Friday, June 30, 2006

25: BET Pre-Hype Coverage

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SUPERFREAK ON SCREEN...That's right folks, a documentary of the late Rick James is currently in the works. The HiddenDoor Documedia ( production is entitled I'm Rick James, and James' daughter, Ty James, will be co-producer. The October release covers his entire life, from his birth in Buffalo, NY, to draft sidestepping in Toronto during the Vietnam War to a stint as a drug runner and a South American pimp to forming a band with Neil Young to going solo and becoming one of the world's most recognized and respected musicians and singers. This, we gotta see!

DRESSED TO IMPRESSED ....He's well known to those in the fashion know, but black British designer Ozwald Boateng ( is on a mission to become a household name in the U.S. Now the tailor to the likes of Will Smith, Jamie Foxx, and Mick Jagger, may get his wish. Boateng is currently starring in his own eight-part reality series on the Sundance Channel called "House of Boateng" (, which debuted June 22 and runs to August 10th. Who is this guy's agent, and how can we be down?!

NEW FESTIVAL BLOOMS...It may still be a year off, but executive director Maori Karmael Holmes of the first women's film festival in Philadelphia, Black Lily Film Festival (, already wants to get the word out. The inaugural festival will take place May 3-6, 2007 and is targeting "cosmopolitan, college-educated, members of the creative-class, ages 18-40, of diverse ethnicities and nationalities." Sponsors should dig in now.

...Tongues are wagging about the recent NY Daily News report that Tyra Banks' manager and her PR flack had a "discussion" that led to the PR pro taking the cat walk right out the door. We wish we could have been a fly on the wall to hear what the topic was. Maybe Tyra need Ms. J to ref!

REMEMBERING THE "KID"...The Canal Chapter gallery in Downtown New York is hosting a Harold Hunter Tribute Exhibit & Silent Auction ( June 30-July 21. The exhibit honors famed professional NYC skateboarder and star of the controversy Kids film, who died in February at the age of 32 of a drug overdose in his Manhattan apartment. Proceeds from the exhibit/auction, which features works by Larry Clark, Ari Marcopoulous, Ricky Powell, and Johnathan Manion, among others, will go to the Harold Hunter Foundation, whose purpose is to send city youth to Woodward Skate Camp, organize skateboarding contests, and educating youth about skateboarding. Fellow Kids star Rosario Dawson will also take part in the exhibit.

GOODING GAB FEST... The Film Life & HBO American Black Film Festival has announced that Oscar-winning actor Cuba Gooding, Jr. will be the subject of the festival's "A Conversation With…," sponsored by Time Warner and Entertainment Weekly, to take place during the festival's 10th-year anniversary, July 19-July 23. Keep checking for exact date.



It was announced ea
rlier this week that NBC has entered into a strategic partnership with YouTube. Under the deal, NBC will create an official NBC Channel on YouTube that will preview forthcoming NBC shows and show exclusive video clips promoting shows. According to YouTube, its visitors watch 70 million video clips and upload 60,000 new video clips daily. NBC will also upload video presentations and "long-form promos" each week to the NBC Channel on YouTube from primetime and late-night programs, including "Saturday Night Live," "The Office" and "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno." Further, the pact is part of an integrated, cross-promotional advertising relationship on the YouTube service and on-air promotion provided by NBC.


Our iCal almost shorted out as we kept adding event after event leading up to the BET Awards Show in L.A. Things kicked off Friday, June 23rd, and didn't let up straight through June 26, leaving us venue hopping and valet tipping. The A-List tried to get to as many happenings as possible...being locked out at some, despite guest list confirmation. Yes. We're going to call you out and mention names.

Let's get started.

First on our iCal was "Live at the Friars of Beverly Hills" honoring Gail Mitchell (left), senior editor of R&B/hip hop of Billboard Magazine. It was a celebrity packed affair honoring the journalist giant whose flick of a pen many owe in large part their career in Black Music. Hosted by actor Malcolm Jamal Warner and Bruce Walker, it also featured performances by Eric Benet and Desiree Coleman-Jackson. Guests included Hidden Beach president Steve McKeever, singer/songwriter Leon Ware, former Motown president/CEO Jheryl Busby, manager Herb Trawick, Sony BMG's Yvette Noel-Schure and Tony Ferguson, Billboard West Coast bureau chief Melinda Newman, Grammy nominated producer Rex Rideout, singer and new Verve artist Ledisi, Urban Network's Miller London and Scott Galloway,'s Janine Coveney, SESAC's James Leach--and Mitchell told The A-List, "Even my mom made it, which made the event even more special!

