The Tribeca Film Festival, presented by AT&T, will open its 18th edition with the world premiere of director Roger Ross Williams and HBO’s new documentary film The Apollo. Helmed by the Oscar and Emmy-winning Williams (Music by Prudence; Life, Animated), The Apollo chronicles the unique history and contemporary legacy of the New York City landmark, the Apollo Theater. The film will debut at the iconic theater itself on Wednesday, April 24th, 2019 and later this year on HBO. The feature-length documentary weaves together archival footage, music, comedy, and dance performances, and behind-the-scenes moments with the team that makes the theater run.
The Apollo features interviews with artists like Patti LaBelle, Pharrell Williams, Smokey Robinson, and Jamie Foxx. The film is produced by Lisa Cortés (Precious), White Horses Pictures’ Nigel Sinclair (George Harrison: Living in the Material World, Undefeated), Jeanne Elfant Festa (Foo Fighters: Back and Forth, Pavarotti), Cassidy Hartmann (The Beatles: Eight Days A Week, Pavarotti), and Williams. The 2019 Tribeca Film Festival runs April 24th through May 5th, 2019.
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. 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.
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The Apollo Theater is internationally renowned for having influenced American and pop culture more than any other entertainment venue. The space has created opportunities for new talent to be seen and has served as a launchpad for a myriad of artists, including Billie Holiday, Aretha Franklin (picture below backstage at the Apollo), Ella Fitzgerald, Diana Ross & The Supremes, Stevie Wonder, The Jackson 5, Luther Vandross, Dave Chappelle, Lauryn Hill, Jimi Hendrix, and more.
“We’re excited to finally be going uptown to play the Apollo,” said Jane Rosenthal, co-founder and CEO of the Tribeca Film Festival. “The Apollo gives audiences an inside look at the major role this institution has played for the past 85 years. 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. ”
“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 is about so much more than just music, it’s about how we used music and art to lift ourselves out of oppression,” commented Williams. “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,” said Tribeca co-founder Robert De Niro.
An outstanding creative team has been assembled for The Apollo, including editors Jean Tsien, ACE (Miss Sharon Jones!, Shut Up & Sing) and John S. Fisher, as well as Grammy-Award-winning musician Robert Glasper (Miles Ahead, 13th) who is composing the score. Hartmann and Tsien also serve as co-writers on the documentary.