More than 80 movies by and about African Americans will be screened in D.C. next week as part of the inaugural Smithsonian’s African American Film Festival.
The four-day festival, which runs from Oct. 24 – 27, includes films ranging from Hollywood hits to experimental shorts. The event is organized by the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
The festival’s goal is to introduce the breadth and depth of African American film to a wider audience, according to Kinshasha Holman Conwill, the museum’s deputy director.
“There’s something for the cinephile who knows film like that back of her or his hand, and there’s something for the person who’s just learning about African American film,” she said. “From the most popular to the most provocative, it is all here.”
Most of the screenings will take place in the museum’s Oprah Winfrey Theater, though the Freer|Sackler and National Gallery of Art will also host some screenings.
The festival kicks off on Wednesday night with Widows, a new film starring Viola Davis that doesn’t hit theaters until mid-November. The director, Steve McQueen, became the first black filmmaker to win an Academy Award for Best Picture for his 2013 film 12 Years A Slave. If you’re interested in attending the Widows screening, you’re unfortunately out of luck – it’s already sold out.
The festival will also give audiences the chance to see films from the museum’s extensive collection. These range from Garden, a five-minute experimental short from 2017, to Black Panthers, a 1968 documentary about the Black Panther Party and its members’ fight to free their imprisoned co-founder Huey P. Newton.
And while the 2017 Marvel superhero movie Black Panther isn’t part of the lineup, attendees of the festival’s “Night at the Museum” celebration on Oct. 25 will be able to see the costume worn by actor Chadwick Boseman in the blockbuster film on display for the first time. The museum acquired the costume and other objects from the film earlier this year.
Netflix will stream its new documentary Quincy on Friday, Oct. 26. The film tells the story of the iconic music producer and singer Quincy Jones; it was co-produced by his daughter, the actress Rashida Jones. The titular Jones will speak on a panel following the screening.
If you’d rather talk than watch, you can attend one of the festival’s free Exchanges forums at the Freer|Sackler. Discussion topics include stop-motion animation and the museum’s home movie digitization project, Great Migration. Under that program, visitors can bring in home videos made on obsolete media (we’re talking eight-millimeter film and cassettes) and get them digitized and preserved.
“What it allows us to do,” said Rhea Combs, the museum’s film and photographer curator, “is tell the American story through the African American lens. Literally.”
The festival also builds upon work started by the D.C. Black Film Festival to highlight lesser-known black filmmakers and actors for the Washington audience. “We don’t ever want to be the all-consuming Smithsonian that comes into a community and takes over,” Conwill said of its role in the broader film festival ecosystem. The D.C. Black Film Festival celebrated its second event this year.
The African American Film Festival’s closing day features an awards ceremony for the juried film competition. Fifteen finalist films are competing in six different categories: Best Documentary Short, Best Narrative Short, Best Documentary Feature, Best Narrative Feature, Best Experimental & Animation, and the Audience Award.
The festival closes Saturday night with a screening of a film adaptation of James Baldwin’s 1974 novel, If Beale Street Could Talk.
You can buy tickets for specific films or events here, and see the full slate of screenings here. The festival is scheduled to recur every other year at the museum.
At last night’s 90th Annual Academy Awards ceremony, “Get Out” writer/director/actor Jordan Peele won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, the first African American to ever earn this honor. On Saturday evening, Peele also won Independent Spirit Awards for Best Feature and Best Director.
Last year, “Moonlight” writers Barry Jenkins and Tarell Alvin McCraney won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay, and the first African American to win an Oscar in either writing category was Geoffrey Fletcher for “Precious” in 2009. The only other African-American to win for writing is John Ridley in 2013 for the Adapted Screenplay to “12 Years A Slave.” “Mudbound” writer/director Dee Rees made her own bit of history this year by being the first African-American woman nominated in the Best Adapted Screenplay category; the first woman ever nominated in either category was Suzanne DePasse in 1972 for “Lady Sings The Blues.”
Retired NBA superstar Kobe Bryant took home the Oscar with his creative partner Glen Keane for “Dear Basketball,” the first nomination and win for an African American in the Best Animated Short category.
