Film Life‘s 17th Annual American Black Film Festival (ABFF), wrapped an engaging five days, June 19 ““ 23, of substantive program of diverse films, industry panels and educational workshops and events yesterday. Celebrating 10 years in Miami Beach, the Festival was created to support the promotion of diversity within the film and television industry, both in front of and behind the camera. The Festival drew to a close with the ABFF Awards Presentation where this year’s film and talent competition winners were revealed.
The five-day celebration was heavily supported by Hollywood’s top actors and was led by this year’s Celebrity Ambassador Omari Hardwick. spike lee, Robert Townsend, Bill Duke, Nia Long, Derek Luke, Salli Richardson-Whitfield, Nick Cannon, Morris Chestnut, Boris Kodjoe, David E. Talbert, Roger Bobb, Sanaa Lathan, Anthony Anderson, Terrence Jenkins, Shaun Robinson, Reggie Bythewood, George Tillman, Jr. and Kevin Hart all participated in lively panel discussions and other Festival events. This year’s ABFF was also attended by Miami Heat’s Dwyane Wade, Udonis Haslem and Lebron James, the 2013 NBA Finals champions.
The ABFF Awards Presentation recognizes and rewards filmmakers, writers and actors for excellence through its Grand Jury Prizes and Talent Competitions, supported by major corporations. ABFF founder and CEO of Film Life, Inc., Jeff Friday, presented the awards, along with corporate partners and filmmakers. In what was an emotional event, winners shared intimate stories about their personal journeys and diligent efforts to pursue their craft through moving acceptance speeches, which emphasized the importance of the American Black Film Festival’s mission to promote Black film and to expose Black filmmakers.
The complete list of 2013 ABFF Award Winners are as follows: Talent Competitions
– 2013 ABFF Star Project Winners ““ Actors Latoya Codner and Vladmir Versailles, announced by Kendra Carter, Director of Talent Diversity Initiatives, NBCUniversal.
– UP (Formerly known as gmc TV) UP Faith and Family Screenplay Competition ““ Keronda “Kiki” McKnight for Mary Jo’s Candy announced by Brad Siegel, Vice Chairman, UP and De’Eta West, UP. Prize of $5,000.
– ABFF Webisode Challenge ““ “Roomieloverfriends,” written by Dennis Dortch and Numa Perrier, directed by Dennis Dortch, announced by Smokey Fontaine, Chief Content Officer, Interactive One. (FOR MORE INFO ON THE ABFF WINNERS CLICK NEXT)
– ABFF Comedy Wings, presented by hbo ““ Comedienne Zainab Johnson, announced by Jeff Friday, ABFF Founder and Dennis Williams, Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility.
– hbo ® Short Film Competition ““ A Different Tree, directed by Steven Caple, Jr., announced by Dennis Williams, Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility, HBO ®. Prize: $10,000 and the opportunity to broadcast on HBO in 2014.
– CNN Films Best Documentary Award ““ Homegoings, written by Christine Turner,announced by Keisha Taylor, Strategic Marketing, CNN.
– Grand Jury Prize for Best Screenplay ““ Things Never Said, written by Charles Murray, announced by Salli Richardson-Whitfield.
– Grand Jury Prize for Best Actor, presented by Marriot ““ Shanola Hampton for Things Never Said, announced by Kristine Friend, Sr, Director of Marketing, Marriott International.
– Grand Jury Prize for Best Director ““ Stephen Lloyd Jackson for Sable Fable, announced by Robert Townsend.
– Grand Jury Prize for Best Narrative Feature, presented by Cadillac ““ Sable Fable, written and directed by Stephen Lloyd Jackson, presented by spike lee and Crystal Wilson, Diversity Communications, Cadillac.
– ABFF Audience Award, presented by Nielsen ““ Things Never Said, written and directed by Charles Murray.
Supporting Sponsor Nielsen, conducted surveys to gauge audience response to the four films in the Narrative Feature Competition, the survey results determined the audience favorite, Things Never Said, and filmmaker Charles Murray will receive a full detailed analysis of the audience reaction to the film. The analysis helps filmmakers determine if the message is being delivered to the target audience and contributes to the marketing of the film.
(FOR MORE INFO ON THE ABFF CLICK NEXT)
Monica Billinger, Manager of Diversity Markets, Chicago at American Airlines, made a special presentation of travel gift cards to each Grand Jury Prize winner. These gift cards can be used towards a purchase of a future flight on American Airlines. In addition, each winner in the competition received a gift certificate from Macy’s.
