The Apollo


The HBO documentary THE APOLLO, helmed by Oscar- and Emmy-winning director Roger Ross Williams (LIFE, ANIMATED; GOD LOVES UGANDA; HBO’s MUSIC BY PRUDENCE), chronicles the unique history and contemporary legacy of New York City’s landmark Apollo Theater. Over the last 85 years, what began as a refuge for marginalized artists has emerged as a hallowed hall of black excellence and empowerment.

The feature-length film weaves together archival clips of music, comedy and dance performances from an astonishing list of legendary talents that includes Ella Fitzgerald, James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Richard Pryor and Lauryn Hill; behind-the-scenes verité footage of the team that makes the theater run; and interviews with such artists as Jamie Foxx, Angela Bassett, Pharrell Williams, Common, Patti LaBelle and Smokey Robinson. Williams also examines the current state of race in America, following the 2018 multi-media adaptation of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ best-selling book “Between the World and Me” as it comes together on the theater’s grand stage. In the film, Williams explores not only the struggle of black lives in America, but the role that art plays in that struggle, and the essential part the Apollo continues to play in the cultural conversation, lighting the path forward. 

THE APOLLO debuts this fall on HBO.


Director: Roger Ross Williams
Producers: Lisa Cortes, Jeanne Elfant Festa, Cassidy Hartmann
Principal EPs: Nigel Sinclair, Dan Cogan, Nicholas Ferrall, Julie Goldman
Editors: Jean Tsien, ACE; John S. Fisher
Interviews: Common, Jamie Foxx, Angela Bassett, Savion Glover, Patti LaBelle, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Smokey Robinson and Pharrell Williams, among others.

Director’s Biography

Roger Ross Williams is an award-winning director, producer and writer and the first African American director to win an Academy Award ®, with his short film Music By Prudence. “Beautiful,” “Uplifting,” “Extraordinary,” “Triumphant,” “Rich with insight,” “Searing,”,“Remarkable,” and “Inspirational” are accolades Williams’ films have received from the New York Times, Vanity Fair, Hollywood Reporter, Variety, Forbes, Stephen Colbert and Entertainment Weekly.
Williams has directed a number of acclaimed films including Life, Animated, which won the Sundance Film Festival Directing Award, was nominated for an Academy Award ® and won three Emmys in 2018, including the award for Best Documentary. He also directed God Loves Uganda, which was shortlisted for an Academy Award ® and American Jail, which examined the U.S. prison system and premiered on CNN. Williams’ directed Traveling While Black, a VR documentary made for Facebook’s Oculus, which premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. His most recent film, The Apollo, a documentary about Harlem’s legendary Apollo Theater, was the opening night film of the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival and he is currently in pre-production on his first narrative feature film for Amazon Studios.
His production company, One Story Up, is producing a variety of projects including two limited documentary series for Netflix. One Story Up specializes in creating documentary films, television, streaming series and specials, animation and VR. Since 2016, Williams has been on the Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, serving as chair of the Documentary Branch and the documentary Diversity Committee. Williams serves on the Alumni Advisory Board of the Sundance Institute, the Advisory Board of Full Frame Festival, and the boards of the Tribeca Film Institute, Docubox Kenya, None On Record and the Zeitz Museum Of Contemporary Art Africa. He resides in New York and Amsterdam, The Netherlands.