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The stars aligned in New York City as the 17th Annual Urbanworld Film Festival kicked off with the premiere of David E. Talbert’s “Baggage Claim.”  The film’s stars – Paula Patton, Derek, Luke, Jenifer Lewis, Jill Scott and Rickey Smiley – all graced the red carpet.

Jaws dropped as Jenifer Lewis debuted a fabulous auburn-hued afro.  When asked about her decision to go natural, Lewis said “I had been relaxing my hair for years, but when I cut my hair I felt so free.  Black women should know our natural hair is like an antenna to God.”

Director David E. Talbert was in high spirits about his first big screen project, proud to be part of the Class of 2013 of fellow Black filmmakers like Lee Daniels (“The Butler”) and Steve McQueen (“12 Years A Slave”).  His wife, Lyn Talbert played an integral role in the casting of the male leads in “Baggage Claim”: “I had an idea of who I wanted to cast but my wife said “Oh no we need some sexy men like Djimon Hounsou and Derek Luke!”

At the Q&A following the screening, Jenifer Lewis gave an emotionally charged speech to encourage aspiring actors and filmmakers: “The elevator to success is broken, take the stairs.”

Watch Jenifer Lewis’ inspirational speech:

The star power continued with the premier of the upcoming BET original drama “Gun Hill.”  Larenz Tate plays identical twins on opposite sides of the law-Trane, a cop, and Bird, a con man.   On the challenge of playing dual characters Tate observed, “Playing identical twins is tough because you want people to see the same face but with different nuances.”

Michael K. Williams pulled double duty to promote his cowboy action flick “They Die By Dawn” and his HBO series “Boardwalk Empire”, both featured at Urbanworld.  Williams had nothing but praise for new co-star, Jeffrey Wright who plays Harlem shot caller Valentin Narcisse: “Jeffrey Wright is  awesome to work with… he raised my bar on the set. He plays my new nemesis and it’s going to be an explosive season.”

Related: Boardwalk Empire: Who Is Chalky White?

Festivities closed out on Saturday, with screenings of “The Invevitable Defeat of Mister and Peete” and the basketball documentary “Little Ballers.”

On Sunday, An awards reception was hosted by actor Gbenga Akinnagbe and style expert Tai Beauchamp. Winners are listed below:

Best Narrative Feature – Presented by Fox Audience Strategy – $5,000 Cash Prize


Directed by Vicky Wight

Honorable Mention:

Sable Fable – Directed by Stephen Jackson

Best Documentary Feature


Directed by Yoruba Richen

Honorable Mention:

Brother’s Hypnotic – Directed by Reuben Atlas

Best Narrative Short – Presented by HBO – $5,000 Cash Prize


Directed by Alonso Alvarez

Honorable Mention:

Baghdad Messi – Directed by Sahim Omar Kalifa

Best Screenplay – Presented by BET Networks – $5,000 Cash Prize


Written by Darius Clark Monroe

Best Teleplay – Presented by BET Networks – $5,000 Cash Prize


Written by Allison Bonner Shillingford

Audience Award – Feature


Directed by Solvan “Slick” Naim

Audience Award – Short


Directed by Robert Kolodny

2013 Urbanworld Film Festival Highlights [VIDEOS]  was originally published on