The Breakout Film at Sundance About Trans Sex Workers Was Shot on an iPhone

The Breakout Film at Sundance About Trans Sex Workers Was Shot on an iPhone

“Tangerine” is the movie that everyone’s talking about at this year’s Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. Some of it has to do with its storyline: It’s a narrative film that looks at the decidedly unglamorous life of transgender sex workers in Hollywood. But much of the intrigue surrounding the film also has to do with the recent revelation that writer and director Sean Baker shot it entirely on an iPhone5S. “It was surprisingly easy,” Baker told reporters. “We never lost any footage.”

Here’s more from The Verge:

At first, the cast wasn’t convinced shooting with the iPhone would work. “I had some hesitancy about it, more out of pride,” says James Ransone, who plays Chester, the pimp at the center of Tangerine’s love triangle. “I’m like, Jesus Christ, man, I was on The Wire. I’ve ended up in iPhone movies!” But Ransone came to appreciate the flexibility of the device. “There’s a lot that can be done with an iPhone.”

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Embattled NFL Player Josh Gordon Tells Critics They Can’t Take His Pride

Embattled NFL Player Josh Gordon Tells Critics They Can't Take His Pride

Here’s what you need to know about the Cleveland Browns’ Josh Gordon: He’s one of the most talented wide receivers in football, but he has dealt with multiple suspensions in recent years for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. It wasn’t clear exactly how he’d failed the tests, but he’s been a constant topic on sports TV where media have cast him as a classic case of a tragically flawed black athlete. So he responded to critics in a beautifully written open letter published on Medium to commentators Charles Barkley, Stephen A. Smith and Cris Carter:

I failed myself when started using marijuana regularly as a young teenager. I failed myself when I ruined a once-in-a-lifetime chance to be Robert Griffin III’s running mate during his Heisman Trophy-winning season at Baylor. I failed myself when I didn’t check with the league office to ensure that my doctor-prescribed, codeine-based medicine was allowed under NFL guidelines. I failed myself when I was arrested for driving a motor vehicle with a blood-alcohol level over the legal limit. I failed myself when I missed a team walkthrough late in the season and was suspended for the final game of the year.

But you know what, Charles, Stephen A., Cris and everyone else? I also have succeeded.

I succeeded by escaping a youth riddled with poverty, gang violence and very little in the way of guidance or support. I succeeded by narrowly avoiding a life of crime that managed to sink its clutches into almost all of my childhood friends. I succeeded by working tremendously hard on my craft and my body to even have a chance to play professional football for a living. And, contrary to popular belief, I succeeded by overcoming my longstanding relationship with weed — because I knew I was risking my future over it.

This is probably the first time when a player of his magnitude has written a response like this in the middle of high-profile drama. It’s also important because of the way he, like many allegedly troubled black athletes, have been caricatured in the media for their use of banned substances. Read the letter in full


Oakland, Stand Up! Love to Marshawn Lynch

Oakland, Stand Up! Love to Marshawn Lynch

I’m OD’ing on Marshawn Lynch right now. Blame it on the Bay in me. But in the runup to this weekend’s Super Bowl, he’s put his blackness — and, by extension’s, Oakland’s — on full display. He sees right through the NFL’s media spectacle, and he’s making it his own. It’s a strategy that’s helped him win over plenty of NFL fans like myself, who are fed up with the league’s hypocrisy.

As Andrew Sharp pointed out at Grantland, “None of this is proof that Lynch is some kind of saint, but he’s never pretended he is. That alone makes him more honest than dozens of professional athletes… What we know about Marshawn Lynch already makes him more three-dimensional than almost anyone else we’ll hear from over the next few days.” Here’s a collection of my favorite moments:

“Shout out to my real Africans out there!”



“I’m just here so I won’t get fined.”


The next day: “You know why I’m here.”


Today: “I care about my family, not you.”


Stay true to your roots, Mr. Lynch.

Black Viewers Pushing ‘Empire’ to Historic Highs

Black Viewers Pushing 'Empire' to Historic Highs

“Empire,” Fox’s hugely successful hip-hop-flavored soap opera, had its biggest audience yet last night. It marks the fourth straight week of ratings growth. 

Here’s more from Vulture:

According to preliminary same-day Nielsen data, Empire ruled over 11.3 million viewers, up from last week’s overnight audience of 10.9 million and about 15 percent higher than the show’s January 7 premiere tune-in. Among adults under 50, the show’s growth spurt does appear to have ended, withEmpire notching 4.3 rating (the same number it did in last week’s preliminary ratings; it ticked up to a 4.4 in final same-day numbers). Fox projects that once DVR replays are tallied, last night’s episode will end up at a 6.1 demo rating, putting Empire on track to finish its freshman season in March as broadcast TV’s No. 1 drama. 

Josef Adalian wrote more about how African-Americans are pushing it to historic highs. “Nielsen reports that last week’s episode was seen in a jaw-dropping 33 percent of all black homes — or five times as many as the No. 2 scripted broadcast show last week, NCIS: Los Angeles.”

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TAGS: Empire hip-hop TV

Watch Kanye West Serenade His Daughter in New Video

Kanye West premiered his music video for the song “Only One” on “The Ellen DeGeneres* show on Wednesday. It features beautiful scenes with the rapper’s toddler daughter, North. Take a look. 

(h/t Rolling Stone)

*Post has been updated to correct the spelling of Ellen DeGeneres’ name. 

WNBA Stars Brittney Griner, Glory Johnson Appear on ‘Say Yes to the Dress’

WNBA stars Brittney Griner and Glory Johnson are engaged, and you can now see some of their journey to the aisle on TLC’s “Say Yes to the Dress.” 

You can catch the episode this Friday, January 30 at 10 p.m. ET.

(h/t ElixHer)

J. Cole Turns Childhood Home into Free Housing for Single Moms

J. Cole Turns Childhood Home into Free Housing for Single Moms

Rapper J. Cole already paid homage to his childhood home in Fayetteville, N.C., by naming his latest album, “2014 Forest Hills Drive,” after it. But the rapper’s family later lost the home to foreclosure. After earning fame and fortune as an artist, Cole eventually purchased the home, and during an interview this week he revealed that he plans to house single mothers rent-free in it.

“My goal is to have that be a haven for families,” he said during an interview with “The Combat Jack Show.” “Every two years, a new family will come in; they live rent-free.”

You can listen to J. Cole’s interview here:

Denver Residents Protest Police Killing of Queer Latina Teen

Denver Residents Protest Police Killing of Queer Latina Teen

Residents in Denver are protesting the police killing of 17-year-old Jessie Hernandez, who was killed Monday after a confrontation with police. BuzzFeed’s Adolfo Flores breaks down what happened:

Jessica “Jessie” Hernandez was killed Monday in a confrontation with police who were responding to a report of a suspicious vehicle. Two officers approached the car on foot after they determined it was reported stolen, the Denver Police Department said in a statement.

Authorities said Hernandez drove the car, which had four other teens inside it, into one of the officers and struck him on the leg. Both officers then fired and shot Hernandez multiple times, she was taken to a local hospital where she was pronounced dead.

Both officers who were involved with the shooting have been placed on administrative leave, which is standard procedure of offers involved in fatal altercations.


Watch video of a recent vigil for Hernandez below:

Jordan Davis’ Parents Talk About Film ‘3 1/2 Minutes’ at Sundance

Director Mark Silver’s new documentary “3 1/2 Minutes” is already causing a buzz at Sundance. The film looks at Michael Dunn’s shooting of black teenager Jordan Davis and everything that followed, including his parents’ search for justice in a criminal justice system that’s notoriously biased against black people in America.

In this segment from “Democracy Now,” Davis’ parents talk with Amy Goodman about their son’s case and the impact of the film. 

Chipotle Finally Adds Latino Authors to ‘Cultivated Thought’ Series

Chipotle Finally Adds Latino Authors to 'Cultivated Thought' Series

After lots of understandable uproar about the fact that Chipotle’s “Cultivated Thought” series didn’t include any Latino authors, the Mexican-themed restaurant has added a crop of new writers to the mix, including Julia Alvarez, the Dominican-American poet and novelist, and Brazilian novelist Paulo Coelho.

“Cultivated Thought” authors write short, two-minute stories that appear on the backs of Chipotle bags and cups. Other authors who are participating in the series are Chinese-American author Amy Tan and Indian-American comedian Aziz Ansari.

In addition to reading the work at Chipotle, people can also read the stories online. Here’s the full list of new additions:*

Julia Alvarez, Aziz Ansari, Augusten Burroughs, Paulo Coelho, Jeffrey Eugenides, Neil Gaiman, Walter Issacson, Barbara Kingsolver, Amy Tan and Carlos Ruiz Zafron 

 Authors who have previously participated in the series include Toni Morrison and Malcolm Gladwell. 
*Post has been altered since publication for style and brevity.

