Best of Kansas City Urban Film Festival taps grit, wit and romance

The Best of the Kansas City Urban Film Festival will be at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 25, at the Screenland Crown Center, 2450 Grand Blvd. Tickets are $8. A free mixer begins at 6:30 p.m. in the theater’s lobby bar. You can get tickets at

The festival’s line-up of five short films by maverick metropolitan moviemakers was picked by festival organizer and Fox 4 News (WDAF-TV) film critic Shawn Edwards, who will host a Q&A with the filmmakers immediately following the screening.

“This is a good opportunity to see a nice mix of urban films, some of which are produced by people right here in Kansas City” Edwards said of the showcase sponsored by CinemaKC, a not-for-profit organization connecting groups devoted to film in Missouri and Kansas.

“The number-one criterion was to select movies that had an impact on the audience when they were initially screened,” Edwards said. “They were either movies that caught the audience off guard or the ones that created the most spirited debate afterward during the Q&A sessions. They presented something a little different, something that people hadn’t seen before.”

What makes an urban film urban?

“It’s not necessarily a racial definition,” Edwards said. “It’s generally more cosmopolitan with a city feel. These are filmmakers who don’t have large budgets. They sort of scrap it together, stick to it and make it happen. That’s the spirit of the festival.”

The “best of” lineup:

“Hell Week” (21 minutes, 2011): Kansas City filmmaker and University of Kansas grad Patrick Rea reveals a frightful collision between fraternity hazing and sorority revenge.

“It’s great, edgy filmmaking,” Edwards said. “It was shot here in Kansas City, and features African American actor Tasha Smith who will be participating in the Q&A.”

“Always with You” (10 minutes, 2010): Los Angeles director Troy Warwell goes beyond apology and disgrace in examining a neglectful father whose wife blames him for the accidental death of the couple’s 4-year-old son.

“It’s a beautifully shot, emotionally powerful short film,” Edwards said. “This is a guy (Warwell) you need to keep your eye on. I will make a prediction: This guy will be shooting feature films in the next two to three years. He’s a brilliant talent. There’s more emotion in this 10-minute film than there is in some full-length features.”

“Bad Dream” (36 minutes, 2010): Kansas City director Jason Piggie shows the struggle of a low-level criminal trying to avoid getting bumped off while getting right with his family.

“Jason told me it took him more than three years to get this thing done,” Edwards said. “It’s got a strong narrative. He knows how to get stories across.”

“The Movies We Love: The 10 Most Romantic Black Movies (Ever)” (21 minutes, 2010): Written and co-produced by Edwards, helmed by Kansas City director Matthew Hensley and featuring commentary from such Hollywood stars as Jamie Fox and Queen Latifah, this documentary is a reedited version of “The Movies We Love: The 25 Most Romantic Black Movies (Ever).”

“A movie that’s on the list that totally fits the category is “The Color Purple,” which is directed by Steven Spielberg,” Edwards said. “But the story obviously deals with the black experience in America.”

“May This Be Love” (5 minutes, 2009): Kansas City director Diallo Javonne French gives no dialogue to his two lead characters as they coalesce to poetic narration and a cool jazz soundtrack in this inventive black-and-white film.

“This movie is real avant-garde,” Edwards said. “It was shot on 18th and Vine and the actors are all local. It got a big boost because it was part of the BET program, ‘Lens on Talent,” and got a chance to be shown on national television.”

CinemaKC’s Strategic Partners include ArtsKC, Film Commission of Greater Kansas City, Blackberry Castle Productions, Film Society of Greater Kansas City, Independent Filmmaker’s Coalition, Kansas City Film Critics Circle, Kansas City FilmFest, Kansas City Filmmakers Jubilee, Kansas City Fringe Festival, Kansas City Screenwriters, Kansas City Urban Film Festival, Kansas City Women in Film and TV, Kansas Film Commission, Kansas International Film Festival, Missouri Film Commission, Missouri Motion Media Association, Reel Spirit, Thank You Walt Disney, UMKC Film Department, University of Kansas Film and Media Studies, Variety the Children’s Charity of Greater Kansas City and Women of the Motion Picture Industry.

CinemaKC’s Business Alliance includes Allied Integrated Marketing, Allied Theatre Craft, American Heartland Theatre, Haywood Marketing Communications, Kansas City Area Development Council, KC Stage Magazine, KC Studio, Prizm Productions, Screenland Armour, Screenland Crossroads, Screenland Crown Center, StagePort KC, Substream Music & Sound Design and T2.

Leave a Comment