Chris Hyams (left) Lena Waithe, Rishi Rajani, Lafawn Davis (right) and Indeed Rising Voices Filmmakers. (Photo Credit – Getty Images – Arturo Holmes)

Perhaps the surprising lack of interesting films at the 2022 Tribeca Film Festival is a direct result of the impact of COVID-19, and in an odd way, I sincerely hope that’s the only reason.

There were a handful of interesting films in the documentary section including Jennifer Lopez’s “Halftime,” which opened the festival (currently streaming on Netflix) and the doc short, “Nicholas Brothers: Story Weather,” and the very fine “A Story of Bones.”

“A Story of Bones” explores the life of Annina Van Neel, the chief environmental officer for Saint Helena, and the troubled £285m ($360m) airport project.  When she learns of the island’s most terrible atrocity — an unmarked mass burial ground of an estimated 9,000 formerly enslaved Africans in Rupert’s Valley — it opens the floodgates of research.

The reality of this disturbing find is essentially one of the most significant traces of the transatlantic slave trade still on earth. The sad truth of this find is the haunting fact there are more (unknown) injustices. Now, Annina fights alongside renowned African American preservationist Peggy King Jorde and a group of disenfranchised islanders – many of them descendants of the formerly enslaved – for the proper memorialization of these forgotten victims. The resistance they face exposes disturbing truths about the UK’s colonial past and present.

The festival ended with Josh Alexander’s doc, “Loudmouth,” which follows the winding road that is Al Sharpton’s life story as an iconic activist and spiritual leader. Scenes with Andrew Cuomo and other influential figures highlight what makes Sharpton so special as a storyteller and agitator. After the premiere screening, there was a conversation with Rev. Al Sharpton, Spike Lee, and John Legend, which Cori Murray moderated.

“A Story of Bones” (Courtesy Photo)

Under Indeed’s Rising Voices and through their partnership with Lena Waithe and Hillman Grad Productions, they created a program that was specifically designed to cover, invest in, and share stories created by BIPOC filmmakers. In their second year, they are able to share that over 1,000 jobs have been created through the program since its inception.

The 2022 Rising Voices presented 10 short films chosen amongst thousands of entries, but the ones that caught my eye was Cara Lawson’s “Crooked Trees Gon Give Me Wings,” Shanrica Evan’s “Amina” and Justin Floyd’s “Malleable.” But, the one that shook me to the core was Tara Motamedi’s “Before Dawn, Kabul Time,” which tosses us into Afghanistan

after the wake of the U.S. announcing their withdrawal leaving all foreign personnel and many Afghans trying to flee the country before the full takeover of Taliban. Sadly, it’s inspired by true events.

Hollywood,  please keep a sharp eye on Tara Motamedi. This first-generation American was raised in a liberal Kurdish/ Azeri household and speaks three languages. She earned a B.A. in Film Production and an MFA in Screenwriting from Brooks Institute. Her feature screenplay, “Under an Olive Tree,” influenced by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, was honored by the WGA’s Inclusion and Equity department in 2018 and became a semi-finalist at the Academy Nicholl Fellowship in 2019.

Here are the Audience Award Winners for Tribeca Festival 2022, presented by OKX. These films were decided by the audiences voting for their picks online and in person, including three categories— Best Documentary Feature, Best Narrative Feature, and Best Online Premiere.

Audience Award – Narrative 

“Our Father, the Devil” directed by Ellie Foumbi

Marie Cissé’s (Babetida Sadjo) troubled past comes calling with the arrival of Father Patrick (Souléymane Sy Savané), an African priest whom she recognizes from a terrifying episode in her homeland.

Audience Award – Documentary

“The Cave of Adullam” directed by Laura Checkoway

A heartwarming look at Detroit martial arts teacher Jason Wilson, who mentors young African American boys, giving them the rare and invaluable experience of being seen and cared for as the vulnerable beings they are.

Second Place: “Lift” directed by David Peterson. A look at New York Theatre Ballet’s Project LIFT which offers scholarships to homeless, home insecure, and at-risk children, exposing them to the beauty and discipline of ballet, often for the first time while helping them develop the talent they never knew they had.

Audience Award – Online

“Cherry” directed by Sophia Galibert. A story about a  driftless and uncommitted 25-year-old in Los Angeles who discovers she has only 24 hours to make one of the most consequential decisions of her life, what to do about an unplanned pregnancy.