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The 25th American Black Film Festival is shifting from a hybrid to a fully online event, Jeff Friday Media (JFM) announced today.
The festival, which runs from Nov. 3-14, 2021 will be available digitally on ABFF’s custom-built online platform, abffplay.com, providing artists, filmmakers, movie fans and audiences the opportunity to come together virtually to celebrate ABFF’s 25th year of showcasing the best in Black cinema and television.
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“As we were enthusiastically planning our 25th anniversary celebration and return to Miami Beach, we couldn’t ignore the ongoing spread of COVID-19 and now the Delta variant,” Jeff Friday, CEO Jeff Friday Media and founder, ABFF Ventures LLC, said announcing shift.
“Our national health crisis is at the forefront of our minds and we must responsively adapt. For the health and safety of our attendees, supporters and staff, we’ve made the difficult decision to pivot to a virtual event this year,” Friday continued. “Despite this change, our programming will not be compromised, We are pleased to present ABFF 2021 as a free, worldwide digital experience and we look forward to watching and enjoying this year’s festival as much as ever!”
Over the course of the twelve-day festival, ABFF will provide complimentary access to the complete lineup of independent films, network and studio previews, panels, master classes and other virtual experiences, which will be streamed on its platform, with select content available via Facebook and various social media platforms.
The festival, along with local partners, the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau and the City of Miami Beach, will also activate film-related happenings throughout the year for the South Florida community.
“ABFF 25 will not disappoint on our promise to deliver inspiring and dynamic programs,” Nicole Friday, president, ABFF Ventures LLC, added. “With our unique global broadcast platform, we celebrate our 25-year journey of uplifting voices, sharing the talent of hundreds of artists and fostering a stronger Black entertainment community. We are grateful to our outstanding corporate sponsors and partners for their unwavering support of ABFF and its important mission over the years.”
While approximately 10,000 celebrity talent, emerging artists, upscale consumers and industry stakeholders travel to Miami Beach annually for the live event, in 2020 over 54,000 additional people representing over 90 countries attended the festival virtually.
The 2021 in-competition lineup represents six countries, including Brazil, South Africa, Canada, Namibia, the United Kingdom and the U.S., and over half the selections are from first-time directors. ABFF’s competitive categories include narrative features, documentaries and webisodes with a combined total cash prize of $20,000 sponsored by festival partners.
Will Packer, prolific film producer and ABFF alumnus, serves as the festival’s 2021 jury president and will oversee the voting process.
Among the narrative feature selections is the world premiere of Jussie Smollett’s feature directorial debut “B-Boy Blues,” an adaptation of James Earl Hardy’s 1994 novel, where class and culture clash when a college-educated journalist from Brooklyn and a homeboy bike messenger from Harlem fall in love.
Actor and filmmaker Michael Jai White’s western adventure “The Outlaw Johnny Black” will also make its festival premiere in competition alongside “A Message From Brianna” (produced by and starring retired NFL star Vernon Davis); “Doctor Gama,” the story of Luiz Gama, the most important abolitionist leader in Brazil; SXSW special jury recognition winner “I’m Fine (Thanks for Asking),” from co-directors Kelley Kali (who also stars in the movie) and Angelique Molina; the festival premiere of “Liam White”; the world premiere of “Margarine”; “No Running,” with stars Skylan Brooks, Rutina Wesley, and Taryn Manning; filmmaker Alanna Brown’s “Trees of Peace,” which is inspired by true events; and “Voodoo Macbeth,” which tells the tale of the first all-Black cast production of “Macbeth” in 1930s Harlem.
Finalists for the 24th HBO Short Film Competition, as well as ABFF’s non-competitive sections including “World Showcase, “Emerging Directors and “ABFF Pride” will be announced later.
Variety is an official sponsor of ABFF. Additional sponsors include HBO (Founding); WarnerMedia, Cadillac, Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau (Presenting); Comcast NBCUniversal, Sony Pictures Entertainment, American Airlines (Premier); ALLBLK, City of Miami Beach, Netflix, Yahoo!(Official); Accenture, Motion Picture Association (MPA) (Supporting). Media partners include TheGrio and Rolling Out. For festival information, visit www.abff.com.
