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Film still from Harriet (2019), directed by Kasi Lemmons (image courtesy Urbanworld Film Festival)

For 23 years, Urbanworld Film Festival has brought a diverse slate of cinema to the fore. This year’s festival lineup brings 78 film selections plus seven special spotlight presentations, encompassing narrative film, music videos, animated shorts, and more. This year’s program runs the gamut from feature-length biopics — like Harriet, acclaimed director Kasi Lemmons’s take on the life of Harriet Tubman, which will open the festival — to documentary shorts — like Corine Dhondee’s Bradford Young: Cinema Is The Weapon, which puts the award-winning cinematographer of Ava DuVernay’s Selma and Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival (to say nothing of Space Jam 2) in front of the camera. Founded in 1997 by entrepreneur and film executive Stacy Spikes, Urbanworld’s mission was “to expand the definition of ‘urban’ beyond ethnicity to include sensibility, culture, and proximity.” The festival seeks to prioritize inclusion for diverse creators and highlight work that speaks to their communities.

As the festival is divided into “film, digital, and music” components, several of the films and programs will be supplemented by Q&As and panels, a music showcase running late into Thursday night, and several separate daytime discussions moderated by and featuring the likes of The New Yorker‘s Jelani Cobb, actress Yvette Nicole Brown, and Keisha Zollar and Jenna Bond of the Writers Guild of America, East, among others.

The festival kicks off this week on  Wednesday, September 18, with screenings at AMC Empire 25 on 42nd Street in Midtown running through Saturday. The “Global Access” passes to the whole festival are pricey at $500 a pop, but if you just want to catch a one-off screening or event, it’ll set you back roughly the same as most other movies, at $17.50 a ticket.

When: Wednesday-Saturday, September 18-22, 2019
Where: AMC Empire 25 (Midtown, Manhattan. New York City)

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Eric Vilas-Boas

Eric Vilas-Boas is the former managing editor of Hyperallergic. He has previously worked at Thrillist, Esquire, SPIN,, and his writing has appeared at Vulture, Slashfilm, Lit Hub, Paste,...