The complete list of last night’s winners is below:
Best Picture:“The Shape of Water” (WINNER)
“Call Me by Your Name”
“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
Frances McDormand, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” (WINNER)
Sally Hawkins, “The Shape of Water”
Margot Robbie, “I, Tonya”
Saoirse Ronan, “Lady Bird”
Meryl Streep, “The Post”
Gary Oldman, “Darkest Hour” (WINNER)
Timothée Chalamet, “Call Me by Your Name”
Daniel Day-Lewis, “Phantom Thread”
Daniel Kaluuya, “Get Out”
Denzel Washington, “Roman J. Israel, Esq.”
“The Shape of Water,” Guillermo del Toro (WINNER)
“Dunkirk,” Christopher Nolan
“Get Out,” Jordan Peele
“Lady Bird,” Greta Gerwig
“Phantom Thread,” Paul Thomas Anderson
“Remember Me” from “Coco,” Kristen Anderson-Lopez, Robert Lopez (WINNER)
“Mighty River” from “Mudbound,” Mary J. Blige
“Mystery of Love” from “Call Me by Your Name,” Sufjan Stevens
“Stand Up for Something” from “Marshall,” Diane Warren, Common
“This Is Me” from “The Greatest Showman,” Benj Pasek, Justin Paul
“The Shape of Water,” Alexandre Desplat (WINNER)
“Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” John Williams
“Dunkirk,” Hans Zimmer
“Phantom Thread,” Jonny Greenwood
“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” Carter Burwell
“Blade Runner 2049,” Roger Deakins (WINNER)
“Darkest Hour,” Bruno Delbonnel
“Dunkirk,” Hoyte van Hoytema
“Mudbound,” Rachel Morrison
“The Shape of Water,” Dan Laustsen
“12 Years a Slave” director Steve McQueen will collaborate with Tupac Shakur‘s estate for an upcoming feature-length documentary. Deadline reported yesterday (May 9) that the Oscar-winning British filmmaker will direct the project through a new deal between the estate and Amaru Entertainment, the company founded by the rapper’s late mother Afeni Shakur.
Tupac’s aunt, Gloria Cox, will executive produce with Jeanne Elfant Festa of White Horse Pictures, the production company responsible for several music documentaries, including “The Beatles: Eight Days A Week–The Touring Years.” White Horse’s Nigel Sinclair and Nicholas Ferrall also feature as producers alongside Jayson Jackson (“What Happened, Miss Simone?”) and estate trustee Tom Whalley. Deadline did not report a release date.
“I am extremely moved and excited to be exploring the life and times of this legendary artist,” McQueen told Deadline. “I attended [New York University] film school in 1993 and can remember the unfolding hip-hop world and mine overlapping with Tupac’s through a mutual friend in a small way. Few, if any, shined brighter than Tupac Shakur. I look forward to working closely with his family to tell the unvarnished story of this talented man.”
The still-untitled project comes nearly 14 years after Amaru Entertainment released “Tupac: Resurrection.” The Afeni Shakur-produced documentary incorporated rare archival footage and the MC’s own narration, recorded before his 1996 killing in a drive-by shooting. “Tupac: Resurrection” earned a “Best Documentary (Feature)” nomination at the 44th Annual Academy Awards.
ABC has renewed “American Crime” for a third season.The anthology drama from creator and executive producer John Ridley ended its second season March 9. The series’ first season was nominated for 10 Primetime Emmy awards last year and won one, with actress Regina King taking home the award for best supporting actress in a supporting role in a series, limited series or motion picture made for television.
Season three, like its two predecessors will focus on a new crime in a new setting.
“AmericanCrime” averaged a 1.6 rating in adults 18-49 and a little over 6 million viewers in Nielsen’s “live plus-7” estimates. While it was down from season one when it aired on Thursdays following “Scandal,” it was fairly competitive in its Wednesday timeslot.
Ridley, an Academy Award winner for best screenplay for the feature film “12 Years a Slave,” will again serve as executive producer with Michael J. McDonald. The series is produced by ABC Studios.
The dazzling Kenyan actress Lupita Nyong’o samples the fall couture collections and talks to Plum Sykes about fame, family, and her four new acting projects.
It’s the Monday morning of Paris Couture Week, and Lupita Nyong’o appears, right on time, from the elevator of Le Bristol hotel. Never mind that she’s come direct from a trip to her native Kenya, which she just happened to combine with an elephant-saving mission. Or that her flight landed only a few hours ago. Or that all her bags were lost en route. She is wearing a dramatically sculpted scarlet Dior minidress, her short hair is teased into a halo and held off her face with an Alice band, and her beautiful skin gleams with health. As she bounces into the lobby, her mirrored, blue-tinted Dior sunglasses reflect a roomful of transfixed admirers.
“Hello-ooo!” she says, her voice deep and warm, as she breaks into a gigantic smile. She removes her sunglasses to reveal wide, dark eyes, sprinkled with glittery silver eye shadow. Her eyebrows are precision-plucked—no Cara Delevingne strays for her. “Really, I’m not tired,” insists Lupita. She’s beaming with excitement. This is her first Paris Couture.
There are few actresses as instantly recognizable as 32-year-old Lupita Nyong’o, who took on the role of the slave girl Patsey in Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slavewhile a student at Yale—and went on to win an Oscar in 2014. In one fell swoop Lupita conquered Hollywood, seduced the fashion world, and found herself shouldering the dreams of an entire continent.
A few minutes later we are crawling through traffic, heading to the Dior show at the Musée Rodin. Settling herself patiently in the back of the car, Lupita tells me, “I didn’t know the power of couture until I tried on a couture dress. It made me cry.”
Lupita has an old-school attitude to fashion. She calls pants “slacks.” When I joke about this with her, she responds, “What can I say? I’m a Pisces. I have the soul of an 80-year-old woman inside me.” Long before the world was awed by her movie debut and her Oscar speech, for which she wore an exquisite baby-blue Prada chiffon gown, Lupita was properly turned out. Her first memory of fashion was at age five, wearing her “very eighties red cord miniskirt with suspender straps. Presentation is extremely important in Kenya. You dress formally. You can’t just wear flip-flops. My mother always had her own style. She wore A-line, tea-length flowery dresses, very well fitting. Her nails were always perfectly done.” As a girl in Nairobi, Lupita recalls, “salons were a big feature in my life. We would go every two weeks to get our hair braided, washed, or treated. That’s where I read American, British, and a few African magazines.Then I would design my own clothes. In Kenya it’s much cheaper to get clothes made than to buy them. We would have everything run up by a tailor, or my aunt Kitty, who is very creative, would sew things for me.”
It may seem an unlikely combination, but politics were as ever-present in the Nyong’o household as style. Lupita’s father, Peter Anyang’ Nyong’o, now a senator, was for a long period an opposition politician under the repressive Moi regime. He spent three years in self-imposed exile with his family in Mexico, where Lupita was born.
The Nyong’os returned to Nairobi when Lupita was one. The following years she remembers as “scary, but I was at an age where you couldn’t fully understand what was happening.” Her father was at times detained in jail, once for an entire month, and the family “had to destroy a lot of his documents. I wasn’t allowed to go to school. We were basically locked up in the house. The curtains were shut all the time, and we were just burning papers.” She says the experience made her resilient. “I was definitely exposed to some extreme situations. Tragedy is something that I have known and that I have tried to accept as part of life. But I don’t dwell on it. . . . OK! I need to powder my nose!”
We have arrived at the Dior show, and Lupita, her beautiful nose suitably blotted with custom-blended Lancôme Miracle Cushion (she is the newest face of Lancôme), strides confidently across the lawn toward a vast glasshouse that has been splashed with Pointillism-style dots. Photographers snap pictures constantly as she is escorted by a gaggle of worshipful Dior publicists to the front row.
