NEW YORK – The Tribeca Film Festival began on Wednesday with a love letter to the historic Apollo Theater, a black music institution located in New York’s Harlem neighborhood.
Tribeca opened this year’s edition with the screening of the documentary “The Apollo,” directed by Roger Ross Williams, at the same Apollo Theater, which, as one of the festival’s co-founders, Robert de Niro, told EFE on a red carpet full of stars of the African American community, was the best thing you could do in times like these.
“In these disturbing times, when the administration is promoting divisiveness and racism, we’re making a statement by being here tonight that we reject it,” he said later during a presentation.
The director of the Apollo, Jonelle Procope, said that the theatre had been a meeting point, one of the few that were not segregated and welcomed people of color not only on stage, but in the audience and working behind the cameras.
“What Roger has done as a director is a gift, a love letter to Apollo and the nation, because I hope everyone will see it,” Procope added.
The filmmaker said that “The Apollo” seeks to honor the venue, its history and what it means to black people.
The film looks back at the history of the Apollo Theater.
Singers and actors such as Jamie Foxx, Angela Bassett, Pharrell Williams, Common, Patti LaBelle and Smokey Robinson are some of those participating in the documentary, recalling their first performances at the theater, while analyzing the current state of race relations in the United States.
Smokey Robinson, a Motown legend, pointed out on the red carpet that the Apollo is one of the pillars of black music.
“It’s the foundation. It’s one of the most traditional places. It’s historical for black music. Black entertainers who became really famous started here before I was even born. I am honored to be at the Apollo,” he said.
He said he’d been coming to the Apollo for 50 years, that he would keep coming and hopes the theater continues to exist.
“The Apollo,” which debuts this fall and which producers and directors have been working on for more than six years, was described by attendees as a well deserved tribute to the center that has served as a voice of the African American community in the US, which has been historically repressed in the country.
Other attendees at the celebration of the legendary theater, which opened its doors in 1914, included actresses Kim Cattrall, DeWanda Wise and Piper Perabo, film festival co-founders Jane Rosenthal and Paula Weinstein, actor Ido Samuel, musician Questlove, gospel singer Bebe Winans and activist Al Sharpton.
The Tribeca festival continues over the next 11 days with more than 100 premieres, which in this edition stand out for reflecting the diversity and inclusive character of New York: many of the filmmakers are women, people of color or those who identify themselves as LGTBQ, according to the organization.