The ActNow Foundation returns today, ThursdayMarch 27, running through SundayMarch 30th, with the organization’s annual New Voices In Black Cinema Festival.

Continuing their partnership with Brooklyn’s BAMcinematek, the 4th annual festival features a mix of new and highly-anticipated feature length narrative, documentary, and short films, including some by NYC-based filmmakers!
 Festival highlights include:

  • The NY premiere of director Tommy Oliver’s 1982, starring Hill Harper, Wayne Brady, and Ruby Dee
  • The NY premiere of director James Richards’ The Bicycle, set in Queens, NYC. 
  • The World Premiere of Unsound from director Darious J. Britt. 
  • The outstanding documentary story of Melvin & Jean from director Maia Weschler.
  • Julius Onah’s thriller, The Girl Is In Trouble, starring Columbus Short, and executive produced by Spike Lee.
  • The New York Premiere of the highly anticipated film adaptation of Ivory Coast-born/France-based author Marguerite Abouet’s popular graphic novel series, Aya de Yopougon (Aya of Yop City).
  • A “New Black Classic” of John Sayle’s The Brother From Another Planet, followed by a Q&A with the filmmaker.

And much more… including Q&A’s with the filmmakers at select screenings, a few moderated by yours truly. One particular conversation takes place after the screening of Brother From Another Planet, which will feature director John Sayles and star Joe Morton both present, with Warrington Hudlin moderating. That should be quite an interesting conversation worth being present for.

So, join ActNow Foundation and New Voices In Black Cinema Festival at BAM Rose Cinema, starting today, Thursday, March 27, running through Sunday, March 30th
The entire lineup (which includes festival panel “Sisters in Cinema“, featuring outstanding African American women filmmakers) follows below. Look for individual profiles over the next week!

Purchase Tickets HERE!   

All films shown at

BAM Rose Cinemas
Peter Jay Sharp Building
30 Lafayette Avenue
Brooklyn,  NY 11217

1982 – 2013, Tommy Oliver, USA – NY Premiere!

With Hill Harper, Sharon Leal, Wayne Brady, Troi Zee, La La Anthony, and Ruby Dee. In this family drama that takes place in the early days of crack, Philadelphia father Tim Brown struggles to protect his daughter from the reality of her mother’s drug addiction. Hill Harper, who portrays Tim as streetwise man just wanting to explode from his rage and fear but tempering himself in order to save his family, turns in another brilliantly nuanced and powerful performance. This emotional debut feature film director Tommy Oliver highlights his ability to coax great acting from unexpected casting, including Sharon Leal’s chilling turninto addiction and Wayne Brady’s unrecognizable local gangster role – performances to be seen in a familiar yet totally compelling story. 

-Q&A w/ Tommy Oliver

AN AMERICAN IN HOLLYWOOD – 2013, Sai Varadan, USA, 89 min.

With J.D. Williams, Hassan Johnson, Anil Rahman, Richard Carroll Jr., Silvestre Rasuk, Azure-De, and Stephen Hill. New York-born writer/director Josiah leads childhood friends Dorian and Angelo, both aspiring actors, struggling assistant director Paul, and aspiring stand-up comedian Trilok, to Los Angeles to pursue their Hollywood dreams. But through Joshiah’s relationship with budding actress Ayoka, and their shared trials of cracking Hollywood’s glass ceiling, the team soon realizes the system they are up against and the price of being ‘heroes’ in their ‘new’ world. 

AYA DE YOPOUGON (Aya of Yop City) – 2012, Marguerite Abouet, France – NY Premiere!

With the voices of Aïssa Maïga, Eriq Ebouaney, Tella Kpomahou, Tatiana Rojo. Straight from the popular graphic novel series comes the animated version of ‘Aya of Yop City!’ Based on author/director Marguerite Abouet’s life in late-1970’s post-colonial Cote d’Ivoire, the story takes place in Yopougon, a working-class neighborhood of Abidjan renamed Yop City – to sound like an American movie! This is home to Aya and her two friends, Adjoua and Bintou. They’re 19-years-old, a time in your life when everything seems possible. But while Aya would like to become a doctor one day, her friends are more into nightclubbing at the local “maquis” and hunting for a husband. Around this dynamic trio, we cross characters with diverse destinies. A true chorale comedy, Aya of Yop City is a chronicle of an unexpected Africa, modern and urban.