The sublime collection makes me want to throw out every single piece of clothing I own. As Lupita walks backstage afterward to meet Dior designer Raf Simons, she says, “I loved the breeziness of everything, the coats thrown over the dresses.” Her favorite piece is a demure, New Look–inspired green-and-pink print, A-line silk pleated coat. It’s the kind of thing a very, very chic Sunday-school teacher might have worn circa 1952. “I can work a pleat,” adds Lupita. (At Cannes this year she did just that, twirling up the red carpet in an emerald-green Gucci dressthat was a swirl of hundreds of pleats.) Backstage, while the model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and the singer Grimes look patiently on, Lupita is greeted with excitement by Simons. He thinks Lupita is “so radiant and seems to take such pleasure in playing with fashion.” Next, the actress Emily Blunt, chic in white, grasps Lupita’s hand. “I am so thrilled to meet you,” she declares. “I am a huge fan.”
I can’t think of another actress who has appeared in only one major role in an American film and caused quite such a stir. (Lupita also played a smaller part in last year’s Liam Neeson movie Non-Stop.) But, as she tells me that evening, her output will be dramatically upped this fall. We visit the historic restaurant Le Grand Véfour in the Palais Royal for an indulgent dinner. The maître d’ offers Lupita the honor of sitting in Napoleon’s seat—now a plush crimson velvet banquette—and she accepts gracefully. She is dressed in an asymmetric print Dior silk top, skinny black pants, and high heels (all on loan while the aforementioned lost luggage is being located). While we tuck into delicious platters of fish, sorbets, and cheeses, Lupita tells me that she has just spent four months filming a CGI character—a pirate named Maz Kanata—for J. J. Abrams’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens, opening this December. “We needed a powerful actress to play a powerful character,” the director explains to me later. “Lupita was someone I’d known a little and was enormously fond of. More important, her performance in 12 Years a Slave blew my mind, and I was vaguely desperate to work with her.”
Acting a motion-capture character was “really bizarre and lots of fun,” Lupita says. “I really enjoyed the fact that you’re not governed by your physical presence in that kind of work. You can be a dragon. You can be anything.”
When I ask her, “How do you act ‘anything’ ?,” she says, “My training at Yale is the core of the actor that I am. Before that I was just going on instinct . . . having my imagination take over. But Yale taught me that it’s about giving yourself permission to pretend.”
An important pretending trick is to dress in the same “uniform” every day while going to and from set. If she doesn’t have to think about what she’s wearing when she’s not in costume, this allows her to focus. When she was recently filming the Mira Nair–directed Queen of Katwe, the true story of a chess master raised in a Ugandan slum, she wore an A-line skirt and blouse every single day because that’s what her character wore. “One amazing thing about filming in Uganda was that on the first day of rehearsal we were all barefoot,” she remembers. “I looked down and all the feet were my complexion. That had not happened to me before. I was reminded that I’m actually not that special. There are lots of people in the world who look like me.”
John Ridley is making the most of his producing deal with ABC.
The Oscar-winning producer has optioned Kim Reid’s “No Place Safe: A Family Memoir” for ABC Signature Studios, along with Michael McDonald.
Ridley has also lined up a top-secret Marvel project as well as the second season of the Emmy-nominated “American Crime.” He also recently sold a new detective drama pilot, “Presence,” to the Alphabet.
Ridley and McDonald will produce the limited series via their companies International Famous Players Radio Picture Corporation and Stearns Castle, respectively.
Part mystery thriller, part coming-of-age story and part civil-rights history, “No Place Safe” is a memoir set in 1979 at the time of the Atlanta child murders and told through the eyes of a young African-American teenager. Reid’s mother, an investigator in the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office who was on the task force searching for the serial killer, told her in detail about the quest for the murderer of 29 victims, mostly young black boys.
According to ew.com, Oscar-winning writer/producer John Ridley (12 Years a Slave) is teaming up with Marvel to develop a mysterious new TV series. The deal reportedly involves reinventing an existing Marvel superhero character or property for ABC—but all sides are staying quiet on exactly which title Ridley is adapting.