The full line-up of in-competition films for ABFF’s 2021 edition is below:
NARRATIVE FEATURES (U.S. & International)
A competitive section for U.S. and International feature-length films directed by or written and produced by persons of African descent. Films in this category are eligible to be nominated to compete for the following Jury Awards – Best Director (presented by Cadillac, $5,000 prize), Best Narrative Feature (presented by Sony, $2,500 cash prize), and Best Screenplay ($2,500 cash prize). In addition, if a person of African descent has directed a film in this section and it is his/her first feature, they will be eligible to compete for the John Singleton Award for Best First Feature (presented by Netflix, $5,000 cash prize).
A Message from Brianna
When an African American couple move into their new home, their 2-year-old daughter becomes a terrifying messenger from the other side.
USA | 80 min
Director: DeShon Hardy
Writer: DeShon Hardy
Producers: DeShon Hardy, Vernon Davis
Cast: Vernon Davis, Asia’h Epperson, Kevin Benton, Liana Kristina Mayer-Reinach, Adaisha Strong, Stan J. Adams, Brittany Beckett, Amanda Felix, Leigh Bodden, Mohamed Sanu, Brittany Geertgens, Rita Bacot, Ethan Henderson, Robert Epstein, Tracy Oliver
B-Boy Blues *World Premiere
Class and culture clash when a college-educated journalist from Brooklyn and a homeboy bike messenger from Harlem fall in love.
USA | 106 min
Director: Jussie Smollett
Writers: James Earl Hardy, Jussie Smollett
Producers: Jussie Smollett, Madia Hill Scott
Cast: Timothy Richardson, Thomas Mackie, Landon G. Woodson, Brandee Evans, Michael Jackson Jr., Jabari Redd, Heather B., Brian Lucas, Jahleel Kamara,
Broderick Hunter, Derrick Downey, Marquise Vilson, Otis Winston, Bry’Nt, Eric R. Williams, Tieisha Thomas, Shawn Sutton, Andre Virgo, Anthony Virgo, Mariama Diallo,
Ilara Phoenix Williams, Sampson McCormick, Ledisi
Doctor Gama *U.S. Premiere
The history of Luiz Gama, the most important abolitionist leader in Brazil.
BRAZIL | 92 min
Director: Jeferson De
Writer: Luiz Antonio
Producers: Egisto Betti, Heitor Dhalia, Manoel Rangel, Pedro Betti, Cris Arenas, Cacá Digues
Cast: César Mello, Zezé Motta, Mariana Nunes, Angelo Fernandes
I’m Fine (Thanks for Asking)
When a recently widowed mother becomes houseless, she convinces her 8-year-old daughter that they are only camping for fun while working to get them off the streets.
USA | 90 min
Directors: Kelley Kali, Angelique Molina
Writers: Kelley Kali, Angelique Molina, Roma Kong
Producers: Roma Kong, Angelique Molina, Kelley Kali, Capella Fahoome, Deon Cole
Cast: Kelley Kali, Wesley Moss, Deon Cole
Liam White *Festival Premiere
A novelist who is told he has a few months to live is forced to come to grips with his life thus far and reflect on the people who shaped him, for better and worse.
USA | 87 min
Director: Harold Jackson III
Writer: Harold Jackson III
Producers: Wendy Anderson, Tawanna Terrell, Harold Jackson, Kiyoka Rhodes
Cast: Shaun Woodland, Jasmine Guy, Terrence “TC” Carson, Brave Williams
Margarine *World Premiere
A short-tempered, trigger-happy gun fiend terrorizes his community until he meets a charming girl named Margarine who drives him to question his ways.
SOUTH AFRICA | 115 min
Director: Thabo Khambule
Writer: Thabo Khambule
Producers: Carmel Khambule, Bheki Ncube, Thabo Khambule
Cast: Finito Bullet, Mammy Manique, Linda Sobezo, Motsoaledi Setumo, Themba Mkhoma, Sibonakaliso Nqabadi, Thapelo Mooki, Precious Nxumalo, Banele Sibisi, Thembeni Joni, Kamvaletho Tshabala, Kabelo Molefe, Sibusiso Makqate
A Black high school student finds himself under suspicion following his classmate’s mysterious disappearance.
USA | 85 min
Director: Delmar Washington
Writer: Tucker Morgan
Producers: Eric B. Fleischman, Maurice Fadida
Cast: Skylan Brooks, Rutina Wesley, Taryn Manning, Diamond White, Shane West, Bill Engvall
The Outlaw Johnny Black *Festival Premiere
From the brothers who brought you Black Dynamite, comes a western adventure that’s sho’ outta sight!
USA | 130 min
Director: Michael Jai White
Writers: Michael Jai White, Byron Minns Producer: Donovan de Boer
Cast: Michael Jai White, Anika Noni Rose, Byron Minns, Erika Ash, Chris Browning, Kevin Chapman, Tommy Davidson, Kym Whitley, Randy Couture, Barry Bostwick,
Trees of Peace
When four women from different backgrounds and beliefs are trapped and hiding during the 1994 Genocide Against the Tutsi in Rwanda, their 81-day fight for survival forges an unbreakable sisterhood (inspired by true events).
USA | 137 minutes
Director: Alanna Brown
Writer: Alanna Brown
Producers: Ron Ray, Barry Levine, Mike Bundlie, Brian Baniqued, Jeff Spiegel, Vicky Petela, Alanna Brown
Cast: Eliane Umuhire, Charmaine Bingwa, Bola Koleosho, Ella Cannon, Tongayi Chirisa
In 1936 Harlem, the first all-Black cast production of Macbeth struggles to make it to opening night amid the downward spiral of their young and untested director — Orson Welles
USA | 108 min
Directors: Dagmawi Abebe, Victor Alonso-Berbel, Roy Arwas, Hannah Bang, Christopher Beaton, Agazi Desta, Tiffany Kontoyiannis Guillen, Zoë Salnave, Ernesto Sandoval, Sabina Vajrača
Writers: Agazi Desta, Jennifer Frazin, Morgan Milender, Molly Miller, Amri Rigby, Joel David Satner, Erica Sutherlin, Chris Tarricone
Producers: Jason Phillips, Miles Alva, Xiaoyuan Xiao
Cast: Inger Tudor, Jewell Wilson Bridges, Jeremy Tardy, June Schreiner, Wrekless Watson, Gary McDonald, Ashli Haynes, Daniel Kuhlman, Hunter Bodine
A competitive section for nonfiction feature films directed by persons of African descent or centered on the culture and experiences of persons of African descent. Films in this category are eligible to be nominated to compete for the Jury Award for Best Documentary. The cash prize for this award is $2,500.
100 Years From Mississippi *Festival Premiere
100 Years From Mississippi is a documentary on the life of Mamie Lang Kirkland, a 111- year-old African American woman who experienced and survived racial terrorism, segregation, bigotry and bias, and yet continued to have hope, joy and love of life, full of the certainty that we can do better.
USA | 60 min
Director: Tarabu Betserai Kirkland
Writer: Tarabu Betserai Kirkland
Producers: Tarabu Betserai Kirkland, Gina Rugolo Judd
Anatomy of Wings
Black and white, young and old, a group of women risk their personal identities to build a second family while creating a documentary film across the inequities of their Baltimore city neighborhoods.
USA | 85 min
Directors: Nikiea Redmond, Kirsten D’Andrea Hollander
Producers: Kirsten D’Andrea Hollander, Nikiea Redmond
Cast: Brittany Backmon, Teshavionna ‘Tazz’ Mitchell, Sheila Butler, Marquise Weems, Brienna Brown, Danisha Harris, Cami McCrief, Tywana Reid, Quandra Jones, Quanisha Carmichael, Cinnamon Triano, Kata Frederick
Big Chief, Black Hawk *World Premiere
A short and intimate look into the life of the youngest Mardi Gras Indian Big Chief in New Orleans and his “tribe” as they navigate the social and environmental issues facing “the culture.”
USA | 74 min
Director: Jonathan Isaac Jackson
Writer: Jonathan Isaac Jackson
Producer: Paul V. Fishback
Cast: Terrance Williams Jr., Tyrell “Ty” Williams, Simeon “Fatman” Israel Jr., Dow Edwards, Joseph Boudreaux Jr.
Little Satchmo *U.S. Premiere
Louis Armstrong is iconic — a symbol of musical genius and unparalleled success. Yet he was more than a caricature; in private, he held dearly to what he loved. Perhaps dearest was a child whom he hid from the world: a daughter sworn to a life of secrecy until now. USA | 61 min
Director: John Alexander
Writer: John Alexander
Producers: Lea Umberger, JC Guest
Cast: Sharon Preston – Folta
The Neutral Ground
The Neutral Ground documents New Orleans’ fight over monuments and America’s troubled romance with the Lost Cause.
USA | 82 min
Director: CJ Hunt
Writers: CJ Hunt, Jane Geisler, James Hamilton Producer: Darcy McKinnon
Subjects of Desire *Festival Premiere
Subjects of Desire is a thought-provoking feature documentary that examines the cultural shift in beauty standards towards embracing Black aesthetics and features.
CANADA | 103 min
Director: Jennifer Holness
Writer: Jennifer Holness
Producers: Jennifer Holness, Sudz Sutherland
Cast: Ryann Richardson, Alexandra Germain, Seraiah Nicole, Brittany Lewis, Jully Black, Rachel Dolezal, Dr. Cheryl Thompson, Dr. Carolyn West, Dr. Heather Widdows, India Arie
Unzipped: An Autopsy of American Inequality *World Premiere
An intimate and heartbreaking film about the affordable housing crisis in America told through the prism of one ZIP Code’s struggle with the growing income divide.
USA | 108 min
Director: Colin K. Gray
Writer: Colin K. Gray
Producers: Megan Raney Aarons, Jamila C. Fairley, Carol Gronner, Colin K. Gray
Cast: Nikol Williams, DeShawn Huff, William Attaway, Rayanne Schmidt, Monica Perez, Eric Garcetti, Mike Bonin, Mark Ridley-Thomas, Naomi Nightingale, Va Lecia Adams Kellum, Elizabeth Benson Forer, Becky Dennison, Miguel Bravo, Rick Massie, Mark Ryavec, Ananya Roy, Coley King, Kristina Von Hoffman, M.B. Boissonnault
Why Is We Americans? *World Premiere
A portrait of the iconoclastic poet Amiri Baraka, his family, and their legacy of social activism, poetry, music, art and politics.
USA | 101 min
Directors: Udi Aloni, Ayana Stafford-Morris
Writer: Udi Aloni
Producers: Udi Aloni, Ayana Stafford-Morris, Ms. Lauryn Hill, Oren Moverman Cast: Amiri Baraka, Ras Baraka, Amina Baraka, Ms. Lauryn Hill, Amandla Baraka, Cory Booker, Amiri Baraka Jr., Roxanne Shanté, Maya Angelou
A competitive section for short-form episodic television directed by or produced and written by persons of African descent. Each series in this section will compete for the Jury Award for Best Web Series (presented by Comcast NBCUniversal, $2,500 cash prize).
Sidetracked: “A Trollop?” (Ep. 9) *World Premiere
Our thirties are supposed to be the time to get our act together, find our true purpose and meet our soul mate, but some of us got a little SIDETRACKED. USA | 15 min
Director: Miles Crawford
Writer: E.D. Brown
Producers: E.D. Brown, Marc Chenil, Miles Crawford
Cast: Tracie Thoms, Jason Kelley, Wes Ramsey, Jim Holdridge, Jee Young Han, E.D. Brown
True Story: “I Feel” *World Premiere
A Black therapist attempts to persuade his patient, who has a history of violence, into saying how he feels.