“It is deeply rewarding to be able introduce new storytellers and artists from all over the world and watch them ascend from here, through connections they make or awards they receive at ABFF. Our ultimate goal is to be the most direct pipeline to Hollywood for Black talent,” says Jeff Friday, ABFF founder and CEO of Film Life, Inc.
The Festival was headlined by the opening day presentation of The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete, courtesy of Codeblack Films, a Lionsgate company. The film, directed by George Tillman Jr., and written by Michael Starrbury, received high praise for its poignant portrayal of two boys’ struggle to survive a summer without their parents in a Brooklyn housing development. The red carpet was attended by Tillman, Julito McCullum, who stars as “˜Dipstick’ in the film, Sufe Bradshaw (HBO‘s “VEEP”), Nelsan Ellis (HBO‘s “True Blood”) and others who came out to support the film, which was co-executive produced by GRAMMY ® Award-winning singer Alicia Keys.
The first day of the Festival, commenced with a press conference and unveiling of the Miami Film Life Center at The Chapman House. Attended by ABFF founder and CEO of Film Life, Inc., Jeff Friday, City of Miami Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones and ABFF‘s Celebrity Ambassador, Omari Hardwick celebrated the recent collaboration of the Southeast Overtown/Park West Community Redevelopment Agency (SEOPWCRA) and the City of Miami, Miami-Dade County Public Schools (MDCPS), along with the Black Archives History and Research Foundation of South Florida, and Film Life, Inc., to open the Miami Film Life Center (MFLC).
The Center’s purpose is to develop awareness and accessibility of cinema and the art of filmmaking to the residents of the area, by providing resources, training programs and opportunities to network and connect to the industry in a progressive way. The press conference ended with an overview of the week’s power packed schedule, as well as an in imperative to continue the dialogue of ABFF‘s commitment to Miami and the Overtown community.
For the first time ever, American Airlines, official sponsor of the ABFF, flew in to create a modernized, urban space, The New American Lounge, where attendees enjoyed complimentary massages, hors d’oeuvres, and a luxurious experience courtesy of the Cadillac shuttle. Attendees indulged and shared experiences while mingling with rising filmmakers and industry executives at the Rosa Regale Night Caps and the Marriott Lounge. Additional festival highlights included the sponsor hospitality, diversity and recruitment suites, hosted by Dr. Miracle’s, FOX/HBCU, Rosa Regale, SAGIndie and UP/Aspire and Viacom Media Networks.
Among the many superlative Festival events, ABFF was proud to present the inaugural “Hollywood TrailerFest,” in partnership with the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA). “Hollywood TrailerFest” was a dynamic presentation that enraptured the audience with a slate of theatrical trailers from the six member studios including Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures, 20th Century Fox, Universal Pictures, Walt Disney and Warner Bros.
Friend to ABFF, director David E. Talbert, was joined by his Baggage Claim cast members, Boris Kodjoe, Terrence Jenkins and Derek Luke, inside the Cadillac Lounge, to discuss the film and share time with Festival attendees.
ABFF guests were treated to a first look and discussion of Malcolm D. Lee’s The Best Man Holiday, a follow-up to his highly celebrated, cult classic film, The Best Man. The panel, moderated by Access Hollywood’s Shaun Robinson and sponsored by Comcast/NBCUniversal, featured Malcolm D. Lee, writer and director, and multi-talented cast members, Sanaa Lathan, Morris Chestnut and Nia Long, joined one another to relish in their respective accomplishments since they were all onscreen together fourteen years ago.
Other informative panels such as, “Diversity…It’s Just Good Business,” presented by Comcast/NBCUniversal, included guest speaker Nick Cannon and discussed promoting diversity in Hollywood and the importance of diversity as a good business strategy. Nickelodeon covered valuable topics on their panels such as “How to Pitch a Series,” and “The Art of Voice Acting,” in addition to providing an open call casting opportunity for young comedic actors, between the ages of 9 and 15. This casting call attracted close to 1,000 applicants.
At the height of the Festival, Regina King, known for her charisma and dedication to her craft, was the very special featured guest of one of ABFF‘s marquee panels, “A Conversation With…,” presented by American Airlines. King discussed her Hollywood journey, the arc of her ambitious career and exchanged advice and wisdom with festivalgoers.
