production of D Street Pictures.  He will oversee the company’s film projects and oversee its production unit.

Walker worked closely with Fruitvale Station scribe and director Ryan Coogler, to develop the successful indie film based on the 2008 killing of Oscar Grant by an Oakland Bart police officer. Since Fruitvale, Walker has worked on various television shows and produced a behind-the-scenes look at the scoring of the 2015 Michael B. Jordan and Sylvester Stallone hit Creed, also directed by Ryan Coogler.

“We’re excited to have Ephraim join our team to oversee D Street’s exciting slate of films and work closely with the development department. His appointment comes at a time when the company continues to expand our international reach,” says D Street Media Group’s CEO, Dexter Davis.

Walker will report directly to Davis and oversee several upcoming productions including the international heist film, The Blue Mauritius, starring Eric Dane, Brian Cox, Augustus Prew, John Rhys-Davies and several other notable global stars. Filming begins on location in Cape Town, South Africa in August. Walker will then finish out the year with Irish comedy, Death Inc., a Brazilian motorcycle gang movie, Moto Anjos and a New York City style rom-com, Heaven Hath No Fury.

“I’ve been looking for a place to call home and couldn’t be more thrilled to join an organization like D Street Media,” said Walker. “I’m looking forward to working closely with Dexter to achieve our very ambitious goal of becoming a global leader in the creative content business and equally excited to set up our West Coast division in the great city of Oakland.”

The company has chosen Oakland, California over Los Angeles to be in close proximity to the Silicon Valley. D Street wants to develop more strategic alliances with tech companies who are producing new distribution models for film and television and who seek to partner with smart, creative, content producers such as D Street. The company is based in New York City, with offices in Berlin, Buenos Aires and Cape Town.
For more information about D Street Media Group, go to  http://www.dstreetmediagroup.com/.

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The 2016 Spring Gala at The Apollo Theater

On Monday, June 13, 2016 at 7pm, The Apollo Theater held it’s annual Spring Gala. This year, the gala featured a star-studded line up for its 11th Annual Spring Gala—its biggest fundraising event of the year. The concert portion of the evening featured performances by legendary R&B group, The O’Jays, and rising star Leon Bridges and Andra Day and was hosted by LL COOL J.

8dba700a2f48429504d4daaf5ab302f2The Apollo Theater is a launching pad for up-and-coming artists through programs like Amateur Night, Apollo Music Café, and the new Apollo Comedy Club and, at this year’s Spring Gala; we’re excited not only to showcase the legends that have paved the way, but to also give a platform to the voices and talent of today. In addition to artistic programming and initiatives, our annual Spring Gala helps to support our educational programs that help nurture the creative spirit of music and culture in Harlem and across the world,” stated Jonelle Procope, president & CEO of The Apollo Theater.

Each year at the Spring Gala, the Apollo also recognizes a corporation for its outstanding philanthropy and community leadership. This year’s recipient of the Corporate Award is Viacom. Philippe Dauman, executive chairman, president and CEO of Viacom, will accept on behalf of the organization. The Award portion of the evening will be hosted by Jonelle Procope with the Corporate Award being presented by Charles Phillips.

Mr. Dauman said, “It is a great honor to accept the corporate award for community leadership from an institution as legendary as the Apollo Theater. Our organizations share a deep commitment to advancing creative voices in American culture and honoring African-American artists, and Viacom applauds their outstanding work.”

Apollo Theater CEO Jonelle Procope and Entertainment exec Richard Parsons.

Apollo Theater CEO Jonelle Procope and Entertainment exec Richard Parsons.

The Theater also announced that it will induct the one and only Prince into its Walk of Fame in honor of his incomparable contributions to music over the course of 40 years.

Prince joins previous Apollo Walk of Fame inductees—all legendary musicians, artists, and entertainers whose paths to fame included the Apollo, including: Chaka Khan, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Aretha Franklin, Quincy Jones, Patti LaBelle, Smokey Robinson, James Brown, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Little Richard and Ella Fitzgerald. Inductees are honored with a plaque on the Apollo Walk of Fame, installed under the Theater’s iconic marquee on 125th Street.