Good thing we got a restful night's sleep because we needed to be physically fit for the next event. Sunday night found many people at the famed hip spot, the W Hotel in Westwood. Industry types clamored to get a look at the Russell Simmons event that lead to ghetto chaos when the goody bags began to be offered. Folks were grabbing the Simmons swag like they never got anything free, leaving one to speculate that the popularity of free Phat Farm sneakers should never be underestimated. It all left poor Simmons was running around in the midst of the hoopla looking a bit lost, according to observers. Maybe he just had lots on his mind--because just the night before his Def Comedy Jam took over L.A. with its first taping in the City of Angels in 10 years. This time, the shows took place at the Wilshire Theatre Show June 23-25th. Comedians Guy and Joe Torry, Tony Rock, DL Hughley, Mark Curry and Bill Bellamy had the studio audience roaring with laughter.

The it was off to a bit smoother event. Also on Sunday night was what organizers touted as the "first" Ringtone Release Party. Hosted by UrbanWorld Wireless, with T-Mobile as a sponsor. The event's purpose was to showcase the "Making of a Ringtone," where event-goers could see the creation of a new ringtone from beginning to end at a mobile state-of-the-art studio. Held at the Loft in Hollywood, Tyrese Gibson and actress Meagan Good as well as rap artists E-40, Obie Trice, and Remy Ma, who unveiled their new ringtones, were all in the house.

Monday afternoon saw a groundbreaking Podcast over at KKBT. Produced Empire Multimedia Entertainment, the "Re-inventing R & B" podcast was to be moderated by Gail Mitchell , but she was called into a last-minute editorial meeting, and it was to also feature artist Sy Smith; who instead had to head to a soundcheck for his set at the forthcoming ASCAP event. The wife of KKBT MD, Tawala, went into labor and Mad Linx went AWOL. But all was far from lost as Hannah Kang, GM of Grand Hustle; UK R&B producer Michael Kay; Leonard McGee, KKBT's head of marketing who filled in for Tawala; and head of Capitol Urban Promotions, Geo Bivins had a lively discussion about the death and rebirth of the R&B genre.

I swung from this multimedia chop up down to Rodeo Drive for an early evening of spaing.
Headed to a new hot spa called Jurlique--and it must be hot because after getting there at 6:22 (event started at 6pm) all the hand massages were already full (perhaps due to the fact that there were only 2 or 3 masseurs)--leaving many out in the cold, but at least sipping complementary pomegranate martinis. Chatted with a studio exec who swears by the line of Jurlique products, as does actress Kate Hudson and others. Jurlique just teamed with Luxe Hotel in Beverly Hills. The spa's not actually in the hotel, but down the street on Rodeo Drive. For the Jurlique press peek-a-boo we were given a goody bag will a small sample of a mask, a week's free pass to Yoga Works (cool!), and a card for a complimentary "discovery facial," which The A-List hopes to be discovering soon.

After unwinding at the spa, we headed to the ASCAP Rhythm and Soul Music Awards, with special honors going to music legend Bill Withers an
d hip hop king LL Cool J. Held poolside at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, the vibe was laidback but posh. In the house was everyone from Jimmy Jam to Missy Elliot. Powerbrokers and powerplayers were all also buzzing about who would get a BET Award. But getting back to the business at hand--giving much-deserved kudos to Withers and LL. The night went smoothly. LL's presentation lived up to the hype, but the hightlight everyone says of the evening was Withers, whose jokes made all feel at home. Sy Smith closed out the event, doing a great rendition of a WIthers classic.