(FOR MORE INFO ON THE ABFF CLICK NEXT)
Sponsored by HBO and new to the Festival this year, was the Comedy Wings Competition Finals, hosted by actor and comedian Chris Spencer. Four animated comics performed for a packed house, showing off their comedic prowess to win the coveted title. The standout and crowd favorite was New York City’s own Zainab Johnson, who captured the win.
Festival attendees had the unique opportunity to learn from and trade ideas with Spike Lee, who is best known for his edgy and provocative films, during a panel presented by Grab Media and HuffPost Black Voices, “The Artist’s Vision: Cultural Criticism and the Filmmaker’s Voice” which discussed the question of artistic responsibility in Black filmmaking. “As an artist, do I glamorize the violence that is going on? I’m not going to diminish the value of life and I don’t want to create any art that diminishes the value of life. That’s genocide,” says Lee.
Fashion and film collided when industry style experts provided ABFF attendees an opportunity to discover the history and evolution of both disciplines within film and television during the panel, “Examining the Influence of Fashion Trends in Film and Television,” presented by HBO and Macy’s. The panel was moderated by Food & Lifestyle Expert Nicole Friday and participants included Lloyd Boston (Television Style Expert for NBC’s “Today Show”), John Dunn (Costume Designer for “Boardwalk Empire”), Johnetta Boone (Hollywood Costume Designer), and Shawn Outler (GVP , Leased Businesses, V endor Collaboration and Multicultural Business Development). The panelists spoke about how fashion undeniably impacts films and the iconic stars that set classic style trends. Actor Michael K. Williams (“Boardwalk Empire,” “The Wire”) walked the catwalk in a “Boardwalk Empire” inspired outfit inspiring the audience to make their mark in fashion.
New to the Festival was sponsor American Family Insurance who premiered their “Through A Black Lens,” contest winner’s film, Good Morning: The Dream of Sean Jones, directed by famed producer/director team Coodie and Chike. The event was moderated by actor Harry Lennix, Jr. (Man of Steel) and opened with a festive reception, where attendees networked over popcorn and refreshments.
Another Festival highlight and crowd favorite was the Alumni Spotlight Screening of Fruitvale Station, courtesy of The Weinstein Company. This film is a true story about the final day of 22- year-old Oscar Grant, who was infamously shot to death by a BART transit police officer in the San Francisco Bay area on New Year’s Day in 2008. In 2011, Ryan Coogler, who wrote and directed the film, was the winner of the prestigious HBO ® Short Film Competition at ABFF for his film, Fig.
UP followed their 2012 highest-rated original movie, with another original production In the Meantime, both procured from their Faith & Family Screenplay Competition, held for the third year at the ABFF. Written by Nzinga Kadalie Kemp, directed by Roger Bobb, starring Kali Hawk and Darren Dewitt Henson, In the Meantime, premiered at this year’s festival to rave reviews.
As if the ABFF weekend could not get any better, one of the most anticipated events of the week was the coveted Closing Night Screening of Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain the concert film that captures one of the fast-talking, high-energy performances on Hart’s comedy tour of the same name. Hart’s celebrity friends, 2013 NBA Champions Dwyane Wade and LeBron James of the Miami Heat, Chicago Bulls’ Rip Hamilton, rapper Flo Rida, actress Claudia Jordan, SpikeLee, music mogul Irv Gotti, Jeff Clanagan of Codeblack Films and actor Michael K. Williams filled the red carpet prior to the screening and showed support to ABFF and Kevin Hart.
The Festival wrapped with the “Films Over Miami“ Community Showcase, which was held on Sunday, June 23, at the Colony Theatre. The day consisted of a screening of local emerging filmmakers‘ films, as well as two sold out premiere screenings of Robert Townsend‘s Playin’ For Love. This initiative between the ABFF and the Southeast Overtown Parkwest Community Redevelopment Agency (SEOPW-CRA), included twenty local Overtown students participating in the ABFF Youth Filmmaker’s program, as well as a tour for ABFF Filmmakers to the Miami Film Life Center to see key filming locations in the City of Miami. The 17th Annual American Black Film Festival’s effort to educate and entertain Festival attendees and the ability showcase one of the best slate of films in recent years affirms the Festival’s support of Black film.