burning cane (copy)

Wendell Pierce, as the Rev. Tillman, preaches to the congregation of Laurel Valley Missionary Baptist Church in a scene from 'Burning Cane.'

It’s a big year for Phillip Youmans. In May, the 19-year-old New Orleans native’s debut film, “Burning Cane,” won top honors at the Tribeca Film Festival. Now filmmaker and producer Ava Duvernay has announced her independent distribution company ARRAY Now has acquired rights to the film with plans to release it this fall.

On Twitter, Duvernay tweeted praise of Youmans and the film to her more than 2 million followers, calling him “a beautiful filmmaker” and the film “gorgeous.” The film was the third acquisition of her company this year. 

“Burning Cane” tells the story of a mother named Helen and her relationships with her son Daniel and her pastor played by Wendell Pierce, an actor from New Orleans known for his roles in "Treme," “Suits” and “Selma.”  Pierce has worked with Duvernay previously.

The film, which Youmans started while he was a student at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA), explores topics of religion, addiction and domestic violence.

Youmans won three awards at Tribeca but bringing home the Founders Award for Best Narrative Feature made him the youngest filmmaker and first black director to do so.

Next month, the New Orleans Film Festival will feature “Burning Cane” as its Centerpiece Film. The festival takes place Oct. 16-23.

Follow Kaylee Poche on Twitter: @kaylee_poche

Email Gambit staff writer Kaylee Poche at kayleep@gambitweekly.com.