Film Life’s 8th Annual American Black Film Festival To Feature A Diverse Slate Of Independent Films Including 14 World Premieres

Presented by Time Warner, ABFF’s Program Includes Industry-Focused Panels, Workshops and Special Events

New York, NY, July 7, 2004 – Film Life’s American Black Festival announced today its 2004 Official Selections comprised of a provocative selection of feature-length documentaries, including 14 world premieres, and short films. Presented by Time Warner, with HBO as the founding sponsor, the highly regarded ABFF returns to South Beach, Miami, Wednesday, July 14 though Sunday, July 18, 2004.

The ABFF has four film sections: the Main Section, where feature-length films compete for the Blockbuster Audience Award – Best Feature Film and a cash prize of $20,000; the World Showcase Section, which provides a noncompetitive platform for filmmakers of all ethnicities to showcase stories that emphasize the Black experience and/or feature people of color; the Documentary Section, also noncompetitive, which recognizes artistic achievement in nonfiction filmmaking and the Short Film Section, where short films compete for the HBO Short Film Award and a $20,000 grand prize.

“The diversity of this year’s ‘Official Selections’ again proves that filmmakers of color can make quality films outside the studio system and tell a broad spectrum of stories,” said Jeff Friday, CEO of Film Life, Inc. and ABFF cofounder. “I am encouraged and inspired by their commitment and passion for making movies. Film Life and the American Black Film Festival will continue to support their endeavors and be rewarded by their outstanding achievements.”

This year’s panel discussions are: “From Underground to Mainstream: Transitioning from Music Video to Big-budget Feature Films,” presented by Time Warner; “Lackawanna Blues: From Stage to Screen” presented by HBO; “Home Entertainment: The New Frontier for the Independent Filmmaker,” presented by UrbanWorks Entertainment, and “An Introduction to Digital Filmmaking and Technology” presented by the University of Miami and Cineworks. Workshop topics include: Bill Duke’s “Actors Boot Camp” and the “Filmmaker Workshop 101” sponsored by Fox Searchlight Pictures and BET. Other participants in this year’s program include an elite group of industry executives and artists.

Special events will include the return of Time Warner’s much-anticipated “A Conversation With…,” which features an intimate discussion with a famed celebrity guest to be announced later. In addition, this year’s “Classic Cinema” screening will feature Lady Sings the Blues, hosted by actor/director Robert Townsend and will feature a special appearance by Suzanne de Passe, the film’s co-writer.

The gala Film Life Movie Awards, the only show of its kind to that salutes aspiring and accomplished artists solely for their excellence in motion pictures, will culminate the five-day ABFF on Saturday, July 17, at the Jackie Gleason Theater. Studio film awards will be presented in the following categories: Best Performance by an Actor, Best Performance by an Actress, Best Director, and Film of the Year. Independent Film Awards to be presented are the HBO Short Film Award and the Blockbuster Audience Award – Best Feature Film. Director Spike Lee will receive the Time Warner Innovator Award and actress Rosario Dawson will be presented with the Rising Star Award. The film Lady Sings the Blues will be inducted into the Classic Cinema Hall of Fame presented by Turner Classic Movies.

The Film Life Movie Awards show will be hosted by Robert Townsend and Tracee Ellis Ross. Presenters include: Angela Bassett, Bill Bellamy, Vivica A. Fox, Courtney B. Vance, and Time Warner Chairman and CEO Richard D. Parsons. There will also be a live performance by Atlantic recording artist Tamia.

Following is a list of the ABFF 2004 Official Selections, including the Main Section, the World Showcase, the Documentary Section and the Short Film Section.

Main Section

Brother to Brother – 16mm/Color/USA, 2004/90 min. directed by Rodney Evans. Brother to Brother invokes the glory days of the Harlem Renaissance through the memories of Bruce Nugent. As an elderly man, Nugent meets a gay, African American teenager in a homeless shelter and together they embark on a surreal narrative journey through Nugent’s inspiring past.

Gettin’ Grown – MINI-DV PAL/Color/USA, 2004/75 min. directed by Aaron Greer. The film follows twelve-year-old Eric as he sets out on a seemingly simple errand. When Eric’s journey through the neighborhood turns into a major rite of passage, he’s faced with getting lost or getting grown.

