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American Black Film Festival Kicks Off in Miami

Issa Rae - Kenya Barris - AvaDuVernay / Photo Credits: ABFF - Matt Sayles - CherylSanchez

Miami Beach is the place to be as the American Black Film Festival (ABFF) lights up the city from June 12-17, 2024. The city streets are abuzz with the hum of luxury cars, the flash of paparazzi cameras, and the excited chatter of fans hoping tospot their favorite stars. Celebratedas the premier festival for Black culture and talent, ABFF has once again transformed Miami Beach into a dazzling showcase of cinematic excellence.

Celebrities Flock to Miami Beach

The festival’s opening night was a star-studded spectacle, with Hollywood royalty descending on the city. Denzel Washington, the legendary actor and director, was honored with a special retrospective celebrating his illustrious career. Issa Rae, serving as this year’s creative director, brought her signature flair to the event, while Jeffrey Wright, the Emmy, Golden Globe, and Tony Award winner, received accolades for his contributions to the arts. Other A-list attendees included Vivica A. Fox, La La Anthony, and Jussie Smollett, turning Miami Beach into the epicenter of Black excellence.

The Impact of ABFF and Women of Color in Film

The American Black Film Festival plays a crucial role in promoting diversity in the film industry. According to the UCLA Hollywood Diversity Report 2024, women of color represented only 10.6% of film directors and 14.4% of film writers in 2023. These statistics highlight the ongoing challenges and the importance of festivals like ABFF in providing a platform for underrepresented voices.

Spotlight Screenings 2024: A Showcase of Excellence

The 2024 Spotlight Screenings features a dynamic array of projects from top networks and streamers. Highlights include the much-anticipated Devil in a Blue Dress starring Denzel Washington, courtesy of Sony Picture Entertainment; the premiere of Down In the Valley, a documentary series inspired by the vibrant world of “P-Valley” from STARZ; the world premiere of Ol’ Dirty Bastard: A Tale of Two Dirtys, a documentary on Wu-Tang Clan’s founding member Ol’ Dirty Bastard from A&E; and the second season of UnPrisoned starring Kerry Washington and Delroy Lindo, courtesy of Hulu.

The Series finalists boast impressive world premieres such as Groupies, written, produced, and co-led by ABFF Alumni Daphnique Springs; On Second Thought, a thrilling suspense series featuring Andrea Lewis of Hulu’s Three Ways; Mo Brown’s Bodega, a quintessential NYC sitcom written, directed, and starring Mo Brown; and Unsolicited, a sharp, spontaneous comedy by Barshae Lowery.

The Voices of Culture category, an invite-only, non-competitive section, presents a robust lineup of international works from the USA, Ghana, the United Kingdom, and France. Noteworthy entries include The Origin starring Morris Chestnut and directed by Jorge Sanchez; Lucille featuring Loretta Devine & Frankie Faison, directed by Warren S. L. Burke; the world premiere of 32 starring rising talent Shakira Ja’nai Paye; and the world premieres of Vigilante and X: The Interview, short films that highlight Black men in the superhero genre.

The Winners of this year’s independent film awards and talent contest will be unveiled on Saturday, June 15. The three-time Emmy award nominee Dondré Whitfield will host the “Best of the ABFF Awards”, at the New World Center.

The festival also serves as a qualifying event for the Academy Awards® Short Film Awards, enhancing its prestige and impact. Further extending its influence, ABFF has partnered with American Airlines for the third consecutive year to feature a dedicated ABFF channel on their inflight entertainment system, reaching over 200 million travelers annually. This partnership ensures that the diverse content celebrated at the festival is available to a global audience throughout the year.

Mo Brown’s Inspiring Journey

Photo Credit: Mo Brown Suga – Suga Productions

In the midst of this glittering event, Mo Brown from New York stands out with her sitcom series “Mo Brown’s Bodega,” which has its world premiere at the festival. This engaging narrative dives into the quirky life of a local NYC bodega owner trying to escape her family business to chase her wildest dreams. Brown, who directed, wrote, and produced the film, shared her inspiring journey:

“When I first started in film as a director, there were barely any Brown women. I worked among so many men, dealt with sexism, and faced personal health challenges. Despite these obstacles, I persevered and created ‘Mo Brown’s Bodega.’ I hope to inspire others to push through their challenges. Support like this festival is invaluable.”

About the ABFF

Since its founding in 1997 by Jeff and Nicole Friday, the American Black Film Festival has grown into a cornerstone event, dedicated to showcasing the work of Black filmmakers. It provides a vital platform for both emerging and established artists to present their work, championing diversity and inclusion in the film and television industry. The festival’s mission is to highlight the best in Black cinema and foster a community of creators redefining the narrative of Black experiences in film.

Celebrating Excellence and Diversity

ABFF’s commitment to celebrating excellence and diversity in film is evident in its programming and the success stories it fosters. By providing a platform for underrepresented voices, the festival not only showcases talent but also inspires future generations of filmmakers. The presence of high-profile celebrities and industry veterans at the festival underscores its importance and influence within the film community.

Looking Forward

As the festival continues throughout the week, attendees can look forward to an array of screenings, panel discussions, and networking events designed to celebrate and elevate Black storytelling. From world premieres to insightful conversations with industry leaders, ABFF offers a unique and enriching experience for all participants.

Virtual Experience

For those who can’t make it to Miami, the ABFF offers an extensive online segment. Virtual attendees can watch films, join panel discussions, and engage in networking opportunities, ensuring that the festival’s reach extends worldwide. This hybrid model continues to enhance the festival’s inclusivity, making it accessible to film enthusiasts everywhere.

For more information on the festival schedule and events, visit the official ABFF website.


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