This week, filmmakers, cineastes, celebrities and their fans, return to the most famous film festival in the United States, Park City, Utah’s Sundance Film Festival. From January 19th to the 29th, Sundance will feature and premiere many of the brightest and sharpest films to expect in theaters, other film festivals, and streaming video in the coming years.

This section of Bold as Love’s previews of the Sundance 2017 slate includes highlights of Black feature films, while tomorrow’s own will focus on documentary, and short films from Black directors, and others of Black film subjects, that you must pay attention to whether you’re in the cold of Park City or anticipating the future of cinema in your neck of the woods.

U.S.A., 2016, 98 min.
Section:  U.S. Dramatic
The most feared battle MC in early-’80s NYC was a fierce teenager from the Queensbridge projects with the weight of the world on her shoulders. At age 14, hustling the streets to provide for her family, Roxanne Shanté was well on her way to becoming a hip-hop legend.

PRINCIPAL CAST: Chanté Adams, Mahershala Ali, Nia Long, Elvis Nolasco, Kevin Phillips, Shenell Edmonds
Why is this hot? It’s…about…Roxanne Shante!!! Do you need more proof why?  Okay, sure.  Larnell directed the 2015 Sundance premiere “Cronies,” a small yet kinetic story about friendship, and the love and devotion to it, set in is hometown of St. Louis.  With that film, he’s proven that he understands how community connects people to their circumstances, in the good and bad ways, which is the crux of rapper Roxanne Shante’s story as one of the most notorious actors of her time. Add “it” men like Mahershala Ali “Moonlight” and Elvis Nolasco (“American Crime”) to the mix, along with stalwarts like Nia Long (“The Best Man”), and you’ve got what we all hope will be pure cinematic dopeness.

Premiere Date: January 22
See more HERE


U.S.A., 2017, 96 min.
Section:  U.S. Dramatic

On April 10, 1980, a shot rang out on the streets of Crown Heights, igniting a decades-long quest for justice in this harrowing true story. Colin Warner, played with heartbreaking sincerity by Lakeith Stanfield, is arrested and tried for a crime he did not commit, a victim of a deeply broken system that refuses to listen. Quick to throw him away, the court wrongfully convicts him. But as Colin loses hope to reclaim an innocence that has been cast aside, his best friend, Carl King, devotes his life to restoring Colin’s freedom, doggedly pursuing every lead for years.

PRINCIPAL CAST: Lakeith Stanfield, Nnamdi Asomugha, Natalie Paul, Bill Camp, Nestor Carbonell, Amari Cheatom
Why is it important? Advocates against wrongful convictions, and anyone with any compassion, may know Warner’s story very well. Like “Roxanne Roxanne,” most New Yorker’s will.  A dramatization of Warner’s harrowing story may come off a bit milquetoast, but with Lakeith Stanfield (“Selma,” FX’s “Atlanta”) bringing the pathos, the humanization of Warner’s story should be substantial.  Add “The Night Of” co-star Bill Camp to the mix, along with growing star Natalie Paul (set to star in HBO’s 1970’s period piece “The Deuce”) to the equation, along with producer/co-star and ex-NFL player turned filmmaker Nnamdi Asomugha, and you’ve got what should amount to a film to look out for at Sundance, and all year.

Premiere Date: January 23
See more HERE


U.S.A., 2017, 105 min.
Section: U.S. Dramatic

In his freshman year of college, it seems Zurich has everything going for him; he has the respect of his teachers and university administration, the love and devotion of a wonderful girlfriend, and he’s been selected for admission to a prestigious black fraternity on campus. But as Zurich embarks on the Hell Week of pledging his fraternity, the harsh trials of entry into brotherhood begin to test the limits of his self-worth. As the intensifying abuse begins to become untenable, Zurich struggles to honor the fraternity’s code of silence, and the scaffolding of his life outside the frat begins to dismantle.