Procope states, “The Apollo family was of course, devastated to hear about the loss of Prince. He is, hands down, one of the greatest artists of all time – an absolute genius – and his relationship with the Apollo dates back to 1993. Over the years, we’ve been honored to host him, whether for a seminal New York performance or as a guest in our audience, so we are beyond thrilled to kick off this year’s Spring Gala by inducting him into the Apollo Walk of Fame.”

The Apollo Spring Gala began with a special ceremony to induct legendary recording artist Prince into the Apollo Walk of Fame which was held that afternoon, and continued with red carpet arrivals followed by an award ceremony and a concert with Musical Director Ray Chew (Dancing with the Stars) at the helm. The evening also included special tributes to the trailblazing artists that have been lost in 2016. The night culminated with a much buzzed about after party held in a stylish tent created by celebrity event planner and Apollo board member Bronson van Wyck. This year’s after party featured a special Let’s Go Crazy Dance Tribute with DJ D-Nice spinning a dedicated set to the sounds of Prince’s diverse and extensive catalogue.

The 2016 Spring Gala event was a massive success with each year being as great as the next. For more information on the Apollo Theater, visit their website. You can also keep up with events via social media through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

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KEANU’ Screening Hosted by VIBE – Thurs, April 28, 2016 in New York City

ab5e913ea252bc60bd4eb4fa510cbda4On Thursday, April 28, 2016, various New York influencers flocked to AMC 19th Street to enjoy a special screening of the new film KEANU hosted by VIBE Magazine. The screening kicked off with an introduction from VIBE editor Mike Yi followed by a night of raucous laughter, as guests enjoyed the film starring: Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele, Method Man,Tiffany Haddish, Jason Mitchell, Will Forte and Luis Guzman.

The movie is the first for the two comedians and is a feature for full of laughs that viewers will enjoy. Members of the press and other notables were a part of the audience to be some of the first to check out the film.

Special attendees included Raven Symone (The View), Yandy Smith (Love & Hip Hop NY), BBOD’s Moe (Love & Hip Hop NY), Dutchess (Black Ink Crew), Puma (Black Ink Crew), Monifah (R&BDivas Atlanta), and Terez Thorpe (R&B Divas Atlanta). KEANU is currently in theaters!
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The Haitian Polo Documentary Screening on April 11, 2016

41688219baa419e23017dac81feca8ccHip Hop culture in New York City has affected many generations of youth. From the beginning of rap music mixed with fashion, the urban culture has always been very creative in taking mainstream styles of clothing and somehow making it their own.

On Monday, April 11, 2016 at the Tribeca Screening Room, filmmaker DJ Scripz held a press screening for this film entitled The Haitian Polo documentary. The Haitian Polo documentary covers the cross of hip hop culture and fashion so perfectly. In addition, this is a documentary film base on the young Haitian immigrants and their experience in Brooklyn, New York during the 80’s and 90’s. The story covers their unique experience in regards to acculturating and assimilating into the mainstream culture. This also shows how passionate some of the Haitian youth were with the Polo brand specifically.

Within the film, there are interviews featuring Thirstin Howl The 3rd known to many as the Original Lo-Life Founder and Hip Hop Artist, Sadat X From 90’s Hip Hop Group Brand Nubian, and Moses “Rafe” Vernau of the hit web series Money & Violence!!

The film is presented by Director Dj_Scripz, and Cubed Effect, LLC as Producer. The director DJ Scripz also serves as the narrator for the documentary. The film offers and unique flavor of hip hop nostalgia as well as a new perspective on what it was to be Haitian in the United States during this time in history. The film is both stimulating and informative and can offer a great education for all people.

For more information on the documentary, follow the story on social media . Follow the movement on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

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Author Salman Rushdie & Rob Milazzo at the SVA Theatre on April 9, 2016

280b37144c35332098b156b837e6d484On Saturday, April 9, 2016 at 8pm The Modern School of Film’s founder Robert Milazzo hosted the celebrated author Salman Rushdie, the creator of twelve internationally esteemed novels, including MIDNIGHT’S CHILDREN (Booker Prize), SHAME and THE SATANIC VERSES – as he revisits three films that have inspired his journey as a transcendent literary force.

Rob Milazzo addressed the crowd by sharing what programs SVA Theatre and The Modern School of Film has during the year. This program is one of the many that venues such as these have each. Upon the conclusion of the address from Milazzo, he gave an abbreviated introduction for Salman Rushdie.