Ridley is an executive producer of ABC’s acclaimed midseason drama American Crime, which has not yet received a second season renewal. Coming off winning best adapted screenplay for 12 Years a Slave, Ridley is also a writer/producer on the 2016 big-screen update of Ben Hur.
Marvel’s aggressive expansion into television now includes four current series (ABC’s SHIELD, Agent Carter—which is on the bubble for a pickup—and Netflix’s Daredevil), plus several confirmed upcoming titles (Netflix’s A.K.A. Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist, followed by the Netflix character mash-up The Defenders). Neither Marvel nor ABC would comment on the Ridley project.
HBO is moving forward with Steve McQueen‘s drama pilot Codes Of Conduct, giving the project a six-episode limited series order. The 12 Years A Slave helmer will direct all six episodes of Codes Of Conduct, on which he had teamed with World War Z co-writer Matthew Michael Carnahan; hip-hop mogul/producer Russell Simmons, who has a deal at HBO; Oscar-winning producers Iain Canning and Emile Sherman (The King’s Speech); and HBO veteran Alan Poul (The Newsroom, Six Feet Under). All six will executive produce.
Co-written by McQueen and Carnahan, Codes Of Conduct is carrying McQueen’s signature style of provocative filmmaking and is described as an exploration of a young African-American man’s experience entering New York high society, with a past that might not be what it seems. It centers on Beverly Snow (newcomer Devon Terrell), a young man from Queens as talented as he is ambiguous. His self-confidence will enable him to break into the social circles of Manhattan’s elite, testing the boundaries of access and social mobility. Paul Dano, Helena Bonham Carter and Rebecca Hall co-star.
Codes Of Conduct follows the model employed by HBO’s buzzy drama True Detective, which also started as a limited series. The cable network also has upcoming miniseries True Justice. HBO’s 2015 drama series slate includes new entries Westworld, from JJ Abrams, Jonah Nolan and Jerry Weintraub; Untitled Rock ‘n’ Roll project, from Martin Scorsese, Mick Jagger and Terence Winter; and Ballers, from Dwayne Johnson, Mark Wahlberg and Steve Levinson.
Earlier this year, Steve McQueen earned three Oscars for his film 12 Years a Slave, which told the story of Solomon Northup and his fight for freedom after being captured and forced into slavery. McQueen’s telling of Northup’s story not only opened up a bit of history many people never knew about but also gave insight into what McQueen’s thought process is when it comes to making a film. And his next film isn’t any different.
Speaking at the Hidden Heroes Awards in New York City on Monday, McQueen revealed to the attendees that his next movie will be about Paul Robeson. Robeson was the quintessential Renaissance man, from his early start as a scholar and athlete at Rutgers University to singing his well-known song “Ol’ Man River.” Outside of the arts, Robeson was also a powerful voice during the civil rights movement. But some of his political views weren’t always welcome. During the McCarthy era, Robeson was labeled a communist and blacklisted, but that didn’t stop him from expressing his opinion.
“His life and legacy was the film I wanted to make the second after Hunger. But I didn’t have the power, I didn’t have the juice,” McQueen said, according to The Guardian. McQueen also credits a neighbor for piquing his interest about Robeson when he passed an article to him.
“It was about this black guy who was in Wales and was singing with these miners,” McQueen recalled. “I was about 14 years old, and not knowing who Paul Robeson was, this black American in Wales, it seemed strange. So then, of course, I just found out that this man was an incredible human being.”
Not only will McQueen’s movie look into various aspects of Robeson’s life, but he’ll also have the help of Robeson’s friend, the iconic Harry Belafonte. Although Belafonte’s role in the film has yet to be discussed, the award-winning actor said only good things about McQueen.
“We get on like a house on fire,” McQueen told The Guardian. “I never thought I’d make a new friend, and a man who is 87 years old, but I’m very happy. He’s a beautiful man.”
McQueen hasn’t revealed who he has in mind to play Robeson, but he’s definitely eager to start working with Belafonte. “Miracles do happen. With Paul Robeson and Harry Belafonte, things have come full circle, “McQueen stated.