We were ready to tackle the rest of the night, which was full of events surrounding the BET Awards. First we headed to one of the "official" celebrations.
The BET Atlantic Records Pre-Awards Celebration with T.I. at the House of Blues was a mad house, even before you got in the door--not that we got in! The clueless PR peons at the front were in a daze--it was as though they were in shock at seeing so many Black people in one place. You almost had to shake them to get them to respond, and they kept going around and around and around. Since when do three people all have the same list?! Frustrated after only finding one of the two tickets we needed, we left--only to be surrounded by a group a scalpers seeking to buy our lone ticket at a premium price. The stop wasn't a total bust!

On the other hand, whoever was manning--or womanning--the door at music video director Benny Boom's celebration of his BET nod at Cabana Club was mad cool. Again, our names were not on this list--even though confirmed--but she was a professional who magically whipped out two tickets and in we went. Cabana Club is nice and although there were no celebs or key industry people to speak of that this reporter could see, it was a pleasant atmosphere. The DJ was okay and the vibe was mellow vibe. Liked how they had Boom's videos projected onto a high wall and EA Sports lounge in the middle. If there weren't so many things happening the same night, this would have been huge!

After all of this, we grabbed a midnight supper and then fell into bed so to have enough energy for the big night! But believe it or not, we were so busy and fabulous that we forgot to submit our BET Awards press request before the deadline--so no green room gab, but we did make it to Urban Network's BET Afterparty. Held at Pearl, which is a surprisingly sweet venue, there were not as many industry heads as we would have liked. But the UN event was the perfect way to end a crazed few days. Just the right mix of Hollywood and kickback vibe to unwind and party at the same time.

We heard later that the LAPD requested that Cabana Club shut down any BET Awards-inspired events the night following the awards, which led to one happening to be canceled. Our iCal was relieved--and we're heading to the beach this weekend to recover from all this fabulosity!

Karen Lee, Cori Murray (Essence), music promoter Eric Talbert helping roast Billboard's Gail Mitchell @ the Friars Club.

Sticky Fingaz (the new "Blade"), Kim Whitley, screenwriter/author Sheri McGee, Gail Mitchell, and Pat Shipp (National Enquirer) on the look out for their goody bags at the Russell Simmons/Brett Ratner Pre-BET party.

Access Hollywood's Chinyere Hubbard and her husband, attorney Ed; Hollywood insider Robi Reed; publicists-to-the-stars, Wendy Washington and Donna Torrence celebrating the Awards festivities at the Crown Royal-hosted bash at Moods in Hollywood. Kenneth Crear, Charles King, Mona Scott, Big Jon Platt were honored during the night.



We caught the first ever convergence of the much pre-hyped Vibe Urbanworld Film Festival--a match made in NY. For those who don't know, the festival initially began as the Urbanworld Film Festival, the brainchild of former Motown executive and Miramax VP, Mr. Stacey Spikes, who pioneered it in 1997 at age 37 with $300 and a dream. This year, 70 original films, documentaries and shorts were screened for inclusion in the festival, which estimated audiences of 30,000. "African-American and Latino consumers...comprise a disproportionately large segment of film going audiences and Urbanworld's content reflects what is happening at the box office," notes Spikes. Indeed, Urbanworld was the first to premiere a string of box office hits including, Hustle & Flow, The Best Man, Soul Food, The Fighting Temptations, and How Stella Got Her Groove Back, and others.

But fast forward to the present; this year's five-day Urbanworld/VIBE Film festival concluded its 10th anniversary celebration on Sunday by boosting the careers of seven talented young urban filmmakers, awarding them more than $50,000 in cash and prizes, thanks to main sponsors HBO, Wal-Mart, Warner Bros. Ent., and Lionsgate. While there was some fun to be had, and interesting folks to network with, the evening was about the business of announcing the Festival's winners. And here they are. Winning directors: Best Narrative Feature--Wholetrain by Florian Gang; Best Narrative Short--Adios Para Simpre by David Barba; Best Documentary Feature-- American Blackout by Ian Inaba; Best Documentary Short--God Sleeps in Rwanda (image, left) by Kimberlee Acquaro/Stacy Sherman and Best Screenplay--T he Man Who's Never Been Kissed written by Joe Robert Cole. Best Music Video-- Churrp by Eric Shoe, which airs on award sponsor MTV2 network on July 2.

