Report on The Urban Action Showcase 2015

by Kung Fu Bob O'Brien on November 27, 2015 · 7 comments in Buddhist Blog

I wanted to report on something very special- The Urban Action Showcase and Expo, which just had its third annual event on November 6th. If you aren’t familiar with it, this will bring you up to speed. But even if you’re already hip to it, you should still find this interesting.

The UASE has honored guests like Fred ‘The Hammer’ Williamson (BLACK CAESAR, THREE THE HARD WAY), Gloria Hendry (BLACK BELT JONES, HELL UP IN HARLEM, LIVE AND LET DIE), and Michael Jai White (BLACK DYNAMITE, FALCON RISING) for their contributions to action cinema, and has given new filmmakers a place to show their work and be recognized. In the past they’ve also screened fan-favorite classics, like the late Jim Kelly’s BLACK BELT JONES.

This year, as part of their ‘Martial Arts Cult Classic Mania’ they screened AMERICAN NINJA for its 30th Anniversary, MORTAL KOMBAT for its 20th Anniversary, THE LAST DRAGON for its 30th Anniversary, Art Camacho’s THE CHEMIST, Amin Joseph’s CALL ME KING, Marcus Aurelius Daniels’ KUNG FU BROTHER, and showed a very exciting concept trailer of Robert (DON’T GIVE A DAMN) Samuels’ upcoming directorial debut BEAST. In addition, the ‘Cult Classic Cinema Award’ was given to honorees Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (SHOWDOWN IN LITTLE TOKYO), Keith Cooke (CHINA O’BRIEN), James Lew (BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA), and Stunt Coordinator Rudy C. Jones (EMMETT’S MARK).

The following is an interview I conducted with Demetrius Angelo (director of BOUNTY WARZ), the founder and executive producer of The Urban Action Showcase and Expo.

Kung Fu Bob: Can you please tell us the how, why, and when this event came about? What made you decide to create the event, and what goals were you trying to accomplish?

Demetrius Angelo: The Urban Action Showcase and Expo came about officially in 2013. I conceived the idea around 2004 when I couldn’t get any of my action-based content accepted into any festival, as the majority of them didn’t accept the genre. I am also a fan of Comic Con, and I thought what a great combination to be able to present the genre that I love in a fashion that both fans and professionals would enjoy. I realized that as a whole, the action genre, although being the big ‘Blockbuster genre’, was not celebrated nor accepted in the Academy Awards as a category. That being said, the accomplishments of the Urban poly-ethnic community certainly were not recognized in any platform. I decided to create a movement that was revealed through a multifaceted event (UASE) that would both Inform, educate, facilitate and provide exposure for the action genre and the creative forces behind it. The UASE is revealed in 3 platforms: The Urban Action Showcase International Action Film Festival, The Urban Action Expo, and the Urban Action Showcase International Action Film and Honoree Awards.

KFB: Were there any people in particular that you wanted to honor that made you first develop this idea?

DA: I sought to honor those that hadn’t been honored, the multicultural achievers in the action genres including; Adventure, Fantasy, Action, Horror, Martial Arts, Sci-Fi, and Supernatural.

KFB: Can you please give our readers an idea of what it was like to put together the first year of Urban Action Showcase & Expo? What were the biggest struggles, and the most surprising triumphs?

DA: The first UASE took 2 years of planning and was extremely challenging to say the least. I was over zealous, wanting it to be too big too fast, and basically got in over my head financially. Although I had the support of the action and martial arts community, and it went extremely well for a first event. I learned countless lessons and continue to learn from each event. Sponsorship and volunteers are the biggest challenges in presenting heroes that don’t reflect the ‘main stream’ white male or white female heroic images.

KFB: Did you find that the celebrities you contacted about appearing were receptive to the idea straight away?

DA: Honestly because I am very well connected to the martial arts community, and the true action stars are martial artists, it was easy. They were all very receptive to the idea and supported us 100%. I am so grateful for all of their time, talent, and support.

KFB: What was the most surprising thing that came about in the event’s first year?

DA: The surprise was how much work, time, and effort that it takes to throw an event of this magnitude.

KFB: What improvements and modifications did you make that made the 2015 event even better than the previous?

DA: 2015 was my best year yet, because I didn’t have the event in 2 locations simultaneously as I previously did for 2013 and 2014. I stuck to one location and that made a world of difference!

KFB: Where did the events take place during those years?

DA: At the New York Hilton Midtown in Manhattan, and the landmark AMC Empire 25 movie theater, both in NYC.

KFB: I would imagine that as a young African American action movie fan growing up, it must have been disappointing to see so few minorities in leading roles in the genre?

DA: Yes, one of the reasons I stated above for creating this platform was because there were very few heroic reflections of myself in main stream media. I must say, I was born in the ’60s, so I did have the ’70s Blaxploitation era of heroes. After 1984, when the era came to an end with ONE DOWN, TWO TO GO, we got the first of few, but none the less, the first black action hero that was not a part of that niche genre, in Taimak from the mega cult classic THE LAST DRAGON. We were fortunate to be able to facilitate the 30th Anniversary Blu-ray release with Sony, making this the first time this film was released on Blu-ray.

