While the Academy Awards – the supposed authority on all that is good and right in mostly Western film – are over yonder stubbornly remaining mostly White, male, straight and exclusive, it looks like the cinematic powerhouse that is the Sundance Film Festival is continuing its efforts to give filmmakers of all backgrounds a chance to showcase their work to a wide, influential audience.

In fact, to my knowledge, this may be the most diverse lineup of films that Sundance has ever had. Additionally, several of the most anticipated films being shown at the festival are made by and/or starring people of color.

Because I will cover many of these later on – the festival runs from January 21st through January 31st – let’s just briefly go through some of the films:

  • The Birth of A Nation – Directed by and starring Nate Parker (The Great Debaters, Beyond The Lights), The Birth Of A Nation is high on many people’s list of must-see films. Simply put, it’s the story of the (in)famous Nat Turner-led 1831 slave rebellion. Also starring are Gabrielle Union (Being Mary Jane), Aja Naomi King (How To Get Away With Murder) and Armie Hammer (The Social Network).


16612 birthofanation still3 nateparker  byelliotdavis SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL 2016 PREVIEW: Prominent Film Festival Gives The Obamas First Date, Nat Turner + More A Platform

The Birth Of A Nation production still


  • The Land – Erykah Badu‘s been busy lately. First she blessed us with a mixtape; now she’s starring in a film. Directed by Steve Caple, Jr., The Land is the story of four teenagers in Cleveland who have dreams of working towards becoming professional skateboarders, become involved in a drug operation. To add fuel to the star power, Nas produced the film and its soundtrack.
  • Michael Jackson’s Journey From Motown To ‘Off The Wall’ – It’s a Spike Lee joint! With this latest film on The King Of Pop, Lee dives back into documentary filmmaking and, if you remember Four Little Girls and When The Levee Broke, this can only be a good thing.


16684 southsidewithyou still7 tikasumpter parkersawyers  bypatscola e1453363405333 SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL 2016 PREVIEW: Prominent Film Festival Gives The Obamas First Date, Nat Turner + More A Platform

Tika Sumpter + Parker Sawyers in ‘Southside With You’. Photo credit: Pat Scola.


  • Southside With You – We all love the POTUS + FLOTUS. Individually, they are admirable, but together, they are an endlessly fascinating couple. Southside With You is the tale of the first date between these two. Tika Sumpter (BessieRide Along) and Parker Sawyers (Zero Dark Thirty) star and word on the street is that the film is as charming as you would imagine it would be.
  • Miles Ahead – Written, directed and starring Don CheadleMiles Ahead is the Miles Davis biopic Cheadle has been working on for quite some time.
  • Sleight – Promising young talent Jacob Latimore (Black NativityRide Along) returns to the big screen in a film about a young man who tragically loses his mother, assumes responsibility for his younger sister and is, for lack of a better term, just outchea tryna function…with street magic.


Other promising films starring and/or made by filmmakers of color include a quietly intense and visually appetizing feature called Pleasure.Love.Halal Love (And Sex)Morris From America and Sand Storm.


Daizhen Ying, Nanyu of 'Pleasure. Love.'

Daizhen Ying, Nanyu of ‘Pleasure. Love.’


With most of the aforementioned filmmakers and actors slated to appear here at Sundance, patrons are sure to receive a fresh variety and perspective on filmmaking. Whether these representations will carry past Sundance and into awards season, we can’t say, but cheers to Sundance for working to show that film is by and for absolutely everyone.



To talk more film and/or to follow my coverage of Sundance 2016, you can follow + tweet me on the Twitter RIGHT CHEA.

– Khylen Steward, CBS Local


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