The Urbanworld Film Festival kicked off its opening night, Sept. 17 in New York City, with a riveting feature set during the Black Panther movement in 1970s Philadelphia. Directed by Tanya Hamilton and starring Jamie Hector, Anthony Mackie, and Kerry Washington, Night Catches Us is one among 70 films to be featured throughout the weekend, presented by BET Networks, until Sept. 19.
BlackEnterprise.com talked with Washington, who has had breakout roles in films including Ray and The Last King of Scotland, about the festival, the best money advice she’s received, and her “breathtaking” experience in Tyler Perry’s For Colored Girls.
BlackEnterprise.com: What was your inspiration for your role in Night Catches Us?
Washington: I really just loved the script the first time I read it. I thought it was well-written and the characters seemed very vivid on the page. I like the fact that it builds on a focal period that a lot of people think of in caricature-like terms — they usually think about afros and fists in the air.
There can be an element of humanity missing in how people think of those from this period of history. These are people dealing with every day issues. They’re trying to make sense of their lives 10 years after the movement, and we’re all trying to make sense of our lives. In relationships with others, what does community mean? What does love mean? What does justice mean?
What is the importance of a film festival such as the Urbanworld’s?
Growing up in the Bronx, I see myself as a product of the urban community. Like any other community, the urban community deserves to–needs to–see itself on the screen and have a seat at the table when it comes to cultural discourse. Filmmaking is really how we express ourselves culturally, in terms of public consumption and mass media.
I think film is such an important way for cultural exchange. So we have to be able to tell films about ourselves that are honest and authentic, because it’s part of how we understand each other in the world.
You have a vast repertoire of acting experience, from biopic Ray to the Wayans’ comedy Little Man to David Mamet’s Race. What’s the difference between working on an indie film vs. a larger production?
The main difference is that, a lot of times, when you’re working on larger films, there are a lot of people whose opinions contribute to the product. Usually with an independent film, you’re all coming together to make one person’s vision come to life. I don’t like one over the other, I really enjoy both. It’s really important to go back and forth and do both.
You’re starring in Tyler Perry’s November release, For Colored Girls, which includes a stellar roster of African American talent. How was that experience?
It’s unlike anything I’ve ever worked on before. It was so exciting to be part of that cast. To be in a film with so many really smart, talented, committed, successful women of color, across generations, across mediums, was pretty breathtaking. You don’t get that opportunity very often.
Let’s switch gears a little bit. Here at BE, or mission is Wealth For Life. What’s the best money advice you’ve ever received?
Pay attention. Pay attention to where [your money] is, where it’s going, and where you want it to go. Sometimes we hold on to a myth that the point is to get to where you don’t have to pay attention. But at no point does that become the goal.
For more information on the Urbanworld Film Festival, visit www.urbanworld.org.