‘WHEN THEY SEE US’ Drops Official Trailer

 BY: KIMBERLY ALSUP

30 years ago, today a woman was raped in Central Park and five teenagers of color were framed for it.

Netflix has just release the full trailer for Ava DuVernay’s “When They See Us” a four-part series about the wrongly convicted Central Park Five.

Based on the true case of five teenagers of color, labeled the Central Park Five, who were convicted of a rape they did not commit, the show follows the young men (Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana and Korey Wise) in the spring of 1989 when they are first questioned about the brutal assault of a Caucasian female jogger in New York’s Central Park. The later part of the series will also see them as men, spanning 25 years and highlighting their exoneration in 2002 and the settlement they reached with the city of New York in 2014.

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The series stars Michael K. Williams, Vera Farmiga, John Leguizamo, Felicity Huffman, Niecy Nash, Blair Underwood, Christopher Jackson, Joshua Jackson, Omar J. Dorsey, Adepero Oduye, Famke Janssen, Aurora Perrineau, William Sadler, Jharrel Jerome, Jovan Adepo, Aunjanue Ellis, Kylie Bunbury, Marsha Stephanie Blake, Storm Reid, Dascha Polanco, Chris Chalk, Freddy Miyares, Justin Cunningham, Ethan Herisse, Caleel Harris, Marquis Rodriguez and Asante Blackk.

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“When They See Us” launches on Netflix on May 31.

TRACY OLIVER TALKS ‘LITTLE’ AT WGA SCREENING.

BY: KIMBERLY ALSUP

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Monday night, WGAW Speaker Series: In Her Words held a screening of LITTLE with writer Tracy Oliver. After the movie a conversation and Q&A with Tracy Oliver shed light on the film, what it’s like having a 14-year old Marsai Martin as her boss, and her overall writing process. A great informative conversation.

Tracy also stayed after to speak with everyone, gave amazing advice and insight, and take pictures. Her future projects include a play on the film, First Wives Club and Clueless. Excited to see what else she has up her sleeve.

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If you haven’t seen LITTLE yet, run and go see it. I have seen it twice and it was just as good the second time.

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THE 50TH NAACP AWARDS RECAP

BY: KIMBERLY ALSUP

The NAACP Image Awards was a fantastic good time and always great celebrating what people of color bring to the table. The wins began at the non-televised dinner held at The Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, CA and then continued on to the live show at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, CA.

Among the wins, the biggest went to Black Panther, individually as well as collectively. Chadwick Boseman, Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture. Michael B. Jordan, Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture. Danai Gurira, Outstanding Supporting Actress in in a Motion Picture. Ryan Coogler, Outstanding Directing in a Motion Picture. Ryan Coogler and Joe Robert Cole, Outstanding Writing in a Motion Picture. Letitia Wright, Outstanding Breakthrough Performance in a Motion Picture. Outstanding Soundtrack/Complilation. Outstanding Ensemble Cast in a Motion Picture. And finally, Outstanding Motion Picture. Way to go team. Such a phenomenal movie that deserves all the recognition it has received.

Black-ish was also among big winners for the night including Outstanding Comedy Series. Power took home the Outstanding Drama Series. Maxine Waters who received the Chariman’s Award gave us a thorough lesson in political affairs, while Jay-Z was honored with the Presidents Award and Beyonce’ took home Entertainer of the Year. It was a great night.

If you missed any of the action check out the replay on TV One.

FILM REVIEW: THE BEST OF ENEMIES

BY: KIMBERLY ALSUP

So, went to an advanced screening of The Best of Enemies. After the screening, there was a conversation with one of the stars of the film, Taraji P. Henson and the writer/director/producer Robin Bissell.

The true story of the unlikely relationship between Ann Atwater, an outspoken civil rights activist, and C.P. Ellis, a local Ku Klux Klan leader. During the racially charged summer of 1971, Atwater and Ellis come together to co-chair a community summit on the desegregation of schools in Durham, N.C. The ensuing debate and battle soon lead to surprising revelations that change both of their lives forever.

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Let me start off and say that Taraji did a good job on this film and in this role. But, to be honest this was yet another “White Savior” film and it is clear that it was written by a White man. The movie was longer than it should have and spent too much time telling a one-sided story. The character arc was never developed for Ann Atwater, unless you read the back story on your own for her you did not know she was an activist. She was painted as a poor Black woman who just spoke up for her community. The only thing that you knew about her family is that she had a daughter that we didn’t see her interact with a lot. No back story or anything. But what you did get a lot of was C.P. Ellis and his back story. They spent a lot of time building his character, his family, and how he ticked. We knew that he had kids and a wife, the classic American family, while they painted Ann as a Black woman with a broken family because we didn’t know where her daughter’s father was. His wife, played by Anne Heche was instrumental in showing the human side of this KKK President and what led him to join. Showing that he had a bad, sad life and he was just looking to belong to something. Way to humanize a white supremacist and diminish what Ann was trying to do in the community back then. Thanks, but we don’t need a savior.

