Category Archives: Film

Reel Recap: Harlem International Film Festival

The Harlem International Film Festival countdown has come to a close. The festival took place September 14th – 18th at Mist Harlem showcasing 99 films in four days! The films and shorts presented this year were so diverse and inspiring. Reel Reality had the privilege of working at the festival taking pictures and recording a few interviews with great directors. Check out some pictures from HIFF below:


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The Black Women Behind NASA’s First Space Shuttle Launch!

Article by Meah Denee via ReelReality

Finally stories about people of color are becoming more of a conversation for Hollywood production companies. Doors are slowly starting to open for non slave narratives to be represented on big screens by big name production companies.

Hidden Figures tells the story of a group of African American women who changed history by calculating the trajectory for the first American astronaut to orbit the earth.  This was no easy accomplishment or job for women of color in the 1960s when African Americans were battling for equal rights in every part of their lives. Nonetheless these women used their minds and talents to help change history forever, and now we get to see their journey on the big screen.

Taraji P. Henson plays Katherine Johnson alongside Octavia Spencer (Dorothy Vaughan) and Janelle Monae (Mary Jackson) who were a group of African American mathematicians who became the brains behind NASA’s biggest mission. In a time before electronic computers these women become the “computers” for NASA helping to launch monumental space shuttle missions including the success of Apollo 13 landing on the moon.

The movie trailer premiered Sunday night during the Rio Olympics and began with a prodigy child, Katherine Johnson, who was fascinated with numbers. The trailer goes on to show the struggles these women faced not only being black women but also being educated and how it effected their love life and families.

One scene with Henson, her daughter says, “You’ve been gone 300 hours.”

Henson responds back, “Was momma gone for twelve and a half days.”

Her daughter nods her head no saying, “No but it felt like it.”

Even though the sacrifices were grand the accomplishments that were made were even bigger. Last year Katherine Johnson received the nation’s highest civilian award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, given to her by President Barack Obama.

Hidden Figures hits theaters January 13, 2017. Catch the trailer below.

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“Hands Of Stone” Trailer With Usher Raymond as Sugar Ray Leonard

Article by Meah Denee via ReelReality

Usher Raymond makes an acting comeback to play Sugar Ray Leonard in the film Hands of Stone. The film is about the legendary boxing match between Panamanian boxer Roberto Duran (Edgar Ramirez) and the undefeated lightweight champion Sugar Ray Leonard.


Written and directed by Venezuelan Jonathan Jakubowicz the film is set in the 1980s and tells the story of Duran’s famous re-match against Leonard. Hands Of Stone also stars Robert DeNiro as legendary boxing coach Ray Archel who came out of retirement, at age 72, to coach Duran. Known for his powerfully strong hands Duran won world championships in four weight divisions and was nicknamed “Manos de Piedra” (Hands of Stone). Over his career span he won over 100 matches and became one of the few boxers to have a five decade long career continuing to win matches until he retired in 2002, at 49 years of age.

Hands Of Stone hits theaters on August 26. Check out the trailer below!

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Want to know more about Duran and Leonard’s legendary fight check out this BleacherReport article.

Director’s Cut: Zoe Saldana as Nina Review

The very black and unapologetic superstar known, as Nina Simone has not always been given her fair end of the stick. Breaking out as a star in the 1960s, 70s and beyond is no easy feat especially for a black woman that refuses to mold into society’s standard of beauty. Even with all the broken glass ceilings many do not know her life and the amazing success and fame she built for herself.

I had the pleasure of attending a screening of the movie Nina at the School of Visual Arts hosted by African American Women In Cinema (AAWIC). Many acknowledge the movie from the controversy over Zoe Saldana performing in “black face” as Nina Simone. Personally I was quite skeptical about why they decided to color Saldana to make her look more like Simone but that is exactly why I could not miss an opportunity to witness either greatness or mediocrity.

singing saldana

The opening scene set in North Carolina during the 1940s set the tone for the strength of the movie. A young Simone with two braids pulled back into pigtails and a schoolgirl dress walked on stage towards a grand piano in an auditorium full of white faces. You see her finely dressed parents standing to the back of the auditorium by the door. Simone sits down ready to perform and slowly pauses, sitting still for a while an older white woman approaches Simone. She thoughtfully but boldly tells the white woman she will not perform unless her parents can sit in the front row. The woman tells her they cannot, as if her request was forbidden, and Simone simply repeats herself refusing to play until they are seated. The woman reluctantly walks away waiving Simone’s parents over towards the empty seats on the side of the room. Of course a couple of white people felt disrespected and left while the majority stayed to hear the prodigy pianist, Nina Simone. Her strength as a young child was just a little piece of the tenacity and power shown throughout the film and her life.


