‘The Killing of Kenneth Chamberlain’ Takes Home Top Prize At Virtual Urbanworld Film Festival

Writer-director David Midell was awarded the prize for best narrative feature at the Urbanworld Film Festival for The Killing of Kenneth Chamberlain.  

Based on real life events, the film tells the story of Kenneth Chamberlin, a retired Marine suffering from bipolar disorder, who was murdered by police officers who responded to him mistakenly setting off his own medical alert necklace in 2011. He was 68-years-old. 

The Killing of Kenneth Chamberlain, starring Frankie Faison, follows in the tradition of films like Ryan Coogler’s Fruitvale Station and Reinaldo Marcus Green’s Monsters and Men in addressing state violence in narrative film. The jury was unanimous in their choice to award the prize to Midell. 

“Across the board, everyone felt that it was deservedly the winner,” said Gabrielle Glore, the festival’s director and head of programming, according to Variety. The film made its festival debut just months after the nation witnessed George Floyd lose his life to state violence sparking a series of nationwide protests against police brutality. 

“The performances all around, the way it was shot, the timeliness—this happens far too often. I’m really pleased that it took the top prize,” she added. 

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The five-day film festival has traditionally been based in New York but it was forced to shift to a virtual format this year by the COVID-19 pandemic. It featured submissions from 25 countries and a series of panels discussing the works presented. The festival also hosted a number of virtual guests. 

Stacey Abrams appeared to help promote the documentary All In: The Fight for Democracy. Writer, producer, and actress Lena Waithe, star of Justin Simien’s comedy Bad Hair participated in a conversation about the dark comedy. This Is Us star Susan Kelechi Watson discussed helping to bring Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between The World And Me to the stage and then the screen with producer Kamilah Forbes and playwright Dominique Morisseau. Writer-director Robert Townsend held a conversation with Radha Blank whose Hollywood Shuffle inspired film The Forty-Year-Old Version is premiering on October 9 on Netflix. 

Actor and producer David Oyelowo opened the festival by celebrating his directorial debut The Water Man and closed it with a screening of his upcoming movie Come Away. Oyelowo co-produced the film and he stars in it with Angelina Jolie. 

“To be able to support David as a producer was important,” Glore said. “He’s really advancing his career offscreen.”

The virtual format allowed the festival to accept 98 submissions and host attendees from all over the world. “We weren’t confined to four theaters at AMC 42nd street in Times Square,” said Glore.