The 27th edition of the American Black Film Festival (ABFF) kicked off in style on a scorching opening night, as the festival ambassador, Lena Waithe, and Nicole Friday, President & COO of Nice Crowd (formerly ABFF Ventures), delivered welcome speeches to inaugurate this year’s momentous event. The festivities began on the heels of an exciting announcement regarding expanding the group’s event offerings under the Nice Crowd banner.
The spotlight of the evening was seized by the premiere and screening of Netflix’s satirical conspiracy caper film, “They Cloned Tyrone.” Esteemed personalities, including Juel Taylor, Teyonah Parris, John Boyega, Charles King, Terrence J, Tabitha Brown, Chance Brown, Kym Whitley, Donkmaster, and Mayor Dan Gelber, graced the occasion, joining in the celebration.
“They Cloned Tyrone” follows an unusual trio of Boyega, Parris, and Foxx, who find themselves entangled in a web of eerie events unveiling a nefarious government conspiracy in this gripping mystery caper. Before its launch on Netflix on July 21, 2023, the film will enjoy a limited theatrical release.
The film marks the directorial debut of Juel Taylor, renowned for his work on “Creed II,” and is co-written by Taylor and Tony Rettenmaier. The production boasts an impressive lineup of producers, including Charles D. King, MACRO, Stephen “Dr.” Love, Tony Rettenmaier, Juel Taylor, Jamie Foxx, and Datari Turner. The film’s Executive producers include Mark R. Wright, Kim Roth, Jack Murray, Federal Films, Dana Sano, and Monte Lipman, with co-executive producers James Lopez and Poppy Hanks.
Lena Waithe, the festival ambassador, shared her sentiments, acknowledging the festival’s significance during these turbulent times. She said, “These festivals are like a family reunion; it’s not just any festival. To see these filmmakers pursue and realize their dreams is a blessing. The ABFF reminds us to come together, lift each other up, and truly see one another. Chasing dreams is fun, but catching them is hard. Filmmakers and storytellers, we do it all for you. Thank you for having me.”
ABFF kicked off its second day with a thrilling White Party that lasted well into the early morning hours. This legendary event set the stage for a day honoring Black artists across various platforms. The festival brought together social media influencers, actors, directors, filmmakers, musicians, and more.
Among the highlights were spotlight screenings that shone a special light on independent and documentary filmmakers. One of the standout moments of the day was The Lena Waithe Effect Panel. Renowned writer and producer Lena Waithe took the stage to discuss the importance of embracing one’s roots and staying true to their journey. “I am a descendant of Black cinema and Black television, and I take great pride in who I am. Like those who paved the way before me, it’s crucial for me to be a bridge that allows others to be seen,” Lena emphasized.
A lively and humorous conversation ensued following the screening of the new show, “Act Your Age,” featuring Yvette Nicole Brown, Kym Whitley, and Alyson Fouse. The audience was thrilled by their engaging dialogue.
The cast of Lionsgate’s highly anticipated film, “The Blackening,” graced the red carpet to commemorate a special advanced screening. Immediately after the screening, a Q&A session with the cast and filmmakers was moderated by Terrence J. The group delved into the film’s creation during the challenging pandemic period and emphasized the significance of releasing it during the Juneteenth weekend. “Throughout the film, the themes of friendship, survival, and loyalty are prominent, which aligns perfectly with the spirit of Juneteenth. That’s why we felt it was essential to release it during this period,” expressed Antoinette Robertson, one of the film’s talented actors. Additionally, Jermaine Fowler, another cast member, called for support of Black horror films, stating, “Everyone should rally behind ‘The Blackening’ to celebrate the success of Black creatives in the horror genre.”
ABFF continued its mission to celebrate and elevate Black excellence on its third day in Miami. The day was filled with engaging panels and events that brought important topics to the forefront.
One of the notable panels focused on mental healthcare and featured renowned actress Taraji P. Henson. During the discussion, Henson emphasized the significance of mental health and introduced her new initiative, She Care Pods. “In collaboration with Pfizer, we have launched She Care Pods to encourage students and young individuals everywhere to disconnect from their devices. These pods offer free therapy, meditation, and opportunities for human interaction,” Henson explained.
Bringing Black stories to the forefront, a panel on Black fatherhood featured Malcolm D. Lee, Morris Chestnut, and Larenz Tate. Actor Morris Chestnut shared, “Parenting can be challenging, but it is the most rewarding experience. Through our children, we discover more about ourselves and grow together.” Larenz Tate added, “I firmly believe that our kids are here to teach us valuable lessons. I am constantly learning from them, and they make me a better father.”
The importance of Black representation on-screen was highlighted by the cast of the hit CW TV series “All American.” They discussed the opportunity to showcase different struggles related to mental health. The festival also included screenings of Kirk Franklin’s new series, “Thursdays are for Lovers,” and Deon Cole’s “Average Joe,” followed by engaging post-screening Q&A sessions.