Surprisingly the film only depicted the last ten years of Simone’s life, showing her struggle with alcoholism, mental illness, and her fight to get back to singing and her home country, America. The film was pleasantly surprising showing aspects of Simone’s life that many have not seen. The relationship she had with her young assistant, Clifton, who eventually became her manager and helped Simone stopped drinking, rebuilding her reputation and career. The film also showed Simone’s internal issues with men, love, family, mental illness, and touched on the anger she had towards a country she believed failed her and its people.

“Being an outspoken black women I feared for my life. It’s only natural I want acceptance from my own country, but I was tired of needing it,” stated Simone on why she left America.

The film had many layers I did not expect to see which was refreshing. I can definitely say that Zoe Saldana’s depiction of Simone was beautiful. She totally gave her all for this role, embodying Simone and tried to honor her the best way Saldana could. Something that surprised me the most was finding out that Saldana sang all the music in the movie and she sounded great! Unfortunately, with all good must come a little bad. Now the time has come to talk about the critics concerns, the makeup!


While watching the film I really had to put aside all the negativity I heard beforehand about Saldana’s “black face” and really focus on the story itself. Now being truthful the make up was distracting in some scenes where she was darker than previous shots. Other times I was not sure about her age or what decade the scene was in because there were flashbacks in the film, but no significant change in her appearance. Although the make up was distracting at times it did not take from Saldana’s amazing performance. One thing that was greatly missing for me was more of Simone’s backstory. For many millennials they may not know Simone’s legacy and grandeur and that was not shown well in my opinion as to why and how she became the NINA SIMONE! Honestly, that may have been too much of a backstory to put in this movie considering the fullness of her life.

nina pic

Regardless of the backlash about this film it should definitely be seen. Nina embodies the boldness and strength of Simone along with the roller coaster of emotions she dealt with while being a successful black female star in a white world. Lastly, Nina made me thankful for Simone’s greatness and inspired me to want to be more like Simone and learn more about her life and share it with those around me. NINA is definitely Reel Approved! To actually watch the movie visit the Urban Movie Channel.

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Director’s Cut: Will Smith’s Newest Movie Concussion

Counting all the men you know that played football, either recreationally or professionally at some point in their life, it would not be a fun task. Well after watching “Concussion” I did exactly that, sat down, and started to think about those men and young boys. The fact that playing football as a child may cause mental health issues later in life is a chilling thought. Even though it is not too surprising considering the physicality of football. The results of Dr. Bennet Omalu’s research are very disturbing and the exact reason the National Football League had a frenzy when they heard about his findings over ten years ago.


Concussion starring Will Smith dissects how professional football players are affected mentally, physically, and emotionally by hard hits and an excessive amount of games. The movie beautifully shows the tragic stories of Pittsburg Steelers hall of famer Mike Webster, Andre Waters, Dave Duerson and others, and how pathologist Bennet Omalu discovered that these athletes had the crippling disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

I had the privilege of attending a prescreening of the movie (thank you Blogxilla and Global Grind) and for me the experience of seeing how these athletes’ entire lives was centered around football to only have the center of their world be the cause of their demise was heart breaking. The movie so gracefully shows the dirty truths of CTE and how the disease not only kills these athletes mentally, spiritually and emotionally, but also affects their families and friends. Concussion had clever and strategically placed humor, which made the movie feel less somber. Ultimately, it was the drive for survival through Omalu and the players that made the biggest impact for me. Not only was Omalu fighting for his career he was fighting for the players and the voice they lost from CTE. It is interesting to see how football caused all these men including the coaches, players and Omalu to fight for something bigger than themselves. Unfortunately, that same drive caused some athletes their lives, but their need to succeed and support their families was powerful. Concussion is definitely one of the most groundbreaking and impactful sports movies to date. I strongly encourage you to see the movie Concussion hits theaters on Christmas Day!

‘The Throwaways’ Documentary Screens at City College


Last night, I had the pleasure of attending City College of New York for a movie screening of the documentary The Throwaways. Filmed in Albany, NY the movie is beautifully put together showing a different point of view when it comes to police brutality. Told from the perspective of Ira Mckinley, one of the directors and producers, he is a clear representation of how police brutality has become a generational problem. At age 14, Mckinley’s father was killed by a police officer and later Mckinley would grow up and become incarcerated himself before he transitioned to being an activist.

The documentary spoke most to me because of the layers it presented, not only was this film narrated by Ira and told his story, but it also touched on so many factors that effect the black community. It presented the cycles of oppression and trying to make a life for yourself after being incarcerated. The film touched on felons rights, or lack there of, also activism in the community and how speaking up makes you a hometown hero but a threat to politicians and government. It spoke about drug addiction and how that becomes a vicious, depressing cycle of helplessness. Most importantly it spoke on the term “throwaways,” a group of people that are different enough to be viewed as insignificant and dispensable.

The Throwaways is an insightful depiction of one mans transition from prison to social activism, and how a willingness to stand for truth is the only path towards justice for all humanity. The film continues its screening tour this week and will be viewed Friday, October 23rd in Los Angeles, California at the Justice On Trial Film Festival. Learn more about the film and its upcoming screenings on The Throwaways site!

