Films About Michael Brown, Roxanne Shanté Featured in 2017 Sundance Lineup

By Sameer Rao Dec 02, 2016

A documentary on Michael Brown joins a narrative feature about an unsung Black woman battle MC on the list of films screening at next year’s Sundance Film Festival.

The Sundance Institute announced the films screening in competition Wednesday (November 30). Spanning both domestic and international narrative drama and documentary categories, several of the films either focus on contemporary racial justice topics or highlight emerging creators and performers of color. "The films in this year’s Festival show the human sides of issues, people and places we don’t often see," said festival president John Cooper in a statement accompanying the announcement.

Here are a few of the movies screening in competition, with descriptions pulled from the Institute’s announcement:

  • "Whose Streets?" "A nonfiction account of the Ferguson uprising told by the people who lived it, this is an unflinching look at how the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown inspired a community to fight back—and sparked a global movement. Directed by Sabaah Folayan and co-directed by Damon Davis
  • "Burning Sands." "Deep into a fraternity’s Hell Week, a favored pledge is torn between honoring a code of silence or standing up against the intensifying violence of underground hazing." Directed by Gerard McMurray ("Fruitvale Station") and starring Trevor Jackson ("American Crime") and Alfre Woodard ("Luke Cage"). 
  • "Crown Heights." When Colin Warner is wrongfully convicted of murder, his best friend, Carl King, devotes his life to proving Colin’s innocence. Adapted from ‘This American Life,’ this is the incredible true story of their harrowing quest for justice." Directed by Matt Ruskin ("The Infiltrator") and starring Lakeith Stanfield ("Atlanta") and Natalie Paul ("Boardwalk Empire"). 
  • "Roxanne Roxanne." "The most feared battle MC in early-’80s NYC was a fierce teenager from the Queensbridge projects with the weight of the world on her shoulders. At age 14, hustling the streets to provide for her family, Roxanne Shanté was well on her way to becoming a hip-hop legend." Directed by Michael Larnell ("Cronies") and starring Chanté Adams ("Redwood Time") and Mahershala Ali ("Moonlight"). 
  • "Strong Island." "Examining the violent death of the filmmaker’s brother and the judicial system that allowed his killer to go free, this documentary interrogates murderous fear and racialized perception, and re-imagines the wreckage in catastrophe’s wake, challenging us to change." Directed by Yance Ford ("The Ballad of Esequiel Hernández").*

The Institute additionally announced non-competition films in their Next and New Frontier showcases, which emphasize use of new filmmaking technologies to tell stories.

Read the full list of competition and Next films here, and the New Frontier films here.

(H/t Variety

*Note: post has been updated with correct credit of Yance Ford’s previous work.