19-Year-Old Filmmaker Phillip Youmans Wins Top Honor at Tribeca Film Fest

By N. Jamiyla Chisholm May 03, 2019

On Tuesday (May 2), the Tribeca Film Festival announced the winners of this year’s outing, and the top honor went to 19-year-old Black director Phillip Youmans for his film “Burning Cane.” Youmans, who is from New Orleans’ seventh ward, started writing, directing, shooting and editing his own short films as a child and began production on “Burning Cane” while in high school, according to IMDB. ShadowAndAct reports that he is the youngest person and the first Black director to win this honor. 

“Burning Cane,” which stars Wendell Pierce (“Selma”) as a struggling preacher, explores the religious convictions of a Black community in the rural south. Pierce earned the Best Actor award for his performance. The project took home the Founders Award for Best U.S. Narrative Feature.

“The Founders Award goes to a voice that is searingly original. One of the jurors compared this filmmaker’s unique voice to a latter day Faulkner, Welty, Williams. We loved this filmmaker’s vision and we love this filmmaker’s inevitable brilliant future,” Festival leadership said in the announcement.

Of his film, Youmans told Indiewire, “I wanted to make sure that I didn’t demonize them or their beliefs, which came from a maturity I had to grow into before making the film.”

Watch the film’s trailer: