The 2014 American Black Film Festival (ABFF), presented by Film Life, Inc., which has relocated to New York City this year, kicks off tomorrow, running from June 19-22.
The 18th edition of the festival will open with “Think Like A Man Too,” the sequel to 2012’s box office smash, “Think Like A Man,” directed by Tim Story, and produced by ABFF alum, Will Packer; and will close, on June 22, with Spike Lee’s mysterious Kickstarter-funded project, “Da Sweet Blood Of Jesus” (a film that I suggested is likely inspired by “Ganja & Hess”). The 40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks project, which doesn’t have an official release date yet, will be making its world premiere at the festival (Spike did say that he planned to release it theatrically during the summer).
Noteworthy titles screening on the days between those 2 films will be the world premiere of UP’s original feature film, “Comeback Dad,” written by Kimberly Walker (the 2013 UP Faith & Family Screenplay Competition “Honorable Mention” winner), a heartfelt father-daughter reunion piece starring Charles S. Dutton, Tatyana Ali and Loretta Devine; “Black Dynamite,” the animated series courtesy of Adult Swim, which chronicles the exploits of the central character, Black Dynamite, and his crew; “Life’s Essentials with Ruby Dee,” presented by Macy’s and Daughters of Eve Productions, which highlights the legacy of the iconic and often poetic relationship between Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee, told through the eyes of their grandson; and Moguldom Studios’ documentary, “A Genius Leaves the Hood: The Unauthorized Story of Jay Z,” which documents the story of one of Hip Hop’s most successful artists.
Other festival highlights this year include:
– A conversation with the cast and director of Universal’s upcoming James Brown biopic, Get On Up – Chadwick Boseman, Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, director Tate Taylor, etc.
– A Spike Lee retrospective.
– Bill Duke’s Actors Boot Camp
– “Robert Townsend’s The Ultimate Pitch”
– Panels/Master Classes on a variety of industry-related subjects, like: diversity in Hollywood, writing for television, an overview of a producer’s core responsibilities and how to avoid common mistakes when filmmaking, and more.
Of course there’s always the popular annual HBO Short Film Competition – finalist will be announced later.
The American Black Film Festival is presented by Film Life, Inc., a multifaceted entertainment company headquartered in New York City.
Festival passes and tickets are on sale now. For more information visit www.abff.com.
Below, via press release, you’ll find the official selection for the Spotlight, Narrative Feature and Documentary sections, including 12 World Premieres; I’ll return to highlight those titles that we haven’t previously covered on this site.
A Genius Leaves the Hood: The Unauthorized Story of Jay Z (Festival Premiere)
Courtesy of Moguldom Studios
Produced by Jamarlin Martin and Marve Frazier, directed by Barion Grant
On the surface, A Genius Leaves the Hood: The Unauthorized Story of Jay Z chronicles how hip-hop’s most successful rapper of the past two decades reached the top; but at its core, the film attempts to divulge the savvy and cunning business acumen of a mogul who decided being at the top of the charts wasn’t enough.
Screening: Saturday, June 21 – 9:35 pm
ABFF Independent, Season 3 Sneak Peek (World Premiere)
Courtesy of ASPiRE TV
Produced by Sean Johnson
Panelists: Paul Butler, General Manager, ASPiRE TV; Tina Thompson, Director, Programming, ASPiRE TV; Sean Johnson, Producer, ABFF Independent
ASPiRE TV offers you a sneak peek of its original series ABFF Independent Season 3 hosted by Omari Hardwick, and focuses on how your film project can be a part of this flagship series.
Screening: Sunday, June 22 – 2:10pm
“Black Dynamite” (Season 2 Premiere)
Courtesy of Adult Swim
Executive produced and directed by Carl Jones (N-BOMB SQUAD), executive produced by Jon Steingart (Ars Nova) and Cartoon Network Studios, Inc.
Produced by Byron Minns, Scott Sanders, Jillian Apfelbaum and Michael Jai White
Voice talents: Michael Jai White, Tommy Davidson, Kym Whitley and Byron Minns
Black Dynamite, the 30-minute animated series, is back for a second season on Adult Swim. Based on 2009’s critically acclaimed feature film, the Black Dynamite animated series further chronicles the exploits of the central character, Black Dynamite, and his crew.
