Observations: Different tales from the city

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The Independent Culture

Dedicated to promoting films from black, Latino and Asian film-makers, New York's Urbanworld Film Festival celebrated its 15th year last weekend.

It was founded by Stacy Spikes, former Miramax vice president of marketing, in 1997 to showcase independent black films. It gives people a chance to see the sort of features that often struggle to get attention in a Hollywood dominated by white mainstream movies.

And this year's event had a particularly strong line-up, featuring everything from Make a Movie Like Spike, Jamil Walker Smith's fascinating tale of two young movie-obsessed soon-to-be marines to Nelson George's Brooklyn Boheme – a subtle, angry look at black artists and writers in Brooklyn's Fort Greene in the 1980s and 1990s.

The winner of the big prize for best narrative feature went to first time director Nicholas Ozeki for his sweet-natured naturalistic coming-of-age romance, Mamitas, while other festival stand-outs included Restless City, Andrew Dosunmu's dreamlike tale of immigrants in New York. Best of all though was Yelling to the Sky, Victoria Mahoney's semi-autobiographical tale of growing up young and poor in Queens, New York, starring Zoë Kravitz as confused teenager Sweetness O'Hara. It works because it dares to be different, paring down the dialogue and being unafraid to use silence to make its point.

www.urbanworld.com

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