Ava DuVernay Celebrates News of New Hurricane Katrina Film

Pardon the excessive Ava DuVernay love around these parts, but news dropped on Monday that she’s set to write, produce and direct a new film based on Hurricaine Katrina. DuVernay is teaming up yet again with David Oyelowo, the actor who’s already starred in two of her production, “Middle of Nowhere” and “Selma,” and the two are working with Participant Media on the new project. 

August will mark the 10th anniversary that the devestating storm tore through gulf coast and the U.S. government neglected hundreds of thousands of black residents. Participant Media’s Jonathan King, who will serve as executive producer of the film, said that DuVernay is the ideal director to tackle such tragedy. 

“Hurricane Katrina is one of the most important social and environmental stories of our time,” said King. “Ava DuVernay has shown herself to be highly skilled at bringing intimacy and contemporary urgency to epic events. We have been looking for the right way to get back in business with Ava, and with David Oyelowo, and are proud to re-team with them on her original idea, which we believe will be a powerful film.”

DuVernay celebrated the news with a simple Instagram post:

New news! xo

A photo posted by Ava DuVernay (@directher) on

(h/t Variety)

Viola Davis, Jennifer Lopez to Play Grieving Mothers in New Action Flick

Viola Davis and Jennifer Lopez are teaming up for a new action film that’s being produced by Davis’ own JuVee Productions. The film is titled “Lila and Eve,” and Tambay A. Obensen has the details at Shadow and Act:

The story - described as “‘Thelma & Louise’ meets ‘Fight Club’” - follows 2 distraught mothers who team up to avenge the death of their children, after authorities are unable to find their murderers - a group of drug dealers. It’s a vigilante thriller that will show just how far any mother would go for her child. 

Yolonda Ross  and Aml Ameen are also in the cast, playing a member of a “Mothers of Lost Children” support group, which helps women who have lost children to violence, and Viola Davis’ son, respectively.

The film is making its debut at Sundance and filmmakers are looking for a theatrical distributor. 

In the video below, both actresses talk about the new project:


Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets Unveil NBA’s First Chinese New Year Uniforms

The Golden State Warriors have the NBA’s best record, and arguably the league’s best fans. The team, which is based in Oakland but is set to move across the bay to San Francisco by 2018, offered a symbol of respect to its large contingent of Chinese and Chinese-American fans on Monday by unveiling their first-ever Chinese New Year uniforms. Team forwards Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green showed off the new unis at a press conference in San Francisco alongside that city’s mayor, Ed Lee, and the team’s chief operating officer, Rick Welts.

The team will debut the new uniforms on the court on Friday, February 20 when they match up against the San Antonio Spurs at Oracle Arena to tip off Chinese New Year, which begins on February 19. The team will also wear them again  in February 24 at Washington, on March 2 at Brooklyn and March 4 versus the Milwaukee Bucks.

“We have been working with the NBA for two years now on our Chinese New Year uniforms to recognize the tremendous fan base that our Asian community represents,” said Warriors President and Chief Operating Officer Rick Welts. “Connecting with our Asian community is a priority for our organization and we are proud that we are going to be one of two teams in the NBA to debut a Chinese New Year-themed uniform as a way to thank our fans here in the Bay Area and abroad in China.”

The Houston Rockets also announced their Chinese New Year uniforms on Monday, making Golden State and Houston the first two NBA teams to debut such uniforms. The Rockets signed the league’s first Chinese superstar in Yao Ming, and also signed Chinese-American star guard Jeremy Lin in recent years.


(Photo credit: NBA PR) 

Watch Kenan Thompson in Hilarious Spoof of ‘Deflategate’ on SNL

It’s Super Bowl week in Arizona, but the biggest sports story heading into the big game has been the “Deflategate” controversy surrounding the New England Patriots. “Saturday Night Live” took aim at Patriots coach Bill Belicheck and quarterback Tom Brady in a hilarious skit last weekend. Take a look. 

Why It’s Important for White Audiences to See Black Films

Why It's Important for White Audiences to See Black Films

BuzzFeed reporter Kelley L. Carter is reporting from Sundance and made an important observation: “This year’s lineup offers a series of films that capture landmark black experiences and is serving them to a predominantly white audience.”