Upon taking the stage, it was clear that the two film lovers had equal admiration for one another. Right away, Milazzo asked Rushdie about some of his work then they naturally transitioned in to discussing some of the films he admired. During the talk, Mr. Rushdie discussed the films Satyajit Ray’s PATHER PANCHALI, Spielberg’s RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, and Wes Anderson’s THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL.

For the IN: PICTURES, the audience were treated to clips of each film, along with an in – depth discourse with Mr. Rushdie on how cinema has shaped both his work and the continued legacy of this master of genre, form, and modern storytelling. The audience which was full of filmmakers seemed to be fully engaged as well as a bit starstruck from the work and advice given by Rushdie in his responses and reviews of certain films.

Although, the talk ran a bit late, the audience did not seem to mind since there were a few questions that followed. The School of Visual Arts has been a leader in the education of artists, designers and creative professionals for more than six decades. With a faculty of distinguished working professionals, dynamic curriculum and an emphasis on critical thinking, SVA is a catalyst for innovation and social responsibility. Comprised of more than 6,000 students at its Manhattan campus and 35,000 alumni in 100 countries, SVA also represents one of the most influential artistic communities in the world.

For more information on the SVA Theatre visit, their website. In addition, the website for the Modern School of Film‘s website is also a great resource for similar programs.

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S.W.A.N. Day Screening and Reception on March 26, 2016 at SVA Theater

3140aacb7147a2c932e0297eb2de1324On Saturday, March 26, 2016, NYWIFT, SAG-AFTRA, School of Visual Arts Film department, African-American Women in Cinema, Women in the Arts & Media Coalition, Women Make Movies, andHerFlix sponsored a screening at the SVA Theatre of the documentary BaddDDD Sonia Sanchez in recognition of S.W.A.N. SWAN stands for Support Women Artists Now and is an annual event on the last Saturday of March that celebrates women artists. This screening was held as the closing event of the 18th African-American Women in Cinema (AAWIC) Festival.

The BaddDDD Sonia Sanchez documentary is produced and Directed by Barbara Attie, Janet Goldwater and Sabrina Schmidt Gordon. Sabrina Schmidt Gordon was on hand after the screening to discuss the film and answer any questions from the audience.

BaddDDD Sonia Sanchez offers unprecedented access to the life, work and mesmerizing performances of renowned poet and activist Sonia Sanchez who describes herself as “a woman with razor blades between my teeth.” A leading figure in the Black Arts Movement and inspiration to today’s hip hop spoken word artists, Sanchez for over 60 years has helped to redefine American culture and politics as an activist in the Black, women’s and peace movements.

The late great Maya Angelou called Sanchez “a lion in literature’s forest” while spoken word artist Bryonn Bain credits her with paving the way for his generation, “She not only opened the door, she blew off the roof.” Sanchez revolutionized poetry by incorporating street language, a unique performance style and collaborations with jazz musicians. Sanchez’s contemporaries Ruby Dee, Amiri Baraka, John Bracey, Jr., Haki Madhubuti and Nikki Giovanni joined by such newer voices as Talib Kweli, Ayana Mathis, Jessica Care Moore, Bryonn Bain and Questlove present impassioned readings of and insightful commentary on her fearless verse, including her raw love poems.

BaddDDD Sonia Sanchez is the second documentary produced by Attie, Goldwater and Gordon. Their previous collaboration, Mrs. Goundo’s Daughter (2009), recounts a Malian mother’s fight for asylum in the U.S. to protect her two-year old daughter from female genital cutting/mutilation. Supported by ITVS and the Sundance Documentary Fund, Mrs. Goundo’s Daughter was broadcastnationally on public television’s Afropop: The Ultimate Cultural Exchange series in 2011. It has been shown at film festivals throughout the world, including the Human Rights Watch Festival and Silverdocs, and was named Best Social Documentary at the Addis International Film Festival in Ethiopia.

The BaddDDD Sonia Sanchez documentary aired on PBS on March 8, 2016. For more information visit: Attie & Goldwater Productions.

