Authors/Film & TV

Published on August 17th, 2021 | by Dr. Jerry Doby

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The American Black Film Festival Announces 2021 Official Film Selections in Competition For Its Milestone 25th Year

Jeff Friday Media (JFM) announced today the lineup of official films in competition for its milestone 25th American Black Film Festival (ABFF).  Consistent with the festival’s mission to showcase Black talent and to discover new voices, this year’s impressive range of films are produced by emerging and established artists from six countries including Brazil, South Africa, Canada, Namibia, the United Kingdom and the USA.

This year’s festival will be presented with live events and virtual screenings to be held November 3-14 on the ABFF’s custom-built online platform, abffplay.com (https://abffplay.com/), reaching a global audience.

‚ÄúIt is with a great sense of pride that we mark our 25th year. ABFF started in 1997 with a mission to present the work of Black storytellers and to change the face of Hollywood. We came together as a small and driven group of 90 people. Today, the festival is a global platform with a dedicated audience of movie enthusiasts, artists, and filmmakers from around the world. We look forward to continuing our unwavering commitment to diversify Hollywood and amplify Black culture,‚ÄĚ said Jeff Friday,¬†CEO, JFM.¬†

The ABFF competitive categories include narrative features, documentaries, and webisodes with a combined total cash prize of $20,000 sponsored by festival partners.  The slate of films, include:

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 ‚Äď 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).The following films represent¬†the 2021 official selections in the Narrative Features¬†category:

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 ‚ÄúTC‚ÄĚ 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 

 

No Running

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,

Glynn Turman 

 

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 

Voodoo Macbeth

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 ‚ÄĒ Orson Welles.¬†

USA | 108 min 

Directors: Dagmawi Abebe, Victor Alonso-Berbel, Roy Arwas, Hannah Bang,  

Christopher Beaton, Agazi Desta, Tiffany Kontoyiannis Guillen, Zo√ę Salnave, Ernesto Sandoval, Sabina Vajrańća

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 

DOCUMENTARY FEATURES  

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. The following films represent the 2021 official selections in the Documentary Features category:  

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.‚Ä̬†

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 ‚ÄĒ 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 

WEB SERIES

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). The following are the 2021 official selections in the Web Series category: 

Sidetracked: ‚ÄúA Trollop?‚ÄĚ (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: ‚ÄúI Feel‚ÄĚ *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: ‚ÄúTraitor‚ÄĚ

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, HiraMaja Dupas, Jessica Johnson 

  

ArtBroken  

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 

Walking Forward

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 

 

Ms/Manage

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.

USA | 13 min 

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, Siobh√°n 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: ‚ÄúTalia Vs Wedding‚ÄĚ (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 

Finalists for the 24th HBO Short Film Competition, as well as ABFF‚ÄôS non-competitive sections including¬†‚ÄúWorld Showcase, ‚ÄúEmerging Directors and¬†‚ÄúABFF Pride‚ÄĚ will be announced later. Film producer and ABFF alumnus Will Packer (Girls Trip, Ride Along), as the festival‚Äôs 2021Jury President, will oversee the voting process.

ABFF attracts a broad audience – approximately 10,000 celebrity talent, emerging artists, upscale consumers and industry stakeholders, travel to Miami Beach each year for the live event. In 2020, over 54,000 additional people representing over 90 countries attended the festival via ABFFPLAy.

ABFF sponsors to date include HBO¬ģ (Founding); WarnerMedia, Cadillac, Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau (Presenting); Comcast NBCUniversal, Sony Pictures Entertainment, American Airlines (Premier); ALLBLK, City of Miami Beach, Netflix, Yahoo!, Variety (Official); Accenture, Motion Picture Association (MPA) (Supporting).¬†Media partners include TheGrio and Rolling Out.

For festival information, visit www.abff.com and follow @ABFF on Twitter and @AmericanBlackFilmFestival on Instagram and Facebook. Join in on the conversation by using #ABFF.   

ABOUT ABFF
The American Black Film Festival (ABFF) is an annual event dedicated to recognizing Black talent and showcasing quality film and television content by and about people of African descent. Dedicated to the belief that diverse artists deserve the same opportunities as their mainstream counterparts, ABFF founder Jeff Friday conceived the festival in 1997 as a vehicle to strengthen the Black entertainment community by fostering resource sharing, education and artistic collaboration. Now in its 25th year, the festival has become a cornerstone of diversity in Hollywood, providing a platform for emerging Black artists ‚Äď many of whom have become today‚Äôs most successful actors, producers, writers, directors and stand-up comedians.

ABOUT JEFF FRIDAY MEDIA

Jeff Friday Media (JFM) is a Los Angeles-based entertainment company producing events, film and television focused on Black and Brown culture. Its mission is to create live experiences and content that convey aspects of humanity and achievement, often dismissed or overlooked, in the portrayal of people of color in popular entertainment.¬†As part of its formation, JFM acquired ABFF Ventures LLC,‚ÄĮan organization recognized in the Hollywood community for creating platforms that showcase and promote distinctive Black and Brown talent. Its‚ÄĮtent-pole properties are the American Black Film Festival and ABFF Honors, both founded by JFM CEO Jeff Friday.¬†In 2020, JFM secured a motion picture development deal with Sony Pictures Entertainment and launched ABFF PLAY, a live and on-demand streaming service featuring free and pay-per-view content. JFM recently announced a scripted television partnership with Endeavor Content and POV.



About the Author

Editor-in-Chief of The Hype Magazine, Media and SEO Consultant, Journalist, Ph.D. and retired combat vet. 2023 recipient of The President's Lifetime Achievement Award. Partner at THM Media Group. Member of the U.S. Department of Arts and Culture, the United States Press Agency and ForbesBLK.


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