Florida Governor Jeb Bush Salutes ABFF and ABFF Filmmakers & Honorees, Following Festival’s Successful Inaugural Run in South Beach, Miami Beach, Florida, with Stars Chris Tucker, Robert Townsend, Keenen Ivory Wayans, Delroy Lindo, Sanaa Lathan, John Singleton, Mekhi Phifer, Access Hollywood’s Shaun Robinson and more

SOUTH BEACH, FL – The sixth annual “American Black Film Festival” (ABFF) announced the winners of its 2002 competitions during the recent ABFF Awards Show presented by Lincoln and co-hosted by Robert Townsend and Shaun Robinson at the Jackie Gleason Theatre, June 29, in South Beach, Miami Beach, FL. The star-studded gala culminated ABFF’s five-day festival event, beginning June 26, and staged at various area sites. (Formerly called the Acapulco Black Film Festival, the annual celebration honors artistic excellence in Black cinema and features competitive film showcases, workshops, panel discussions, forums, Bill Duke’s legendary Actors Boot Camp and more.)

“Florida is proud to host the American Black Film Festival,” said Governor Jeb Bush. “Our state’s cultural diversity as well as our connection with the film industry make this the perfect venue to celebrate African-American achievement in film. We intend to build on our relationship with the ABFF as it further expands and develops in the coming years. We also believe that Hollywood has just scratched the surface of the creative energy of the Sunshine State, and we are committed to making Florida a haven for filmmakers.”

This year’s awards included the top HBO Short Film Award, the Lincoln Filmmaker Trophy, the first Blockbuster Audience Award for Best Feature Film and five ABFF celebrity honors, including Best Actress and Best Actor Awards and the previously announced Rising Star and Career Achievement Awards.

“The Riff,” directed and written by Mark Allen, and starring Antonio Fargas and Nia Peebles, won the Lincoln Filmmaker Trophy Award. The HBO Short Film Award, with a grand prize of $20,000, went to “Quest to Ref” directed and written by Benjamin Watkins, who also starred in the film. “Civil Brand,” directed by Emmy Award winner Neema Barnette, took the Blockbuster Audience Award for Best Feature Film.

Producer Roger M. Bobb accepted the Lincoln Filmmaker Trophy and also received a two-year lease on a Lincoln Navigator.

The Audience Award for Best Performance by an Actress went to Monica Calhoun for her outstanding performance in “Pandora’s Box,” a nominee for Best Feature Film at this year’s ABFF. Clifton Powell won the Audience Award for Best Actor for his performance in “Civil Brand,” which also featured Ms. Calhoun.

In a special, moving tribute to the work and artistry of industry veteran Robert Townsend, actors Chris Tucker and Keenen Ivory Wayans surprised Mr. Townsend with ABFF’s 2002 Career Achievement- Male Award.

As previously announced, Mekhi Phifer won the “Rising Star” Award and costumer Ruth E. Carter, a two-time Academy Award nominee, the Career Achievement Award-Female. Director John Singleton and actress Sanaa Lathan presented to Ms. Carter, and Delroy Lindo, to Mr. Phifer.

Other presenters in various categories included: Nicole Ari Parker, Boris Kodjoe, Anthony Anderson and Kenya Moore. Also during the world-acclaimed Creative Outlet Dance Theater performed original work under the direction of Jamal Gaines at this year’s ABFF Awards Show.

“We are deeply thankful for the continuing support of our founding sponsor, HBO, and our Platinum sponsor, Lincoln, as well as that of our many friends including Robert Townsend, Bill Duke, Chris Tucker and Keenen Ivory Wayans,” said Jeff Friday, President & CEO, Film Life, Inc. and Executive Producer of the American Black Film Festival. “It is because of this allegiance and loyalty that ABFF has become the premiere multicultural film festival in the world.”

“The unwavering support of HBO and Lincoln now combined with that of our host, the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau, Don Peebles and the Royal Palm Crowne Plaza Resort and the Loews Hotel have made South Beach the new home of ABFF,” said Byron E. Lewis Sr., ABFF founder and Chairman/CEO, UniWorld Group, Inc. “The vast array of cultures represented in Miami will serve as the perfect template for the future of the Festival and our hope to create a year-round multicultural filmmaking center.”

The Lincoln Filmmaker Trophy winner “The Riff” is a story about friendship and betrayal, of youth and age and one man’s struggle to come to terms with his tragic path set against the backdrop of the New Orleans jazz scene. The film stars Antonio Fargas as an aging New Orleans jazz musician and Nia Peeples as the girlfriend of the musician’s agent.

The Blockbuster Audience Award film “Civil Brand” is a hard-edged hip-hop tale about young Black women caught up in abuse and exploitation, and the reality of prisons as modern-day plantations. The women discover that a corporation is paying for the entire “plantation setup” and making huge profits off their slave labor. Ms. Barnette directed from a script by Joyce Lewis and Preston Whitmore. The cast includes LisaRaye, Mos Def, N’Bushe Wright, Monica Calhoun, Da Brat, MC Lyte, Clifton Powell (who won the 2002 Best Actor Award for his performance in this film) and Tichina Arnold. Jeff Clanagan is executive producer of “Civil Brand” which received a $15,000 prize from Blockbuster, Inc.

HBO is the founding sponsor of ABFF. Lincoln is the Platinum sponsor. Other major sponsors are: The Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau; Upscale Magazine, BET Pictures, Blockbuster, Essence, Regal Cinemas, Vibe, ABC, American Airlines, Black Enterprise, Daily Blossom, Daily Variety, Enyce, Martell, Nielsen Media Research, UrbanWorks Entertainment, VH1 and the Florida Governor’s Office of Film & Entertainment.