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Why do White writers always tell these stories from one point of view, it would be helpful to have a Black person during the writing process to have it balanced. The problem with Hollywood is they think these types of movies support the Black community when it does the exact opposite. But let me step off my soapbox and hope that in the future these stories are told from both perspectives and not just the one. But shout out to them for at least bring awareness to the story that people did not know that much about.

The Best of Enemies stars Taraji P. Henson and Sam Rockwell and premieres in theaters on April 5.

BIG REINVENTED WITH ‘LITTLE’

BY: KIMBERLY ALSUP

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Had a chance to see Little at an early screening. LITTLE is a hilarious ride from beginning to end. If you didn’t know that Regina Hall was funny then get ready for the ride. Yes, in general Regina plays the siddity uppity type but this time she brings comedy to it. Combine that with the comedic timing of Issa Rae and Marsai Martin and you have a winning combination. I foresee this will be another win for superstar producer Will Packer and a win for Marsai Martin who is the youngest executive producer with this film.

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Jordan is a take no-prisoners boss who makes her assistant and employees life a living hell on a regular basis. She faces an unexpected threat when a kid wishes that she was little. Her life and career turn upside down when she magically transforms into a 13-year old version of herself.

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Little is the Freaky Friday for the Black community. Story by Tracy Oliver and directed by Tina Gordon, Little takes us on a ride of exploring and dealing with emotions and feelings that Jordan never dealt with in the past. It takes her back to the time when she felt helpless and felt unwanted. Children can be cruel which lead to her hard exterior and the inability to let anyone in for fear of being hurt again. Once Jordan was forced to be a 13-year old again she discovered that things had not changed and children were still cruel. But, it was when she took her power back and befriended the kids that were similar to her as a child that she realized she had a do over and showed them it was okay to be different. Little is a reminder to deal with our emotions and feelings before they fester and get out of control, and to be the best version of ourselves.

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This movie has a phenomenal cast whose chemistry makes the movie work. Little starts off with Jordan being awakened in her penthouse apartment in Atlanta by her latest invention for her successful tech company, Home Girl which is similar to Amazon’s Alexa and voiced by no other than Black-ish star and funny girl Tracee Ellis Ross. Early on we discover Jordan’s love interest played by Luke James and are treated to a sexy dance performance from him. Singing and dancing, yes to both. Speaking of Luke James, let’s talk about the other eye candy in this movie, Justin Hartley, from This is Us. I was right with little Jordan when she said “you feel what I’m feeling.” Rounding out the cast is Tone Bell who is Issa Rae’s character, April biggest supporter and JD McCrary who gives an incredible performance at the school talent show while Jordan is little. Let me also shout the amazing wardrobe department, fire throughout the movie.

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This is a definite see and will be an instant classic that people will watch over and over.

Little opens in theaters on April 12 everywhere.

WHEN THEY SEE US – NETFLIX

BY: KIMBERLY ALSUP

Ava DuVernay’s upcoming limited series on the brutal crime and false accusations of five teenagers that shocked NYC and the nation 30 years ago will be available to stream on Netflix on May 31. The four-part series formerly known as The Central Park Five will now be called When They See Us released an explosive trailer this morning. Just the title alone is powerful. For the many Black deaths that has spawned the Black Lives Matter movement, for the many false accusations of people of color over the years, When They See Us is a very fitting title.

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With this series Korey, Antron, Raymond, Kevin and Yusef get to tell their story of young people of color unjustly handled by the criminal justice system.

For those that are unfamiliar with the case, these five teens, four Black and one Hispanic were apprehended in connection to the assault and brutal rape of Trisha Meili, a White female jogger on the night of April 19, 1989. Before the trial began, the FBI tested the DNA of the rape kit and found that it did not match any of the boys but as fitting as the title suggests they were in the park so they must have done it, right? Regardless of the evidence to clear them the teens were convicted in 1990. In 2002, Matias Reyes, a convicted murder and serial rapist serving a life sentence in prison confessed to the crime and DNA evidence confirmed that he was indeed the attacker on the night in question. However, Reyes was not prosecuted for the rape and murder due to statute of limitations expiring by the time of his confession.

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The teens now men convictions were overturned in 2002. In 2003, they sued the City of New York for malicious prosecution, racial discrimination, and emotional distress. The city refused to settle for over a decade until new Mayor Bill de Blasio took office and supported the settlement, the city settled the case for $41 million in 2014 and their names were finally cleared.

This whole case and what’s happening in society has me singing the old Michael Jackson song “They Don’t Care About Us”.

