The film will debut at the iconic theater in Manhattan on April 24. It includes archival footage, music, comedy and dance performances, and interviews with Patti LaBelle, Pharrell Williams, Smokey Robinson, and Jamie Foxx.
“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 Robert DeNiro, co-founder of the festival.
The documentary is produced by Lisa Cortés, Nigel Sinclair’s White Horse Pictures, and Williams. It covers the 85-year history of the venue and follows a new production of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ “Between the World and Me” as it comes to the theater.
The Apollo began operating in 1934 during the Harlem Renaissance and became the most prized venue on the “Chitlin’ Circuit” during the time of racial segregation in the United States. The Apollo was a key launch venue for Ella Fitzgerald, Jimi Hendrix and the Jackson Five. Performers have included Aretha Franklin, Nat King Cole, Gladys Knight, Sammy Davis Jr., Billie Holiday, Diana Ross & The Supremes, Stevie Wonder, Luther Vandross, Dave Chappelle, Lauryn Hill, Jimi Hendrix, and more.
“The Apollo is about so much more than just music,” Williams said. “It’s about how we used music and art to lift ourselves out of oppression. 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.”
Producers are Lisa Cortés, White Horse’s Nigel Sinclair, Jeanne Elfant Festa and Cassidy Hartmann along with Williams. “The Apollo” will have additional screenings during the festival, which will run through May 5. The festival will announce its feature film slate on March 5.