Founded by Byron E. Lewis Sr. in 1997, the mission of The American Black Film Festival (ABFF) is to redefine, discover and honor artistic excellence in Black cinema. ABFF provides an unprecedented platform for Black filmmakers at these festivals and now attracts an annual attendance of more than 2500 people. Participants and honorees in the past five years have included Denzel Washington, Halle Berry, Morgan Freeman, Pam Grier, Debbie Allen, Suzanne De Passe, John Singleton and Robert Townsend.

HBO, AOLTW, ABC and Nielsen Media to Participate in Efforts to Develop and Encourage Black Filmmakers

New York – Executives from HBO, AOLTW, ABC and Nielsen Media will present panels designed to assist aspiring black filmmakers in bringing their talents to major studios and television networks during the American Black Film Festival (June 26-30, South Beach, Miami) it was announced today.

HBO’s panel, “Pitching to HBO,” will provide valuable information on the appropriate procedures for submitting scripts, developing sales strategies and creating the successful pitch. Moderated by Shelby Stone, producer of “Drop Squad” and HBO Films’ “Boycott,” the panel will include executives from various divisions of the network.

In addition, a second panel, made up of AOLTW companies including New Line Cinema, Turner Broadcasting, Warner Bros. as well as HBO, will focus on the art of pitching a completed film.

ABC Inc., will present insights into talent development with panelists Carmen Smith, VP ABC Entertainment Talent Development and Quin Taylor, VP ABC Movies and Miniseries.

“The Insiders,” will feature a panel of Hollywood decision-makers, agents and attorneys who will provide behind-the-scenes realities of the film business. Moderated by Eddie Arnold, Nielsen Media Communications Counsel, the panel will include: Oscar Turner, VP, Finance, Paramount Pictures; Jeanen Glover, agent, William Morris Agency and Zola Mashariki, Fox Searchlight Pictures.

The American Black Film Festival, formerly the Acapulco Black Film Festival, will be held in South Beach, Miami from June 26 – 30. Since its inception in 1997, ABFF has redefined, questioned, discovered and encouraged all aspects of independent black filmmaking. Attracting annual attendance of over 2500 participants, the Festival presents seminars, panel discussions, workshops in writing and acting and competitive film showcases, culminating with the awarding of the HBO Short Film Award and the Lincoln Filmmakers Trophy.

Jeff Friday, President of Film Life Inc. is the Executive Producer of the American Black Film Festival.

Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau Joins Home Box Office and Lincoln as Major Sponsor of Event

New York – The Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau, representatives of the host city of the American Black Film Festival, has joined founding sponsor, Home Box Office and platinum sponsor Lincoln in support of the event to encourage, discover and explore talent in the independent Black filmmaking community. The Bureau’s participation was announced today by ABFF founder, Byron Lewis Sr., Chairman and CEO of UniWorld Group, Inc. and the Festival’s Producer, Jeff Friday, President and CEO of Film Life, Inc.

“We wholeheartedly welcome our new partners, as well as those who have been with us in the past, and praise the encouragement their sponsorship demonstrates to the growing community of black writers, directors and producers,” Lewis Sr. and Friday said in their joint announcement.

The American Black Film Festival will be held June 26-June 30 in South Beach. The event was formerly known as the Acapulco Black Film Festival, and was relocated to Miami to provide better accessibility and state-of-the-art facilities to Festival attendees.

In addition, Blockbuster, American Airlines, Black Enterprise, BET and The Walt Disney Company/ ABC Inc. have agreed to provide sponsorship.

Home Box Office, the founding sponsor of ABFF, will again this year present the HBO Short Film Award. The submissions of five finalists will be screened during the Festival, and a jury of established filmmakers will select a grand prize winner, who will receive a $20,000 prize.

For the 3rd year since the award’s inception, Lincoln will present the prestigious Lincoln Filmmaker Trophy for Best Film, encompassing both U.S. and International submissions.

Other sponsors of the 2002 American Black Film Festival are: UniWorld Group, Inc., Film Life, Inc., Upscale, Regal Cinemas, Vibe, Enyce and Daily Blossom.

Event Formerly Held in Acapulco Relocates Domestically

New York – The 6th annual American Black Film Festival (ABFF) will be held June 26 – 30 in South Beach, Miami, Florida, it was announced today by Byron Lewis Sr., Chairman and CEO of UniWorld Group Inc. and Jeff Friday, President and CEO of Film Life Inc. and ABFF Director. The highly acclaimed event supporting the independent Black filmmaking community has been held in Acapulco, Mexico for the past five years.

At the same time, ABFF announced a call for submissions. The deadline for entries is April 5 for Short Films and April 19 for Feature Length Films.

Founded in 1997 by Byron Lewis Sr., the American Black Film Festival is presented jointly by UniWorld Group Inc. and December Ventures.

Home Box Office is the founding sponsor of the event and presenter of the Short Film competition. Lincoln is again a platinum sponsor and will this year present the Lincoln Filmmaker Trophy for a Feature Length Film. Additional top-tier sponsors will be announced shortly.

“As we strive toward making the American Black Film Festival one of the premier industry events, we determined a domestic location would encourage greater participation, help us attract a multi-cultural audience, provide state-of-the-art facilities, and build stronger alliances with Hollywood film studios,” Friday said in his announcement.

With the mission of redefining, discovering and honoring artistic excellence in Black cinema, ABFF provides an unprecedented platform for Black filmmakers and now attracts an annual attendance of more than 1500 people. The five-day Festival includes competitive film showcases, in feature film and short film categories, workshops, and panel discussions. Participants and honorees in the past five years have included Denzel Washington, Halle Berry, Morgan Freeman. John Singleton, Pam Grier, Debbie Allen, Robert Townsend and Suzanne de Passe.