This year’s crop of Sundance Films include many notable selections that focus on the experiences of black folks. Those include Stanley Nelson’s new documentary “The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution” and a new documentary on Nina Simone called “What Happened, Miss Simone?” There’s also the film “3 ½ Minutes,” which looks at Jordan Davis’ murder in Florida. Carter writes that it’s important for predominately white audiences to see these stories:

I have no illusion that the Sundance Film Festival will become a beacon of blackness overnight. That’s simply not the intention of this mainstream festival — what it does best is highlight emerging filmmakers, some of whom have the potential to tell stories that spark sweeping social change. It’s a place that celebrates an art form with the ability to capture the totality of human experience and puts it before an audience that may very well never encounter strife of any sort.

So why not bring black stories to a white audience? 

Read more at BuzzFeed.



SAG Awards: Viola Davis, ‘Orange is the New Black’ Show Racial Diversity Matters

Racial diversity may be missing from this year’s Oscars, but it was on full display during the television portion of the Screen Actors Guild Awards. Viola Davis won the award for outstanding female actor in a drama for her lead role in “How to Get Away With Murder.” In her acceptance speech, Davis called out Hollywood’s lack of diversity:

“When I tell my daughter stories at night, inevitably, a few things happen,” Davis said while accepting the award. “Number one, I use my imagination. I always start with life, and then I build from there. And then the other thing that happens is she always says, ‘Mommy, can you put me in the story?’ And you know, it starts from the top up.”

“Thank you Shonda Rhimes, [producer] Betsy Beers and [creator] Peter Nowalk for thinking of a leading lady who looks like my ‘classic beauty,’” she said, referring to Stanley’s assertion that Davis was “less classically beautiful” than Halle Berry or Kerry Washington. “I’m so proud to be an actor and so happy to do what I do. And I’m so happy that people have accepted me in this role at this stage in my career.”

Watch her full speech here:

Backstage, Davis expounded on her point about racial diversity: “We want to see ourselves. We want to be inspired by that. I sometimes want the fantasy, but more often than not, I want reality. I want to feel less alone when I look at TV.”

But the big surprise of the night was Uzo Aduba’s win for outstanding female actor in a comedy in her role as Crazy Eyes in Netflix’s “Orange is the New Black.” The show also won the award for best comedy ensemble, ending a long streak of wins in that category by “Modern Family.”

In her speech, Aduba thanked Jengi Kohan “for writing a show like this and putting something like this on television. Not just for myself, but for our incredible team of actors to be seen in such a beautiful way.” She also revealed that the days he got the “Orange is the New Black” job was the day she had stopped acting. Watch the full speech below:

(Photo credit: Kevork Djansezian/ Getty Images)

That “incredible team of actors” includes Laverne Cox, who pretty much won the unofficial award for best on-stage entrance when she went up to present the award to Viola Davis with co-star Matt McGorry and did this:

lavernecox_012615.jpgOther big awards of then night went to “Birdman,” which won the award for outstanding cast in a motion picture and “Still Alice’s” Julianne Moore, who won the award for best actress in a movie.

Jay Z on NY Policing: ‘Every Single Human Being Matters’

Jay Z on NY Policing: 'Every Single Human Being Matters'

In a rare public statement on a political issue, Jay Z came out in support of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s plan to improve relations between police and civilians in the Big Apple. Cuomo made his comments on Wednesday, and in support of them, Jay Z said:

“The criminal justice reform package proposed by Governor Cuomo today is a huge step forward in restoring fairness, protection, sensitivity and accountability for all under our justice system,” Jay Z said in a statement, via Capitol Confidential.

“I commend Governor Cuomo for his bold leadership in taking this issue head on at this critical time. This package presents comprehensive steps to protect and improve relations amongst all citizens. We cannot be divided, as every single human being matters. Together, we can move forward as a community, with mutual respect for each other and continue to make this great state stronger than ever before.”

Interestingly, the rapper’s statement played off of the “black lives matter” refrain that’s become a ralling cry for protestors in the wake of the police killings of Eric Garner on Staten Island and Mike Brown in Ferguson. The fact that Jay Z — one of the most recognizable black cultural figures in the world whose discography is filled with tales of beating the law — stopped short of centering black poeple in a conversation on policing is important, given the history of the phrase. Here’s Alicia Garza, co-founder of Black Lives Matter, on why it’s important to put black folks at the forefront:

When we say Black Lives Matter, we are talking about the ways in which Black people are deprived of our basic human rights and dignity. It is an acknowledgement Black poverty and genocide is state violence.  It is an acknowledgment that 1 million Black people are locked in cages in this country-one half of all people in prisons or jails-is an act of state violence.  It is an acknowledgment that Black women continue to bear the burden of a relentless assault on our children and our families and that assault is an act of state violence… And the fact is that the lives of Black people—not ALL people—exist within these conditions is consequence of state violence.