USA | 13 min
Director: Matthew Law
Writer: Matthew Law
Producers: Grasie Mercedes, Rob Smith, Matthew Law, Shaun Clay Cast: Shaun Clay, Matthew Law
No Church In The Wild: “Traitor”
A failed escape attempt turns Leslie Wagner-Wilson into an outcast inside of a spiraling cult.
CANADA | 6 min
Director: Richmond Obeng
Writers: Richmond Obeng, Lindsey Addawoo
Producers: Richmond Obeng, Aramide Tinubu, Lindsey Addawoo Cast: Leslie Wagner-Wilson
Maternally Yours *Festival Premiere
A young woman’s identity is compromised when her parents’ past collides with the present and family secrets are revealed.
USA | 10 min
Director: Nicole Collins
Writers: Tomaseena Auzenne, Angel Saunders
Producers: Khadijah Louis, April Riles, The Dark Brothers
Cast: Brionne Collins, Lance Nichols, Ariadne Josephs, Cynyon Rodriguez, Ju’Marcus Mason, Nicoye Banks, Hira-Maja Dupas, Jessica Johnson
A mockumentary following Los Angeles-based visual artist Sabina on her journey of self- destruction during the global pandemic.
USA | 5 min
Director: Erin Wesley
Writer: Bianca Cristovao
Producer: Bianca Cristovao
Cast: Bianca Cristovao, Niles Abston, Jessica Mulder, Heremela Kebede
An artist gains lessons in resilience while exploring the impact of COVID-19 on Namibia’s creative sector.
NAMIBIA | 6 min
Directors: Tim Huebschle, Ndinomholo Ndilula
Writer: Ndinomholo Ndilula
Producers: Tim Huebschle, David Benade
Cast: Ndinomholo Ndilula, Kulan Ganes, Slick Upindi
The Hero of a Thousand Faces *World Premiere
Capt. Barrington Irving, Guiness Book of World Records holder for the youngest man to fly around the world and the first Black man to fly around the world, speaks about his upbringing and the adversity that made him successful.
USA | 10 min
Directors: Fabien Cardenas, Gabriel Andrews
Writers: Fabien Cardenas, Michael Anderson, Gabriel Andrews Producers: Michael Anderson, Gabriel Andrews
Cast: Captain Barrington Irving (as himself)
Second Hand (Ep. 2) *Festival Premiere
Two sisters bump heads while moving out of their childhood home.
USA | 5 min
Director: R. Cadell Cook
Writer: R. Cadell Cook
Producers: Melan Perez, R. Cadell Cook
Cast: Melan Perez, Alexis J. Smith, Tennyson Harris
USA | 13 min
A queer, Black professional attempts to navigate the challenges of breaking the glass ceiling in corporate America while fielding pressure from her partner to start a family.
Director: Caralene Robinson
Writers: Caralene Robinson, Nina Simone Moore, Angele Cooper
Producers: Angela Burris, Nina Simone Moore
Cast: Skye Johnson, Adwoa Duncan-Williams, Lark Eiko, Zen Dot, Petra Wakowski, Siobhán Carroll, Keisha Beaumont, Kelsey Senteio, Stuart Riggs, Jeff Marshall, Ladonna Gooden, Yvette Ganie
Last Bodega In Brooklyn (Ep. 1) *World Premiere
A Brooklyn family must band together to save their bodega and neighborhood from a new organics store owner.
USA | 6 min
Directors: Mosiah Moonsammy, Jared Glenn
Writer: Mosiah Moonsammy
Producer: Mosiah Moonsammy
Cast: Mosiah Moonsammy, Toni Lachelle Pollit, Jeffrey C. Wolf, Tay Harris, Peter Bowden
Talia Versus: “Talia Vs Wedding” (Ep. 1)
A mockumentary series that follows the awkward encounters of the audacious Talia as she versus love and life in London.
UK | 7 min
Director: Saraphina Mattis, Israel Peters
Writer: Saraphina Mattis
Producers: Kashif Boothe, Sacha Lewis
Cast: Princess Donnough, Kamilah Shorey, Adesuwa Oni, Leonie Haynes-Moses,
Jamal Renaldo, Elliot Elimasi
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