Screening: Friday, June 20 – 6:30pm
Come Back Dad (World Premiere)
Courtesy of UP
Directed by Russ Parr, written by Kimberly Walker
Cast: Charles S. Dutton, Loretta Devine, Tatyana Ali and Brad James
Nima Babineaux appears to have it all until her absentee father, Othell, decides it is time to make amends and tries to reenter her life. This “2013 Honorable Mention” from UP’s Faith & Family Screenplay Competition was written by ABFF alum Kimberly Walker.
Screening: Saturday, June 21 – 4:30 pm
Life’s Essentials with Ruby Dee (Festival Premiere)
Presented by Daughters of Eve Productions, sponsored by Macy’s
Produced by NJ Frank, directed by Muta’Ali Muhammad
Featuring: Ruby Dee, Ossie Davis, Harry Belafonte, Phylicia Rashad, Angela Basset, Alan Alda, Danny Glover, Cicely Tyson, Spike Lee, S. Epatha Merkerson, Malik Yoba, Dr. Cornel West, Giancarlo Esposito, Hill Harper, Sonia Sanchez, Marc Morial, Vernon Jordan, Samuel L. Jackson and Michelle Alexander
In this open-letter-style documentary, Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis’ rich lives guide their grandson’s personal quest to master lasting love, conscious art, and undying activism.
Screening: Sunday, June 22 – 1:50pm
Through A Black Lens
Courtesy of American Family Insurance
Directed by Morris Chestnut
Through A Black Lens is an online video contest that invites entrants to share their vision of the American Dream. The winning project is produced by American Family Insurance, and will premiere at ABFF.
Screening: Saturday, June 21 – 6:35 pm
Blackbird (New York Premiere), produced by Keith Brown, Carol Ann Shine, Patrik-Ian Polk and Isaiah Washington, directed by by Patrik-Ian Polk and written by Rikki Beadle Blair and Patrik-Ian Polk, based on the novel “Blackbird” by Larry Duplechan
Cast: Mo’Nique, Isaiah Washington, Julian Walker, Terrell Tilford, Torrey Laamar, Nikki Jane, Gary L. Gray, Kevin Allesee, D. Woods and Lindsay Seim
A young singer struggles with his sexuality and the treatment of others while coming of ge in a small Southern Baptist community.
Screening: Friday, June 20 – 5:50 pm
CRU (World Premiere) – In Competition
Produced by Danny Green, Courtney Triggs, Matthew Hatchette
Directed by Alton Glass, written by Alton Glass & Oliver W. Ottley III
Cast: Keith Robinson, Richard T. Jones, Melissa De Sousa, Antwon Tanner, Sammi Rotibi, Harry J. Lennix and Alison Eastwood
Nearly twenty years after a tragedy, the reunion of four high school friends opens old wounds, exposes long-hidden secrets and paves the road to forgiveness and redemption.
Screening: Saturday, June 21 – 1:50 pm
Devil in the Detail (North American Premiere) – In Competition
Produced by Shirley Frimpong Manso and Ken Attoh, written and directed by Shirley Frimpong Manso
Cast: Ama Ampofo, Adjetey Anang, Eckow Smith Asante and Nse Ikpe Etim
A suspicious affair ruins an almost perfect marriage as husband and wife go on a wild goose chase into the world of sex, lies and betrayal, risking everything in one of the craziest love triangles ever.
Screening: Friday, June 20 – 12:00 pm
First Impression (New York Premiere)
Produced by Regis Le’Bron, Tabari Sturdivant and Lamman Rucker
Directed by Arthur Muhammad, written by Regis Le’Bron
Cast: Lamman Rucker, Lisa Arrindell Anderson and Elise Neal
First Impression is a romantic comedy that takes you on an enchanting journey into the complex world of Internet dating.
Screening: Friday, June 20 – 3:45 pm
Hard Time Bus (New York Premiere) – In Competition
Produced by Nicola Gregory and Dean Charles, directed by Dean Charles, written by Owen Mowatt
Cast: Neil Reidman, Naomi Ryan and Roger Griffiths
After a rude awakening, carefree and deceitful Mark Bishop makes hasty plans to marry his long-term girlfriend Denise, but soon learns with complacency comes risk.
Screening: Saturday, June 21 – 3:40 pm
Hear No Evil (World Premiere)
Produced by UpToParr Productions
Directed by Russ Parr
A freak accident jolts 15 year-old Shelby Carson from her peaceful world of silence and seclusion to the center of a world of chaos, confusion and imminent danger. As she struggles to cope with her new found circumstances, Shelby battles with what she learns about the people around her; complete strangers and her dearest loved ones. What seems to be a blessing from God on the surface could very well be a curse.
Screening: Saturday, June 21 – 8:55 pm
Myra’s Angel (World Premiere) – In Competition
Produced by Richard “Rip” Hamilton, Skye Dennis, Antonio Lambertis, Shane Daniels and Hakim Hudson, written by Skye Dennis and co-directed by Skye Dennis and Hakim Hudson
Cast: Tobi Gadison, Christopher Mann, Brian Anthony Wilson, John Canada Terrell, Omilio Sparks, Franklin Ojeda Smith, Antonio Lambertis and Skye Dennis
A film about a man’s journey for redemption, as he tries to clear his name of a robbery he didn’t commit.
Screening: Saturday, June 21 – 7:00 pm
Rise Up (North American Premiere)
Produced by Jeta Amata, Ori Ayonmike, Wil-son Ebiye and Dede Mabiaku, written and directed by Jeta Amata
Cast: Mbong Amata, Mickey Rourke, Kim Basinger, Hakeem Kae Kzim, Akon, Wycley, Anne Heche and Enyinna Nwigwe
Rise Up is a full-length fictionalized account of true events and tells the story of an educated Nigerian girl’s return to her rural community to become the leader of a local movement fighting against the polluting oil company.
Screening: Sunday, June 22 – 4:10 pm
Sweetboy (North American Premiere)
Co-Produced by Pamela Vanderpuije and Anthony Vander, directed by Anthony Vander, written by Joe Havey
Cast: Joseph Bentil, Jason Carter and Henry Douthwaite
A married man’s philandering ways catch up with him when his three girlfriends hold him to ransom.
Screening: Saturday, June 21 – 1:20 pm
Una Vida (New York Premiere) – In Competition
Produced and directed by Richie Adams, Brent Caballero, Nicolas Bazan and Nancy Green-Keyes, written by Richie Adams and Nicolas Bazan
Cast: Joaquim de Almeida, Bill Cobbs, Ruth Negga, Aunjanue Ellis, Sharon Lawrence and Andre Royo
A disillusioned scientist finds redemption in the peace he brings to a beautiful jazz singer suffering from a debilitating disease in New Orleans.
Screening: Sunday, June 22 – 11:30 pm
Produced by Darious J. Britt, Troy Hollar, Damon Mosier and Christina Marafino, written and directed by Darious J. Britt
Cast: Toreenee Wolf, Darious Britt, R.D. Mower and Kevin Black
An ambitious, young filmmaker must battle his mother’s mental illness and his worst fears to save her from herself and reclaim his life.
Screening: Sunday, June 22 – 4:05 pm
The following three films compete for the Best Documentary Award, presented by CNN
25 to Life (World Premiere) – In Competition
Executive produced by Ron Simons, produced by Ron Simons, Leah Natasha Thomas, Khaliah Neal and Yvonne Shirley, directed by Mike Brown
William Brawner was infected with HIV before he was two years old and kept it a secret for over twenty-five years. Now he struggles to confront his promiscuous past and embarks on a new phase of life with his pregnant wife, who is HIV-negative. 25 to Life is a startlingly new and critical look at HIV and AIDS in America through the intimate perspective of the Brawner family and the African American middle class community that has been affected by one man’s HIV diagnosis.
Screening: Sunday, June 22 – 11:30 am
Nelson Mandela: The Myth and Me (North American Premiere) – In Competition
Produced by Carolyn Carew, Christian Beetz and Kerstin Meyer-Beetz, written and directed by Khalo Matabane
Nelson Mandela is viewed as one of the greatest political icons of the 20th century. His message of freedom, forgiveness and reconciliation has inspired people across the globe. He was elected as the first democratic president of South Africa. How do people interpret Nelson Mandela’s message of freedom, forgiveness and reconciliation in today’s world?
Screening: Saturday, June 21 – 11:30 am
Transcending Surgeon (World Premiere) – In Competition
Produced by Kirsten Hampton, written and directed by Sam Hampton
Transcending Surgeon is a documentary film about renowned trauma surgeon Dr. Edward Cornwell III and the challenges and impact of his career. This film explores Dr. Cornwell’s family upbringing, mentors, education and other guiding forces that led to his successful career. It does so in the context of African American pioneers in medicine, and that many of his patients represent the realities of another side of urban African American life, communities beset by poverty, inadequate education and violence.
Screening: Saturday, June 21 – 11:30 am