Read more

As Rolling Stone points out, Jay Z, Russell Simmons and Common all met with Cuomo recently to ask him to reform the state’s criminal justice system. Jay Z also distributed “I Can’t Breathe” t-shirts in support of Garner’s case to NBA players late last year. 

Native Film Stars John Reddy and Jashaun St. John Named Breakout Sundance Stars

Native Film Stars John Reddy and Jashaun St. John Named Breakout Sundance Stars

The Sundance Film Festival is only in its second day, but already there’s a lot of buzz about “Songs My Brothers Taught Me,” a film directed by Chinese-American filmmaker Chloé Zhao about life between a brother and sister on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. The two stars of the film, John Reddy and Jashaun St. John, were named among 10 breakout stars at this year’s Sundance by The Wrap:

Reddy and St. John may be non-professional actors but Chloe Zhao’s feature debut isn’t a one-off for either of them. The duo play half-siblings who embark on separate paths when the unexpected death of his father complicates his plans to leave the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Like “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” this drama could surprise audiences who go in with an open mind regarding a community rarely seen on the big screen.

The film’s trailer hasn’t been released, but you can keep up with it on Facebook


Watch the Trailer for Stanley Nelson’s New Documentary on the Black Panthers

The Sundance Film Festival kicks off today and one of the many films to look for is Stanley Nelson’s documentary, “The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution.” Nelson’s look at the rise and fall of the party is particularly timely given the resurgence of black protest in America since officer Darren Wilson killed Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., last August.

The film will premiere at Sundance on Friday, January 23, and will be followed by encore screenings next week at the festival.

Tambay A. Obenson wrote at Shadow and Act:

The documentary will not only look at the rise and fall of the Party, but also its influence on how African Americans consider themselves today, especially in consideration of recent (and ongoing) collective action within communities nationwide, in response to multiple incidents of police brutality that led to fatalities. A key Panther practice was its monitoring of police officers, and challenges of police brutality.  

Here’s the film’s official synopsis:

Change was coming to America and the fault lines were no longer ignorable—cities were burning, Vietnam was exploding, and disputes raged over equality and civil rights. A new revolutionary culture was emerging and it sought to drastically transform the system. The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense would, for a short time, put itself at the vanguard of that change. ‘The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution’ is the first feature length documentary to showcase the Black Panther Party, its significance to the broader American culture, its cultural and political awakening for black people, and the painful lessons wrought when a movement derails. Master documentarian Stanley Nelson goes straight to the source, weaving a treasure of rare archival footage with the voices of the people who were there: police, FBI informants, journalists, white supporters and detractors, and Black Panthers who remained loyal to the party and those who left it. An essential history, ‘The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution,’ is a vibrant chronicle of this pivotal movement that birthed a new revolutionary culture in America.”

Take a look at the trailer below:


Laverne Cox, Big Freedia, Angel Haze Among This Year’s GLAAD Media Award Nominees

Laverne Cox, Big Freedia, Angel Haze Among This Year's GLAAD Media Award Nominees

The nominees for the 26th annual GLAAD Media Awards were announced on Wednesday and they’re filled with the people and stories that made 2014 such an important year for LGBT communities. ABC’s “How to Get Away With Murder” was nominated for Outstanding Drama Series, while “Modern Family,” “Orange is the New Black” and “Transparent” were among the nominees for Outstanding Comedy Series.

Big Freedia’s reality TV show on Logo, “Queen of Bounce,” was nominated for Outstanding Reality Series while “Laverne Cox Presents: The T Word” was among this year’s nominees for Outstanding Documentary.

Rapper Angel Haze earned a nomination for her debut LP “Dirty Gold,” and Time Magazine’s Katy Steinmetz’s cover article on Laverne Cox titled “The Transgender Tipping Point” was nominated for Outstanding Magazine Article.

The awards ceremonies will be held in Los Angeles on March 21 at the Beverly Hilton and in New York City on May 9 at the Waldorf Astoria New York.

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