The American Black Film Festival (ABFF) is a haven for voices of African descent in the cinematic community and inspires acting and production hopefuls to dream big. With an impressive slate of films, workshops and sessions, and of course, celebrities, the festival kicked of its 20th year with a return to Miami Beach on June 15.
While the event had previously lived in Acapulco, Los Angeles and New York, Founder and CEO Jeff Friday notes that Miami Beach has always been home.
“Miami just has everything we need,” says Friday. “The hotels, access to major markets, the beach – it really does give a great backdrop to what we’re trying to do.”
ABFF has set quite a standard against this backdrop, opening Wednesday evening with the debut of the Kevin Hart and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson film Central Intelligence. On Thursday, festival attendees were treated to a conversation between 2016 Festival Ambassador Common and TV One‘s Roland Martin.
Friday also expressed excitement about the ABFF Filmmakers Reunion, which brought together ABFF alumni from the past twenty years.
Actor, director and ABFF staple Robert Townsend believes that ABFF serves as an inspirational force for the new generation of filmmakers and actors, listing the one-on-one conversations among the impactful sessions.
“To hear Common talk about his journey was amazing. He talked about a spell where he went on auditions and never got work or call backs. But he never gave up, because he had a passion for it.”
The festival included a diverse slate of events including a discussion with Nate Parker, moderated by Star Jones, about the critically acclaimed film The Birth of a Nation, The ABFF Comedy Wings Competition, and the return of the HBO Shorts screenings.
If Friday has his way, ABFF will experience exponential growth in the next twenty years. There are plans for programs throughout the year to educate young people on getting into the business in addition to other ventures.
“We want to have classes. We’re also looking at a theater chain, bringing ABFF theaters in some of your major markets, and a digital steaming platform,” says Friday. “The vision is to be more of an institution.”
Chetachi A. Egwu, Ph.D. is Communication Faculty at the University of Maryland University College. Her scholarship focuses on Black Internet Usage and the African image in film, with an emphasis in documentary. The Howard University alumna is the owner of Conscious Thought Media and the host of the livestreamed show MediaScope. Dr. Egwu has contributed to The Grio and is a regular contributor to The Burton Wire. Follow her on Twitter @Tachiada.