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Actor Forest Whitaker shines on Broadway in Hughie

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Photo used with permission from Hughie on Broadway

With this being Whitaker’s first Broadway run, audiences were especially interested in seeing how well he would translate from film to the stage. The New York Times calls Forest Whitaker, “one of the pre-eminent actors of his generation. Whitaker is a magnetic actor” and the Chicago Tribune says “Forest Whitaker is one of the best actors of our generation.” CBS says “Whitaker doesn’t so much play roles as inhabit them” and Variety calls Whitaker “an acting force.” This is very apparent in his portrayal of this down and out gambler.

As theater buffs may know, the play is set in the summer 1928 in New York City. Beyond the bright lights of the Great White Way, a small-time gambler and big-time drinker returns to the faded hotel he has made his home. He encounters a new night clerk at the front desk and as the early hours of the morning give way to another dawn, he continues to chase the American Dream in order to survive. HUGHIE is a rarely seen theatrical masterpiece that beautifully explores redemption and offers a unique insight into the human condition.

Hughie first premiered on Broadway in 1964 with Jason Robards in the role of “Erie” Smith. The role of “Erie” has been played by illustrious actors such as Burgess Meredith, Ben Gazzara and Al Pacino. Now Forest Whitaker can be added to the list of those playing this interesting an complex role. Forest Whitaker quickly makes the role his own and keeps the audience’s attention as he unveils his character.

Tickets for Hughie range from $25 – $149, and are available at: HughieBroadway, Telecharge (212.239.6200), or directly at the Booth Theatre box office. Please note, the show only has a strictly limited engagement so if one waits to long, they may miss the show.

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The 2016 Pan African Film & Arts Festival from February 4- 15 in LA

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Photo used with permission from Pan African Film Festival. Actor Don Cheadle in Miles Ahead.

This year’s 2016 Pan African Film & Arts Festival (PAFF) is filled with various interesting films and documentaries for all to enjoy. The festival began on Thursday, February 4th and has highlighted film selections for opening, centerpiece and closing night films. From director Patrick Gilles, “America is Still the Place” made its worldwide premiere as the Opening Night film selection on February 4, 2016. “Agents of Change” is to be highlighted as the Centerpiece selection on Thursday, February 11th and closing the Festival on Sunday, February 14th is a special screening of “Miles Ahead”, directed by and starring Don Cheadle. All films will screen at RAVE Cinemas 15, located within the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza at 4200 Marlton Avenue in Los Angeles, CA 90008.

PAFF  always selects and showcases films that entertain and address current topics surrounding political and socioeconomic issues, as well as subject matters which include arts & culture which affect and tell the stories about people of African descent.

 About the 3 Films:

“America is Still the Place” uncovers a story about a giant oil spill on the beaches of northern California and the institutional racism that Charlie Walker has to overcome in order to finally achieve the “American Dream.” Based on a true story of one Black man’s courage and perseverance to provide for his family, the film takes us on a journey during the Black Power and civil rights era in San Francisco in 1971. This seemed like a good place for a Black Korean War veteran and his family to realize their dream of economic and cultural independence and his chance to be his own boss. In the pursuit of his dream, Charlie Walker finds himself in a city full of impostors and naysayers. He refused to take “no” for an answer. When a catastrophic oil spill opened a door that had never been open to a black man before, he decides to step through the door with both feet and claim the “American Dream.”

Violence against African Americans has been at the forefront of national media headlines and the subject of debates and conversations around the world. “Agents of Change” is a ‘movement’ film which follows young men and women who were at the forefront of the student union takeover at Cornell University in 1969, as well as highlighting the graphic footage of student demonstrators at San Francisco State in 1968 being beaten and arrested by police. Directed by Abby Ginzberg and Frank Dawson, Agents of Change introduces a cast of largely unrecognized but remarkable people, whose commitment to justice and equality paved the way for the opportunities that followed, while also reminding viewers about the work yet to be done to achieve full equity and dignity on campus and in society. Stars of the film include: Danny Glover (a leader of the Black Student movement at San Francisco State), Harry Edwards, Irene Smalls and more. Music composed by Patrice Rushen.