Written and Directed by Ava DuVernay. This series will go beyond 1989 and what happened after.

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The series stars Emmy Award® Nominee Michael K. Williams, Academy Award® Nominee Vera Farmiga, Emmy Award® Winner John Leguizamo, Academy Award® Nominee and Emmy Award® Winner Felicity Huffman, Emmy Award® Nominee Niecy Nash, Emmy Award® Winner and two-time Golden Globe Nominee Blair Underwood, Emmy Award® and Grammy Award® Winner and Tony Award® Nominee Christopher Jackson, Joshua Jackson, Omar Dorsey, Adepero Oduye, Famke Janssen, Aurora Perrineau, William Sadler, Jharrel Jerome, Jovan Adepo, Aunjanue Ellis, Kylie Bunbury, Marsha Stephanie Blake, Storm Reid, Chris Chalk, Freddy Miyares, Justin Cunningham, Ethan Herisse, Caleel Harris, Marquis Rodriguez, and Asante Blackk.

Thank you Ava for continuing to expose the injustice of people of color.

THE HATE YOU GIVE Q&A

BY: KIMBERLY ALSUP

Had the opportunity to attend the screening of The Hate You Give to celebrate the film’s release on DVD, Blu-Ray and all digital platforms. This film gives an opportunity to start the conversation on race with those in your family, community and your friends. This film had me laughing and crying, but it also provoked feelings on how this could be changed and what we as a community can do to change the narrative. After the screening there was a great Q&A with Russell Hornsby and moderated by CNN commentator Symone Sanders. In these Trump days it is important to have this conversation and show your kids how to conduct themselves out on these streets because it will get real, real quick and then what.

If you have not seen this amazing film directed by George Tillman Jr. make sure you buy it or stream it wherever you get your movies.

THE HATE YOU GIVE

BY: KIMBERLY ALSUP

The Hate You Give is based on the New York Times Best Selling Novel by Angie Thomas. The story focuses on Starr (Amandla Stenberg) who witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a nervous White police officer that mistakes a hairbrush for a gun. Now, Starr faces pressures from all sides of the community urging her to step up. She must find her voice and stand up for what’s right.

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As protests around the killing mount, Starr slowly embraces activism. Enrolled at a predominately white private school, Starr tells the audience early on that she’s used to essentially splitting her personality in two, playing the non-threatening black girl around her white friends and then code-switching, with some awkwardness, back home in Garden Heights. Khalil’s death puts those two selves into conflict, and Stenberg beautifully plays that evolution, a girl whose carefully constructed notion of “normal” has been upended.

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This story comes at a time where we are in a place where senseless killings at the hands of the police are so relevant. This teen is faced with a huge responsibility, what do you do when you know that you need to fight for the rights of your friend? What do you do when your parents and those close to you don’t want you to stand up because of the climate and you can be a statistic yourself? So many decisions for Starr to contemplate. What would you do in this situation? This powerful movie takes us on an emotional journey of finding your voice and standing for what is right regardless of what people may say.

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Amandla Stenberg who people were not sure she was right for the role due to her light skin. The cover of the book shows a dark-skinned girl, so that is what everyone was envisioning in casting. But, she gives a breakout performance and proves them all wrong.

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“Over the past year I’ve heard concerns from my community around my casting as Starr in The Hate U Give and I want those who are worried to know they are seen and heard. Something that I love most about the black community is the accountability and expectation for greatness and consciousness that we maintain. I hope Angie’s perspective can alleviate those concerns, though I don’t expect it to address the age-old conundrum of colorism and I’m glad this conversation is being opened up. The lack of diversity within the black girl representation we’re finally getting is apparent and it’s NOT ENOUGH, and I understand my role in the quest for onscreen diversity and the sensitivity I must have towards the colorism that I do not experience. Do I aim to represent all black girls? Hell nah! Do I expect all black girls to feel represented by me? Absolutely not. We encompass a beautiful and expansive plethora of experiences, identities, and shades and it would be ridiculous to assume that I should or could represent all of us. I want my sisters to know I navigate my industry with an acute awareness of how my accessibility contributes to the representation I am granted. I do so with a vigilance concerning the commodification of blackness and not taking up space that doesn’t belong to me. My biggest hope is that this precarious game of give and take we play with the historically white institution of Hollywood for the sake of representation can only lead to the diversity we want and deserve. I want to see my mama on screen. And my niece. I want to see my friends, my peers… and all those who have given me the blessing of their support. Let’s continue to demand depictions that don’t placate European beauty standards. And after all, this if you still don’t mess with the casting, hey, that’s your prerogative! B​ut let’s show up to THUG for BLM, for rich and profound portrayals of contemporary black experience, for exploration of the nuance of bias, for black girl realness , for family, for gun control, for speaking up and out, for Philando, Tamir, Eric, Michael, Sandra and all the black lives that have been taken for no reason.” –Amandla Stenberg

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In select theatres on October 5 and nationwide on October 19. Check your area for showtimes.