DIRECTORS CUT: Spike Lee’s “Da Sweet Blood of Jesus”


The thought provoking and controversial director, Spike Lee, has done it again with his newest movie Da Sweet Blood of Jesus! This thriller centers around Dr. Hess Green (Stephen Tyrone Williams) who becomes cursed by an ancient African artifact that he finds through an art curator Lafayette Hightower (Elvis Nolasco). This cursed artifact makes Hess obsessed with blood.  No, Hess does not become a vampire, and he does not have super powers or have eternal life! In fact, the movie becomes a twisted love story once Lafayette’s wife, Ganja Hightower (Zaraah Abrahams), comes looking for him but becomes involved in a dangerous romance with Hess.

Last week I had the privilege of attending Spike Lee’s event, In Conversation: Brooklyn Renaissance at the Brooklyn Museum. This was my first time hearing Spike Lee speak in person and I really enjoyed the conversation that was had with painter Kehinde Wiley and graphic illustrator Tatyana Fazlalizadeh.

The conversation touched on a lot of different topics about art, film, women’s rights, racial discrimination, and travel but what I loved most about the conversation was when Spike Lee was asked what made him want to have this event and Lee’s answer was “I like working with artists.” So simple but so profound, that it takes a village of great minds and creativity to create profound work.

Wiley and Fazlalizadeh’s work is presented throughout Lee’s movie Da Sweet Blood of Jesus. To see more of Kehinde Wiley work you can catch shows like Empire every Wednesday night at 9pm on FOX or visit the Brooklyn Museum to see his exhibit “A New Republic.” For more of Tatyana Fazlalizadeh work you can walk the streets of New York City and see several of her posters from her street art project called “Stop Telling Women To Smile.”  Check out both of these artists work they are both making such a profound change in America’s perceptions of women and race.

Make sure you check out Spike Lee’s newest movie Da Sweet Blood Of Jesus in theaters now!

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#spikelee #DaSweetBloodOfJesus #40Acres #tatyanafazlalizadeh #stwts #kehindewiley #brooklynmuseum #ANewRepublic

Will Smith Newest Drama “Focus”

Will Smith turns into a cunning con artist for his newest movie Focus! Alongside Smith stars The Wolf of Wall Street actress Margot Robbie, read the synopsis below and check out the trailer above!

Nicky Spurgeon is a seasoned con-man who becomes romantically involved with a young attractive woman; however, while introducing her to the tricks of his con man trade, she gets too close for comfort and he abruptly breaks it off. Three years later, the former flame—now an accomplished femme fatale—shows up in Buenos Aires, as the opposing side of the same scam: a billionaire international race car owner. In the midst of Nicky’s latest, most dangerous scheme, she throws his plans for a loop…and consummate the con man off his game.

Focus hits theaters February 27, 2015!

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N.W.A Biopic “Straight Outta Compton”

Months ago images surfaced of the cast for the new N.W.A biopic, Straight Outta Compton! The classic rap group, Niggas With Attitude, are bringing their journey of rap stardom to the big screen. Directed by F. Gary Gary, the same director as FridaySet it Off, and The Italian Job this biopic goes back to the mid 1980s to the streets of Compton, California and the home of N.W.A’s greatest hits.

Straight Outta Compton tells the amazing story of how these young men started a movement and revolutionized music and pop culture forever! Their honest lyrics about the hardships they faced growing up in the hood ignited a cultural war, bringing light to the dark side of their reality.

With a clone successful cast, Ice Cube will be played by his son, O’Shea Jackson Jr, while Dr. Dre is played by actor Marcus Callender, and Eazy-E will be portrayed by Jason Mitchell. Along with executive producer Will Parker this film looks to be a summer hit!

If your excitement could not be any higher we have a preview of the Straight Outta Compton trailer! According to Spin, Ice Cube released an early trailer to of movie to fans at his show in Syndey a few months ago. Check out the video and let us know at Reel Reality if you are excited for the Straight Outta Compton movie, set to release on August 15, 2015.

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Enough is Enough: Selma Trailer

The life work of Dr. Martin Luther King has been transformed once again into a movie. Many may question what is so different about this biopic on Reverend King?

This film, Selma, follows Reverend King’s journey and march to Selma, Alabama that leads to establishing the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Director, Ava Duvernay (Middle of Nowhere), and screenwriter Paul Webb focused on the three most pivotal months of Reverend King’s campaign to achieve voting rights for African Americans.

Selma includes a long list of well known actors like David Oyelowo who plays Dr. Martin Luther King and co-stars Oprah Winfrey, Cuba Gooding Jr., Giovanni Ribisi, Common, Lorraine Toussaint, and Tim Roth.

Selma hits select theaters Christmas Day and nationwide January 9th.