The day concluded with the highly anticipated ABFF centerpiece red carpet event and screening of Netflix’s “The Perfect Find.” The red carpet was graced by notable attendees, including Gabrielle Union-Wade, Gina Torres, Jeff Friday, Nicole Friday, Taraji P. Henson, Issa Rae, Keith
The festival served as a platform for prominent figures like Taraji P. Henson, who utilized her influence to advocate for mental health awareness. Henson’s partnership with Pfizer and the introduction of She Care Pods demonstrated her dedication to providing accessible resources for students and young people to prioritize their mental well-being. The audience was captivated by Henson’s commitment to supporting the younger generation in their journey toward better mental health.
The panel on Black fatherhood, featuring Malcolm D. Lee, Morris Chestnut, and Larenz Tate, offered valuable insights into the joys and challenges of Parenting. Morris Chestnut emphasized the transformative power of becoming a father and its profound impact on his life. Larenz Tate echoed this sentiment, highlighting the valuable lessons he continues to learn from his children, which have made him a better father. The panel shed light on the importance of positive Black fatherhood representation and its role in shaping future generations.
Black representation in the entertainment industry took center stage during the discussion led by the cast of the hit CW TV series “All American.” The cast members emphasized the significance of portraying diverse struggles on screen, including those related to mental health. They recognized the responsibility and opportunity to amplify stories that resonate with Black audiences, providing visibility and understanding.
The festival also curated screenings of notable productions, including Kirk Franklin’s new series, “Thursdays are for Lovers,” and Deon Cole’s “Average Joe.” These screenings were followed by engaging Q&A sessions, allowing the audience to gain deeper insights into the creative processes and inspirations behind the projects.
The day’s events reached a glamorous finale with the highly anticipated ABFF centerpiece red carpet event and screening of Netflix’s “The Perfect Find.” The star-studded red carpet saw the presence of esteemed guests, including Gabrielle Union-Wade, Gina Torres, Jeff Friday, Nicole Friday, Taraji P. Henson, Issa Rae, Keith Powers, Aisha Hinds, Numa Perrier, Shanola Hampton, Gabrielle Walsh, Rell Battle, and many more. The film screening marked another significant moment of celebrating Black talent and storytelling.
ABFF concluded by showcasing the profound impact of meaningful storytelling in filmmaking. The day was filled with captivating events, including the prestigious Best of ABFF Awards Ceremony, a candid discussion on amplifying Black voices, and an exclusive early screening of the highly anticipated series “I’m A Virgo.”
The closing ceremony included the Best of ABFF Awards Ceremony, which recognized and honored the remarkable contributions of filmmakers and industry professionals in advancing the representation of Black stories on screen.
Tabitha and Chance Brown, prominent figures in the entertainment industry, engaged in a thought-provoking discussion during the festival. They emphasized the significance of amplifying Black voices and celebrating the entrepreneurial spirit of small business owners. Moreover, they passionately advocated for removing barriers that hinder individuals’ progress in the television and film industry. Their candid conversation highlighted the importance of creating an inclusive and equitable space for all aspiring talents.
Renowned artist and actress Queen Latifah moderated a captivating event called “Clips & Conversations,” which featured six dynamic filmmakers. Queen Latifah expressed the importance of establishing opportunities for Black filmmakers and storytellers to thrive. She emphasized the need to nurture a continuous pipeline of talent that can carry the torch of representation and creativity for generations to come. The event provided a platform for these talented filmmakers to discuss their work, share their experiences, and inspire others within the industry.
Cadillac partnered to present “Morning Mindset with Tai: The Experience” on the lawn of the W hotel and featured a morning of movement, meditation, and affirmations led by TV host, producer, and co-founder of BROWN GIRL Jane, Tai Beauchamp.
Following Cadillac hosted a panel discussion on the power of Black storytelling on Saturday, June 25. The “Creating Cultural Capital” panel will feature a diverse group of industry leaders, including Tarshena Armstrong, Franklin Leonard, Tommy Oliver, and Liliana Lopez. Stacey Walker-King will moderate the discussion. The panelists will discuss the importance of Black stories being told by Black creators and how these stories can help to shape the cultural landscape. They will also discuss the challenges of breaking into the industry and the importance of mentorship.
The ABFF First Look segment presented an exciting glimpse into the bold and innovative reinterpretation of the beloved classic, “The Color Purple.” In attendance, esteemed actress Taraji P. Henson recognized the film’s cultural significance within the Black community. Henson fondly recalled how the presence of Black actors on screen during her formative years inspired her to pursue her dreams. She acknowledged the progress made in the industry, noting the increased visibility and opportunities available today compared to the past.
The festival also treated attendees to an exclusive early screening of the highly anticipated series, “I’m A Virgo,” generating immense anticipation and enthusiasm among the audience. The series promises to captivate viewers with its compelling storytelling and exceptional performances.
The 27th American Black Film Festival offered many remarkable experiences for attendees to enjoy. From thought-provoking discussions on securing financial stability and widening the view of the Black experience to captivating screenings and exclusive events, the festival created a platform celebrating Black excellence in the film industry.