Celebrating its 19th year, the Urbanworld Film Festival hits New York City tonight (September 23-27), to continue its esteemed tradition of presenting multicultural films from across the globe. Taking place at Manhattan’s AMC Empire in Times Square, Urbanworld features over 80 films—features, shorts, and documentaries.

“This year’s festival slate features a diverse collection of films representing culture from across the globe, allowing us to deliver Urbanworld’s most internationally curated content to date,” says festival director Gabrielle Glore. Presented by BET and founding sponsor HBO, 2015’s list of projects are written and directed by a combination of A-list talent and newcomers.

R&B superstar, actor, and this year’s Urbanworld ambassador Tyrese Gibson debuts a short film he wrote, Shame. Starring Tyrese and Jennifer Hudson, the project is produced by Denzel Washington and directed by Paul Hunter. “I’m honored to serve as the ambassador of the 2015 Urbanworld Film Festival and to premiere my short film Shame in such a creative and exciting environment,” says Tyrese. “I strive to create art across all mediums that supports and showcases our diverse landscape, and Urbanworld is the perfect partner as they actively and significantly do the same.”

Bringing history to its screenings, this year’s festival features numerous star-studded documentaries. Wednesday opens with BET’s dynamic Muhammad Ali: The People’s Champ, featuring everyone from Laila Ali and Mike Tyson to LL Cool J, Walt Frazier, and Jim Brown. On Thursday, hip-hop radio veterans Stretch Armstrong and Bobbito Garcia premiere Stretch and Bobbito: Radio That Changed Lives. The movie, documenting their rise and influence on hip-hop’s airwaves, is filled with a who’s who list of rap heavyweights like Jay Z, Eminem, Busta Rhymes, Common and The Roots.

Urbanworld’s closing night film is the much-buzzed about Nelson George-directed documentary A Ballerina’s Tale, about the life and triumphs of American Ballet Theatre principal dancer, Misty Copeland.

“With BET and HBO as our returning partners for the festival, we continue to highlight important stories that the world needs to see,” says Gabrielle Glore. “We are proud that Urbanworld continues to be the destination for both filmmakers, studios and networks to connect with multicultural audiences.”

Adding its yearly technology focused event Urbanworld Digital (September 24), a BET screenplay competition, and the soundtrack-focused spotlight Urbanworld Music, this year’s four-day festival concludes with an awards brunch honoring standout favorites.




Raqiyah Mays is an author, journalist, radio personality, and activist. Her debut fiction novel “The Man Curse” will be released by Simon & Schuster on November 16, 2015.