Tribeca Film Festival to open with Roger Ross Williams doc on famed Apollo Theater
Pharrell Williams, Patti LaBelle, Smokey Robinson among stars who appear in film from Oscar-winning director
Tribeca is continuing a festival tradition of opening the event with a documentary, awarding the distinction this year to The Apollo, directed by Oscar-winning filmmaker Roger Ross Williams.
The world premiere will be held at the Apollo Theater itself on April 24, kicking off the festival that runs until May 5. The venue on West 125th Street in Harlem has welcomed some of the greatest talents in the history of entertainment, from Duke Ellington to Sam Cooke, Richard Pryor, Aretha Franklin, Ella Fitzgerald, Buddy Holly, Dave Brubeck, Jimi Hendrix, James Brown and The Jackson 5, among many others.
[The Apollo] celebrates the historic New York cultural landmark where musical legends were made.
The Apollo features interviews with renowned performers including Pharrell Williams, Patti LaBelle and Smokey Robinson. It will air later this year on HBO.
"The documentary covers the rich history of the storied performance space over its 85 years and follows a new production of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me as it comes to the theater’s grand stage," Tribeca noted in a press release. "The creation of this vibrant multi-media stage show frames the way in which The Apollo explores the current struggle of black lives in America, the role that art plays in that struggle, and the broad range of African-American achievement that the Apollo Theater represents."
“The Apollo is about so much more than just music, it’s about how we used music and art to lift ourselves out of oppression," Williams said in a statement. "The story of the Apollo is the story of the evolution of black American identity and how it grew to become the defining cultural movement of our time. I was fortunate to make my first film with HBO and I am thrilled to be coming back home with The Apollo. Premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival, at the Apollo Theater in Harlem is a dream come true.”
“The Apollo Theater is a symbol of the creative spirit of New York and beyond, and I’m very happy that we’re kicking off our 18th Festival celebrating it with this documentary from Roger Ross Williams,” Tribeca co-founder Robert De Niro said in a statement.
“The Apollo gives audiences an inside look at the major role this institution has played for the past 85 years," commented Jane Rosenthal, co-founder and CEO of Tribeca. "It’s seen the emergence of everything from jazz to R&B to soul and gospel — all quintessential American music genres — and this is the time to remind people of our nation’s rich history."
Matthew Carey is a documentary filmmaker and journalist. His work has appeared on Deadline.com, CNN, CNN.com, TheWrap.com, NBCNews.com and in Documentary magazine.