DIRECTOR: Gerard McMurray
SCREENWRITERS: Christine Berg, Gerard McMurray
PRINCIPAL CAST: Trevor Jackson, Alfre Woodard, Steve Harris, Tosin Cole, DeRon Horton, Trevante Rhodes
Why should you watch this? Even Sundance’s description picks up on pop culture, and therefore Hollywood’s, semi-obsession on the stories exploring Black manhood.  Complex stories reflecting multiple aspects of Blackness have always been desirable in the African diaspora, especially for those unbound by a white supremacist ways of seeing their world, so the desire is that director Gerard McMurray, also a producer on the Oscar Grant death biopic Fruitvale Station, will reflect the violence of hazing from the Black college campus perspective.  “School Daze” was 29 years ago (and a musical) so let’s see what happens.

Premiere date: January 24
See more HERE


U.S.A., 2016, 132 min.
Section: Premieres

In the post–World War II South, two families are pitted against a barbaric social hierarchy and an unrelenting landscape as they simultaneously fight the battle at home and the battle abroad. This epic pioneer story is about friendship, heritage, and the unending struggle for and against the land.

SCREENWRITERS: Virgil Williams, Dee Rees
PRINCIPAL CAST: Carey Mulligan, Jason Clarke, Mary J. Blige, Rob Morgan, Jason Mitchell, Garrett Hedlund
Why is this hot? Dee Rees is enough to draw crowds as she’s still reeling off of success from her debut feature film “Pariah,” which focused on a young Black girl dealing with the familial and social stigmas of being a lesbian.  Her being hired to do a period film is pretty monumental. But adding in “Straight Outta Compton” co-star Jason Mitchell and growing star Rob Morgan, who plays ‘Turk’ in all the Marvel Netflix shows like “Luke Cage” and “Daredevil” (and in soooo many other things), but has been on the New York acting scene for years…now you’ve got a film to watch.

Premiere date: January 21
See more HERE


U.S.A., 2016, 75 min.
Section: NEXT

In the wake of his older brother’s death, 13-year-old Dayveon spends the sweltering summer days roaming his rural Arkansas town. When he falls in with a local gang, he becomes drawn to the camaraderie and violence of their world.

DIRECTOR: Amman Abbasi
SCREENWRITERS: Amman Abbasi, Steven Reneau
PRINCIPAL CAST: Devin Blackmon, Kordell “KD” Johnson, Dontrell Bright, Chasity Moore
Why it’s hot? There aren’t too many films made about Black life in the South. And when they are, like “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” they too often have themes of mysticism or infantilization. While gang life is not all to desirable of a topic, the reality of it in poorer centers of American life cannot be denied for their connections to a close-knit family many young people never had.  As first-time feature film director Amman Abbasi is indeed native to Arkansas, though not specifically to Black life, the desire once more is that the subject matter is treated respectfully, and artfully, to reflect a trueness Black American life. Let’s make that happen Amman.

Premiere date: January 19
See more HERE


CARPINTEROS (Woodpeckers)
Dominican Republic, 2016, 107 min.
Spanish with English subtitles
Section: World Drama (Competition)

Tall, dark, and handsome, Julián steps off a bus, hands over his clothes, gets his long curly locks chopped off, and becomes fresh meat walking inside the Najayo Prison in the Dominican Republic. He locates his cellblock underneath the moist corner where the Woodpeckers perch. Woodpeckers—prisoners who romance ladies incarcerated at the women’s prison 150 meters across the way—spend their days in affectionate conversation with their lovers through sign language. When Julián encounters Yanelly, a gorgeous spitfire of a woman, he finds love in the last place he imagined. Now he must find a way, through cement, barbed wire, dozens of guards, and murderous exes to win Yanelly’s love, all the while keeping it secret.

PRINCIPAL CAST: Jean Jean, Judith Rodriguez Perez, Ramón Emilio Candelario
Why it’s hot? The subject matter alone is one I’ve personally never seen, which is what the magic of film art is often about.  With themes of longing and denial, desire and grit, Cabral has seemed to create a film that will be talked about for all the right reasons. The World Cinema category, when not dealing with European films, tends to go unnoticed in the American press, so hopefully beyond Sundance “Carpinteros” will be accessible to all.

Premiere date: January 23
See more HERE

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About The Author

Curtis Caesar John is the Film Editor for Bold As Love Magazine. He also covers film and culture for Limité Magazine as well as for Shadow And Act, for which he created the regular feature ‘This Week in Black Television.’ He is born, raised and resides in Brooklyn, NY, of course. Follow him on Twitter at @MediaManCurt.

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