The closing night film is one of the most anticipated films of the year. Oscar nominated actor Don Cheadle does double duty as director and star in Miles Ahead, a film based on a chronological arc of events inspired by the life of the great jazz musician Miles Davis. This is a wildly entertaining, impressionistic, no-holds barred portrait of one of 20th century music’s creative geniuses. In the midst of a dazzling and prolific career at the forefront of modern jazz innovation, The film focuses on a period of five years in the late 1970s. While away from the public light and celebrity, Davis was stifled with personal challenges. During this time, Davis meets a wily music reporter, Dave Braden, who forces his way into Davis’ house and, over the next couple of days, the two men unwittingly embark on a wild and sometimes harrowing adventure to recover a stolen tape of the musician’s latest composition. By the late 70s, plagued by years of regret and loss, Davis flirts with annihilation until he once again finds salvation in his art. Working from a script he co-wrote with Steven Baigelman, Cheadle makes his directorial debut with co-stars Emayatzy Corinealdi, Lakeith Lee Stanfield, Ewan McGregor and Michael Stuhlbarg. Miles Ahead will be released by Sony Pictures Classics in theaters on April 1, 2016.

For more than two decades, the Pan African Film & Arts Festival has premiered a host of top black films over the years. Each year, PAFF presents awards of recognition to key industry players and rising stars who have soared in the film industry. This year’s filmmaker awards will be held on Monday, February 15th and will recognize films in the categories of Best Feature Narrative, Best Director-First Feature, Best Documentary Feature and Best Short Narrative. This intimate awards breakfast will also present the Audience Awards, Programmers’Awards and Founders’ Awards.

PAFF also collaborates with festivals from around the world, expanding their influence and audience globally. Not only is PAFF the largest and most prestigious Black film festival in America, but PAFF is the largest Black History Month event in the United States, during the month of February. The Pan African Film & Arts Festival is the quintessential Black festival, celebrating films, actors, filmmakers and fine artists.

Sponsors for the 2016 Pan African Film & Arts Festival are: HBO, WRD, Film LA, UMC, Sony Pictures, Ethiopian Airlines and South African Airlines. Festival passes and tickets are on sale now. For more information on PAFF, including screening schedule and events, please visit www.PAFF.org. Follow them on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

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OWN Press Luncheon in NYC with Tyler Perry January 8, 2016

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Photo used with permission from OWN TV

On Friday, January 8, 2016 in New York City, members of the press had the awesome pleasure of being invited to a catered lunch, show previews, a Q&A and photo opportunities for the cast of two of the hottest shows on cable television. The event was sponsored by OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network and it was to celebrated the new season for the shows: Love Thy Neighbor and The Haves and the Have Nots.

As part of the program, guests listened intently to show creator Tyler Perry talk about his creative process during the before and during each episode of the show. Since he does not have a writer’s room like many other shows, his set is very fast paced and executed a very differently when filming. It is amazing, because if this was not something he revealed, the audience would never know this was the case. Each show presents and reveals quality programming for the television audience each week and keeps fans coming back in droves.

As part of the program, guests listened intently to show creator Tyler Perry talk about his creative process during the before and during each episode of the show. Since he does not have a writer’s room like many other shows, his set is very fast paced and executed a very differently when filming. It is amazing, because if this was not something he revealed, the audience would never know this was the case. Each show presents and reveals quality programming for the television audience each week and keeps fans coming back in droves.

 Also available for questions, during the event were cast members from each of the two shows. From the OWN Tuesday night drama, The Haves and the Have Nots, stars John Schneider and Angela Robinson were on hand to discuss the show. Most viewers know Schneider as the ruthless Jim Cryer and know Robinson, as the conniving and cunning, Veronica Harrington. From Love Thy Neighbor, actor Palmer Williams and Patrice Lovely shared their thoughts on playing the funny Floyd and Miss Hattie.

Before ending the discussion, each actor shared their unique experience into becoming part of the OWN family and how they each approach playing their specific characters each week. John Schneider, being the veteran of the group discussed how excited he was about seeing the landscape of television change. He even mentioned what a dramatic difference there was in the the late 1970’s compared to now and how delighted he was to see to growth and changes.

It is clear that Tyler Perry as a writer and director, has truly brought into existence such memorable and hated characters. Whether this intentional or just an example of a vivid imagination, the hope is that he continues to create great story lines, and to be honest it truly does seem that Perry would not have it any other way which it seems to suit his fans and audience just fine.

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