Stars Shine at the 16th Annual Urbanworld Film Festival

Gabrielle Union, the Akils attend opening night film Being Mary Jane.

Posted: 09/21/2012 05:30 AM EDT
Gabrielle Union

The Urbanworld Film Festival is back for a 16th year and drawing out more star power than ever. Gabrielle Union, Tika Sumpter, Debra Lee, Salim Akil and Mara Brock Akil walked the red carpet last night for the world premiere of Being Mary Jane, the opening night film of the legendary festival. 

A BET Networks original movie, Being Mary Jane stars Union as a successful, single television news anchor trying to navigate her friends, family and career. Union told BET.com, "I think Being Mary Jane is built for Urbanworld. For us, by us — filmmaking at its best."

Union, who had a great year with starring roles in Tyler Perry's Good Deeds and the breakout hit Think Like a Man, adds, "[Urbanworld] is a place for us, it's a place for discovery and that is what we are doing with Being Mary Jane."

The character of Mary Jane, a professionally accomplished but unlucky-in-love woman, resonated with Union, who had plenty of her own relationship ups and downs before finding love with Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade. "It just fits so effortlessly. A fly, fierce, flawed woman, kind of who I am — or at least who I try to be! Fly, fierce and a lot of flaws! [Laughs] It's a character I can learn with and grow with. I'm excited."

She adds that she's grateful "to be given the opportunity and that [Mara Brock Akil and Salim Akil] trust me enough with their words."     

Upcoming highlights of the festival include a premiere screening of Won't Back Down, which stars Viola Davis, on Friday night, and the world premiere of Ava DuVernay's Middle of Nowhere as the closing night film on Saturday night. 

Founded by Stacey Spikes, the Urbanworld Film Festival is a five-day celebration of the best in urban cinema, digital and social media. The New York City-based event features hundreds of screenings, panel discussions and staged readings. BET is a presenting sponsor of the Urbanworld Film Festival.

Want to be a part of the Urbanworld experience? Click here for details on films, showtimes and other events!


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(Photo: Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images for Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week)

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