YARA SHAHIDI’S DIRECTORIAL DEBUT

BY: KIMBERLY ALSUP

X is about a Black boy that leaves home one morning to go to school. He’s just a regular kid, but as he steps out into the world we see him physically shift and evolve to match the expectations and stereotypes projected into him by the world that he lives in.

X has no almost no dialogue, but it does manage to powerfully convey the spectrum of emotions experienced by people who feel marginalized with public spaces. X wants to explore a young girl trying to ward off the unwanted approach of a grown man or a black teen targeted by a grocery store owner. It is only when they feel safe in their environments that they can truly be themselves.

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X is done in part of Season 2 of the Shatterbox Anthology, a partnership between Refinery 29 and TNT that seeks to give opportunities to tell new and unusual stories behind the camera.

“It’s really about what’s it’s like living in a space you don’t own. I think it’s something everybody can relate to, especially as a brown person, but also as somebody who is on the internet nowadays, where you are constantly witnessing trauma of other people, being desensitized to it, and also living next to it, and with it, in a way that isn’t often addressed, and in a way that makes you grow up really quickly. And so, X was almost a literal adaptation of what it would be like if we grew up based on our surroundings.” –Yara Shahidi

Yara co-wrote the film with Grown-ish writer Jordan Reddout and says that she was inspired by the 1956 French classic The Red Balloon, which shines a light on that country’s socio-economic disparities by following a little boy’s journey through Paris.

The title, X, was originally a place-holder name for the unnamed main character.

“When we were writing the draft and didn’t know what to call the character, we just called them X. But what it represented was in fact that I didn’t want this to seem like this was a story that was happening to this one young boy. Not to reduce a character to an algorithm, but it’s very much a variable or a stand-in for anybody. Especially now, when we witness what happens on a daily basis to kids, especially kids of color, every iteration of X is representative of everyone who goes through daily discomfort and almost earned paranoia of not knowing what will happen to you next in your surroundings.” –Yara Shahidi

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Yara has an African-American mother and Iranian father so this story is something she is all too familiar with.

“Whenever my brother and I felt uncomfortable with somebody behind us, we’d start talking about karate really loudly, as if that would ward people off. Like, ‘Oh, they know karate, back away!’ It’s those moments that I feel like each iteration of X allows us to explore. Every change is intentional. X transitions into a girl for that bus scene, because it’s a special kind of discomfort.” – Yara Shahidi

X ends on somewhat of a questionable note, something that Yara said is intentional.

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“We came up with the idea that we didn’t need a finite ending. It’s cool not to have a clear moral of the story, because to say that there’s a moral of the story would say that there is some sort of solution. Whereas there isn’t a solution, and it’s more a film about awareness.” –Yara Shahidi

“X” is currently available to stream across TNT’s digital distribution platforms, including Roku, Amazon Firestick, Apple TV, Xbox One, and TNT’s website.

WHY BRONZELENS?

BY: KIMBERLY ALSUP

BronzeLens Film Festival has got to be my favorite Film Festivals. I look forward to it each and every year. BronzeLens is one of those things where it’s big, but it’s small. It’s not so big that you feel out of place and you can’t talk to people. It is a very approachable environment. From the moment, you step in you are treated like a VIP whether you are or not.

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BronzeLens gives the opportunity to be exposed to films: short, feature, student, and even web series that you wouldn’t otherwise be exposed to. Being in the presence of these amazing filmmakers, cast and crews are priceless. I still support these people to this day. The networking is an added bonus to the price of admission.

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From the workshops, Masterclasses, special screenings, awards show, Women’s Superstar Luncheon and Brunch with the Brothers there is something for everyone. In the past at the Women’s Superstar Luncheon, Ava Duvernay and Queen Latifah were both honored. Brunch with the Brothers always brings an interesting perspective. Hearing from the guys on their experiences in the industry gives us ladies a one up.

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One of my favorite memories from the Festival was about 2 years ago. Issa Rae was in attendance to screen her new HBO show, now in its third season. I can remember the HBO executive tapped me on my shoulder and asked if I wanted to interview Issa Rae. My eyes got super big and I was screaming on the inside but kept it together, and while I had no questions prepared I confidently said yes and was escorted to an area to interview her. That was my first big interview and it was an experience of a lifetime that I will never forget. After posting my interview, Issa Rae reposted it, yes, she reposted it. Greatest moment. My world was filled with joy.

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You never know what will happen at BronzeLens, so you don’t want to miss a minute of the action. First class treatment all the way down to the volunteers. I can guarantee you will not be disappointed. Even if you are an inspiring filmmaker, actor, actress, writer, or just starting out, this Festival is for you.

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