KFB: Who were the ones that really stood out for you?

DA: The Action Icons of my era where: Fred ‘The Hammer’ Williamson, Jim Kelly, Pam Grier, Gloria Hendry, ‘The Black Dragon’ Ron Van Clief, Tamara Dobbs, Ron O’Neil, and as time progressed, Taimak, Wesley Snipes, and Michal Jai White.

KFB: Do you think that this lack of cinematic African American heroes has changed much in the past few decades, or that it will in the near future?

DA: Things are changing because we are making noise and demanding change. But on the indie level, things are changing rapidly because we are not beholden to the chains of Hollywood’s prejudice.

KFB: What are your plans for the event in the future? Are you going to stick to the east coast, or have you considered moving the event around to different parts of the country as well?

DA: We will continue to grow here on the East Coast, and hopefully expand to the major urban cities across the nation. This year alone we added the Cinemax ‘Max Action Short Film Competition’ which gave the winner [Owen Ratliff, director of BLACK SALT–Ed.] distribution on Cinemax On Demand and Max Go. This was a huge accomplishment for us. And as I mentioned, we also facilitated the release of the first ever Blu-ray of THE LAST DRAGON. We are growing, and will continue to manifest the vision of our Diversity in Action initiative, celebrating the multicultural achievements in the blockbuster action genre!

We here at ShaolinChamber36 want to thank Mr. Angelo for taking the time to answer our questions, and for creating the Urban Action Showcase & Expo. We are in total agreement that it’s time for action and martial arts cinema to be properly recognized for its impressive merits, and that the world of entertainment (and indeed,  the world in general) needs to become color-blind, and completely open its doors to ethnically diverse heroes. UASE you can count on our support to help spread the word.

A word to aspiring genre filmmakers- here is your opportunity to be seen and heard. So we encourage you to get those ideas out of your heads and in front of cameras. With hard work, imagination, and creativity you can put your talents to work and submit your own project to this event next year. We are eager to see what this next generation will contribute to the world of action cinema.

Photos reprinted with the permission of Demetrius Angelo, with thanks to the individual photographers responsible.

Congratulations to Owen Ratliff, director of BLACK SALT, and the first ‘Cinemax Max Action Short Film Competition’ Winner of $5,000 and distribution on Cinemax On Demand and Max Go! http://www.urbanactionshowcase.com/p/2015-urban-action-show…

Check out this video interview from 2014 with Demetrius Angelo and Gloria Hendry that was conducted by Teresa Nash for Spotlight On!: https://youtu.be/7WSpKpHwmZU

For more information on UASE, check out: http://www.urbanactionshowcase.com/

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Kung Fu Bob December 18, 2015

Thank you Sheng. I’m so happy that the event exists so that I could write about it.

Yeah, it’s very sad that this sort of thing is still even an issue. It’s a good sign though when a huge franchise like the FAST & FURIOUS films are multi-ethnic, and seeing diversity in big films like THE FANTASTIC FOUR and STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS. Hopefully more will follow.

No, I don’t have that. I remember wanting to get it when it came out, but I was broke. Not much has changed (:p) but hope to pick it up one of these days. Thanks for reminding me about it.

Reply

Sheng December 14, 2015

A highly informative article on a truly underexposed, but incredibly important side of the MA world, Bob. I tend to think that Hollywood whitewashing appears to be even more pronounced
NOW than during the time the MATRIX films were made. Nowadays the omnipresence of nearly all-white casts is oftentimes rationalized by pointing out that mega-budget productions need to recoup internationally – and in China first & foremost! -, so casting African-Americans in lead roles would therefore not be seen as a smart move.
Whatever, the problem with blatant Hollywood racism (which Angelo euphemistically calls “prejudice”) remains a deep-rooted one.
And in relation to UASE I’m not surprised when he points out: “Sponsorship and volunteers are the biggest challenges in presenting heroes that don’t reflect the ‘main stream’ white male or white female heroic images.”

By the way, there was an excellent DVD documentary a year or so ago on African-American MA icons, THE BLACK KUNG FU EXPERIENCE, featuring Ron Van Clief amongst other. Wonder if you picked that up?

Reply

Kung Fu Bob December 4, 2015

Robert, see post above this one- It’s a sale/Limited Edition going on until the New Year.

Teresa, you are very welcome!

Sharif, thank you.

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Robert November 30, 2015

Please let me know if you have any sales on your t-shirt

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Kung Fu Bob December 4, 2015
Teresa Nash November 30, 2015

Beautiful article! It nicely summed up the event I’m proud to be a part of each year. Thank you for including the link to Spotlight On! That was my first show for MNN and Demetrius was a gracious guest host.

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Sharif Anael-Bey November 29, 2015

The event was INCREDIBLE. Keep up the great work!

Reply

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