New York, – With a love letter to the historic Apollo Theater, a whole institution of black music located in the New York neighborhood of Harlem: this is how the Tribeca Film Festival started on Wednesday, one of the most important events in the seventh art in The United States, which turns 18 years old, goes back to its roots.
Tribeca inaugurated this edition with the screening of the documentary “The Apollo”, directed by Roger Ross Williams, at the same Apollo theater, “the best that could be done” in these times, according to EFE one of the co-founders of the festival, Robert de Niro, on a red carpet filled with stars from the African-American community.
“Every time I step into this hall of art and entertainment, I can feel its incredible history and I hear the echo of the artists who were here.” In these disturbing times, when the government promotes division and racism, night here we made our rejection clear, “he said later in the presentation.
The director of Apollo, Jonelle Procope, explained that Ross discloses with the film the “meaning” of this place that, since its opening 85 years ago, has been a “meeting point”, “one of the few that were not segregated” and they welcomed “people of color not only on stage, but in the audience and working behind the scenes.”
“What Roger has done as a director is a gift, a love letter to the Apollo and the nation, because I hope that everyone will see it,” Procope added.
In the filmmaker’s own words, “The Apollo” seeks to “honor” this space, its history and “what it means for black people”: “Our struggle is defined by our music and our art, and this film is a celebration of how far we have come and how much more we need to move forward. “
Singers and actors like Jamie Foxx, Angela Bassett, Pharrell Williams, Common, Patti LaBelle or Smokey Robinson are some of those who participate in the documentary, remembering their first performances in the theater, while analyzing the current state of race relations In U.S.A.
“The Apollo” starts precisely with a faithful portrait of the premiere moment and, after all, the history of the theater: the audience, attentive, occupying dozens of red seats, with all five senses on stage, although in this time, Aretha Franklin or Ella Fitzgerald did not act.
These artists were, however, present in the huge screen in which the film was projected, which begins with a claim to the resilience of the black community and includes archive images of African-American idols that have influenced the country’s popular culture, like James Brown, Richard Pryor or Lauryn Hill.
Smokey Robinson, a Motown legend, pointed out on the red carpet precisely that the Apollo is one of the “pillars of black music”, and recalled his passage as a singer of The Miracles: “I’ve been coming for 50 years and I’m going to continue to do so while it exists, and I hope it continues to exist. “
“The Apollo”, which opens this fall and on which the producers and directors have been working for more than six years, was described by those attending the event as a well-deserved tribute to a center that has served as an expression tool for the African-American community of the United States, historically repressed by the country’s government.
Also present at the celebration of the legendary theater, which opened its doors in 1914, were the actresses Kim Cattrall, DeWanda Wise and Piper Perabo, the co-founders of the film festival Jane Rosenthal and Paula Weinstein, the actor Ido Samuel, the musician Questlove, the gospel singer Bebe Winans and activist Al Sharpton.
With the Apollo gala dress for the premiere in Harlem, at a Tribeca opening less pompous than usual, the director also added that, “as things change around us and the community changes, I think it is important for us to preserve the integrity of what we do and what we represent. “
The Tribeca festival continues the next eleven days with more than a hundred premieres, which in this edition stand out for reflecting the diversity and inclusiveness characteristic of New York: a good part of the filmmakers are women, people of non-white race or who identify themselves as LGTBQ, according to the organization (EFEUSA).