THE BICYCLE – 2013, James Richards, USA, 72 min. – NY Premiere!

With Cinque Northern, Stormi G. Smith, Michelle Wilson, and Rob Morgan. Bobbi cannot stand Teddy. Teddy isn’t exactly thrilled with Bobbi. Now that’s all right on the playground, but Teddy is 36 and Bobbi is 10. And they live in the same house. And Teddy is going to marry Bobbi’s mother Cheryl in a few months. When Bobbi is jumped and her bicycle is stolen, Teddy realizes that finding the bully and getting back the bicycle is the perfect opportunity to repair his relationship with Bobbi and save his fiancée’s hope of them becoming a family. But surprisingly, their journey through the many worlds that make up their community will connect them in a way neither could imagine.  Taking place in the working/middle-class enclaves of Queens, NYC, The Bicycle shows a toorare and hopeful reflection of the African-American experience. 

HOMEGOINGS- 2013, Christine Turner, USA, 56 min.

Through the eyes of funeral director Isaiah Owens, the beauty and grace of African-American funerals are brought to life. Filmed at Owens funeral home in New York City’s historic Harlem neighborhood, Homegoings takes an up-close look at the rarely seen world of undertaking in the Black community, where funeral rites draw on a rich palette of tradition, history, and celebration. Combining cinema verite with intimate interviews and archival photographs, the film paints and unexpectedly uplifting portrait of the dearly departed, their grieving families, and a man who sends our loved ones “home”.

-Q&A w/ Christine Turner

FLEX IS KINGS – 2013, Deidre Schoo and Michael Beach Nichols, USA, Brooklyn Premiere!

Journey to the edge of Brooklyn and of street performance itself in this sparkling portrait of the freeing power of art. Reem is the savvy promoter, Flizzo the undefeated local legend, Jay Donn the innovator with the talent to carry him far away from home. Uniting them is a competitive dance form of dramatic contortions, simulated violence, flowing footsteps and the occasional humorous touch. Welcome to the world of Flex.This inspiring documentary explores the hopes and realities of this under-acknowledged and totally unfunded group of Do-It-Yourself urban artists who use their dance skills and savvy to transform themselves to greater heights. 

-Q&A w/ Deidre Schoo and Michael Beach Nicols

THE GIRL IS IN TROUBLE – 2012, Julius Onah, USA, 95 min.

With Columbus Short, Alicja Bachleda, Wilmer Valderrama and Jesse Spencer. In this thriller from Executive Producer Spike Lee, an unsuspecting Lower East Side bartender becomes entangled in a dark New York City murder mystery involving a desperate woman, a missing drug dealer, and the scion of New York’s most powerful investment firm. Director Julius Onah, recently selected as one of Filmmaker Magazine’s 25 New Faces of Independent Film, has crafted a debut that highlights the history, diversity and dangers of the Lower East Side and scultps them into an atypical film noir narrative. 

-Q&A w/ Julius Onah

IN SEARCH OF THE BLACK KNIGHT – 2013, Tamarat Makonnen, USA, 73 min.

Combining professional advice, street interviews and sketch comedy, In Search of the Black Knight takes a humorous look at the current state of African American romantic relationships. Follow film director Tamarat Makonnen as he travels across the country in an attempt to expose the truth and absuridity behind this sensitive topic in this funny and thought-provoking film that will have you rethinking what you assumed about the opposite sex! 

-Q&A w/ Tamarat Makonnen

LET THE FIRE BURN-2013, Jason Osder, USA, 95 min.

A found-footage film that unfurls with the tension of a great thriller, this award-winning documentary chronicles a harrowing day in 1985, on which a longtime feud between the city of Philadelphia and controversial radical urban group MOVE came to a deadly climax. By order of local authorities, police dropped military-grade explosives onto a MOVE-occupied rowhouse. TV cameras captured the conflagration that quickly escalated-and resulted in the tragic deaths of eleven people (including five children) and the destruction of 61 homes. First-time filmmaker Osder brings to life one of the most tumultuous and largely forgotten clashes between government and citizens in modern American history.

-Q&A w/ Jason Osder. 

“MELVIN & JEAN – 2012, Maia Weschler, USA/France, 60 min.

When Melvin and Jean McNair hijacked a plane from Detroit to Algeria in 1972 to join the International Section of the Black Panthers, they called it an act of political resistance to racism and the war in Vietnam War. In reality, the hijacking was an act of desperation committed by two young people who saw no other way to escape what they felt was the constant state of racial oppression in the United States.For the past 35 years, the McNairs have lived as model citizens in France, where they served prison time for the hijacking. Now, they want the freedom to return home without spending the rest of their lives behind bars.Melvin & Jean: An American Story follows the McNairs from revolt and exile to renewal and reconciliation. It challenges viewers to consider whether a lifetime of good can make up for a criminal act. Forty years after the hijacking, Melvin and Jean are still coming to terms with their crime and it’s lifelong consequences.

-Q&A w/ Maia Weschler

SLEEPING WITH THE FISHES – 2013, Nicole Gomez Fisher, USA, 95 min.

With Gina Rodriguez, Ana Ortiz, Priscilla Lopez, Tibor Feldman, Steven Strait. In this coming-of-age zany Latino-Jewish family comedy Alexis Fish (played by Filly Brownstar Gina Rodriguez), flat broke and broken-hearted after the death of her philandering husband, is struggling to survive on her own. When she begrudgingly returns home to Brooklyn for a distant aunt’s funeral, Alexis winds up on a journey of self-discovery and newromance, despite the antics of her well-intentioned but overbearing mother. With its fair share of “ay dios mio” and “oy vey” moments, Sleeping With the Fishes comes to life with colorful characters and one-liners that can only be found in a Latino Jewish home in Brooklyn.

UNSOUND – 2013, Darious J. Britt, USA, 93 min. – World Premiere!

With To-ree-nee Wolf, Darious J. Britt, RD Mower. An ambitious, young filmmaker is in the middle of creating his ultimate career-launching Volkswagen documentary when he receives the call he’s been dreading: his mother has succumbed to yet another episode of psychosis. Now, he must resort to extreme measures to save her from herself and reclaim his life. Shining a light on the struggles of dealing with a family member with mental illness, Unsound is an introspective and heartbreaking debut from writer/director/actor Darious Britt.


Fiction and truth are often closer than most people care to admit. These selections of films skirt the line of both those realities with films that show the ties that connect us all on a greater level. Selections include Kevin Walker’s Yin & Yang, about a young man’s attraction to both his girlfriend and his best guy friend as told through spoken word, Stefani Saintonge’s Seventh Grade which focuses on a young girl’s jarring transition from playing with dolls into bawdy adolescence, and actor/director Ghenga Akinnagbe’s flip on NYC’s systemic police policies against Black & Latino men entitled Stop+Frisk. 

The full lineup is as follows:

Cakes Da Killa: No Homo (dir. Jatovia Gary)
Seventh Grade (dir. Stefani Saintonge)
Stop+Frisk (dir. Ghenga Akinnagbe)
Ying and Yang (dir. Kevin D. Walker)
Touch (dir. Shola Amoo)
Fleecing Led Zeppelin (dir. Gabriel Tolliver)
Deluge (dir. Nijla Baseema Mu’min) 

Open City Mixtape: Kids (dir. A.V. Rockwell)

-Q&A w/ Directors/ Filmmakers


With Joe Morton, Steve James, Bill Cobbs, Daryl Edwards, Tom Wright, Maggie Renzi, DeeDee Bridgewater, Herbert Newsome, David Straithairn. In this underrated dramatic comedy from modern auteur John Sayles, in which star Joe Morton had his breakout film role, an alien and escaped slave who, while fleeing “Another Planet”, has crash-landed in Upper New York Harbor. Resembling an African-American man, save his big hairy feet and psionic powers, the mute” Brother” struggles to adapt to his new surroundings while staying out of sight from the two white ‘Men in Black’ hunting him, and gets by thanks to the his sweet nature and the Harlem community coming to his aid. An allegory about the immigrant experience and assimilation, The Brother From Another Planet celebrates its 30th anniversary this year and has been selected as New Voices in Black Cinema’s newest New Black Classic – an older Black film that needs to be seen by all. 

-Q&A w/ John Sayles


For more information regarding participation as a SPONSOR, ADVERTISER, or PARTNER, contact Tiasia O’Brien at

To volunteer and for more information on the festival go to our website or contact Martin M. at