The Audience Award of $10,000 in film stock from Kodak went to Matt Ruskini and Scott Rosenberg for Word.Life: The Hip Hip Project . The Next Award went to actor Anthony Mackie (Half Nelson), as "one to watch." A special screening of Half Nelson was held on closing night, as were VH-1's Last Days of Left Eye (the story of Lisa Lopes of TLC), and Shaft, in honor of the late Gordon Parks, the film's director. --Pamela Toussaint


Concerning festivals and films, Africa is "emerging" out of its perpetual and mostly Western imposed, state of "emergence." This is due to rising documentary film production and distribution networks all fed by swelling urban audiences in West and Southern Africa's exploding cities, audiences hungry for new images, tales, and terms of "representation." And now, as complement and counterpoint to Nigeria's prolific "Nollywood," Kenya has entered the game to meet this demand. I've attended two, first time, African film festivals: The Golden Lion, International Film Festival in Southern Africa's Swaziland, and The Real Life Documentary Festival in West Africa's Ghana, in the past six months, that in their own ways mediate these developments. So to twist the cinematic cliché, I've been "in (and out of ) Africa" recently.

The Golden Lion…Festival (Oct 17-21 '05) in the nation-kingdom of Swaziland, was great, and especially since this was a first-time event coordinated mainly by one person, organizer and film critic James Hall. The festival's big accomplishment was its "international" scope, drawing entries from over 40 nations, and putting its capitol Mbebane on the festival map. But also one of the main screening venues, a traditional Swazi amphitheatre seating about 400, House on Fire was utterly fantastic, and gave the festival a specific southern Africa focus and zest.

Likewise the Real Life, Documentary Festival in Accra , Ghana, was a première event with six screening venues, production workshops, and well over 60 entries, with the material mostly focusing on Africa to African America(s). Kudos to co-organizers Awam Amkpa of NYU and Lydie Diakhate, a dedicated staff for pulling off a complex and enjoyable event. The festival was dedicated to the work of master documentarians Bill Greaves and Kwaw Ansah. Films like Rize from the U.S. and Emanuelle's Gift from Ghana were favorites with the audiences. Ones I liked were the totally outstanding Twelve Disciples of Nelson Mandela by Thomas Allen Harris; Uncut: Playing with Life by Nigeria's Sandra Obiago; The Price of Aid and The House of Saud by Egyptian Jihan El-Tahri.

Thomas Allen Harris's panoramic yet deep Twelve Disciples… makes the point that the personal is political, and vice versa, with a brilliant mix of compelling narrative voice over, historic footage, dramatization, old photos, and a gripping, autobiographical tale of resistance, exile, and freedom. Uncut: Playing with Life is impressive for its clinical, dramatic and shocking look at the issue of "female, genital, mutilation." Uncut… has a forensic clarity and sympathetic understanding of the problem that makes it a very valuable film on the issue. This is a film that actually provokes social consciousness and change. And Jihan El-Tahri's probing The Price of Aid, and The House of Saud have much to say about the politics of aid, underdevelopment, and dynastic oil. Other films I liked were Stephanie Black's Life & Debt; Niyi Coker 's Black Studies USA; and Selena Blake's Queensbridge: The Other Side.

As with all successful festivals, there were questions, issues, and debates in screenings, press conferences, symposia, and well into the evening back at the hotel restaurant and lounge. Holding forth on pressing issues in different venues were varied cinema luminaries and critics such as Carlos De Jesus, Niyi Kolker, Jihan El-Tahri, Manthia Diawara, Sandra Obiago, Thomas Allen Harris. In all, this premiere festival is yet another link in the production and circulation electronic, digital Africa to African America and beyond. --Ed Guerrero, Professor, Cinema Studies, Africana Studies, NYU


REVEALING THE VIEW: Barbara Walters says she felt "betrayed" by Star Jones-Reynolds' on-air resignation, even though Walters opted not to renew Reynolds' contract three months ago. Reynolds says she felt "fired." Was Reynolds right to open the curtain on "The View's" backdoor moves?

Tell us what you think at Responses remain anonymous.