Justice – World Premiere – 16mm/Color/USA, 2004/104 min. directed by Jeanne-Marie Almonor and John Shulman. Justice is an inspirational drama about a lawyer who challenges a criminal justice system that prizes efficiency over real justice. The film explores themes ranging from broad contemporary social issues to the challenges facing a young couple balancing career and family.

Love Sex & Eating the Bones – 35mm/Color/USA, 2003/100 min. directed by Sudz Sutherland. Love Sex & Eating the Bones is an intelligent, sexy romantic comedy about an aspiring photographer who moonlights as a security guard. Frustrated with a life he can’t control, he finds himself with a porn habit that has a hilarious life of its own.

Men Without Jobs – Super 16mm/Color/USA, 2003/107 min. directed by Mad Matthewz. Ish and Oz are best friends and roommates with big dreams of starting their own hip-hop band. The two eccentric slackers make a pact to avoid the dreaded nine-to-five at all costs but come to realize that sooner or later everyone has to get a job.

Woman Thou Art Loosed – 35mm/Color/USA, 2003/94 min. directed by Michael Schultz. Woman Thou Art Loosed tells the dramatic story of Michelle Jordan (Kimberly Elise), a young woman who grows up in an environment of abuse. The circumstances of her childhood lead young Michelle into the dark abyss of drugs, prostitution and prison. Eventually Michelle is forced to do some soul-searching that takes her on a journey to recovery and resolution.

World Showcase

A Night In Compton – World Premiere – HD Sony CineAlta/Color/USA, 2003/110 min. directed by Daven Baptiste. Zion is home for Christmas break with one night to consummate his relationship with Lanise, who became the smartest, finest and “freakiest” girl from high school after losing 75 pounds at fat camp. Lanise, a virgin, has spent the last three months bragging about her sexual experiences and has Zion pressed to rock her world.

Love & Orgasms – World Premiere – 35mm/Color/USA, 2003/82 min. directed by Dana Offenbach. Love & Orgasms is a dramatic comedy about women’s relationships that explores the emotional challenges of healing a broken heart and the importance of sexual pleasure for women.

Love Shorts – World Premiere – Mini-DV/Color/USA, 2003/75 min. directed by Jonathan Woods. Eight passionate women, eight delightful stories and eight turning points on a never-ending journey of love. Intense, often funny, dramatic and always emotional, these heartfelt tales tug at our fear of the unknown and pose that undying question: Can we trust love?

Mindgame – World Premiere – Mini-DV PAL/Color/USA, 2003/70 min. directed by Shawn Martinbrough and Milo Stone. P.S.I., a government agency that employs psychics to assist in counterterrorist operations, sends Agent Crystal Carter to hunt down her former mentor John Cortez, a powerful psychic gone rogue. When Crystal is forced to work with Section 10, the Department of Defense’s technological counterpart to P.S.I., New York City becomes the battleground for a personal and psychic war.

My Big Phat Hip-Hop Family – World Premiere – High Definition/Color/USA, 2003/102 min. directed by Greg Carter. Audrey, a college student and the “odd duck” in a family of outrageous performers, hides her family from the new love of her life, who later becomes the hottest hip-hop hit artist.

Strange as Angels – Sony HD/Color/USA, 2003/94 min. directed by Steven J. Foley. Strange as Angels tells the story of a beautiful painter in Chicago who decides to leave her mundane life behind and search for inner happiness. She meets Rodney Porter, a recently divorced journalist, and the two begin an intense romance. In this story about independence, sex and longing, Marilyn embarks on a soul-searching journey and explores the question of whether it is better to seek happiness within herself or rely on love for all of life’s answers.

Sugar Valentine – World Premiere – 35mm/Color/USA, 2004/91min. directed by Jean Claude LaMarre. One man must choose between his heart and his profession. Based on the true life story of Sugar Valentine, a man born into a family of pimps finds that he is increasingly becoming disillusioned with the “game.” Now he must face his biggest challenge of all: falling in love.

The Evil One – World Premiere – 16mm/Color/USA, 2003/112 min. directed by Parris Reaves. The Evil One is a modern urban horror about a newspaper photographer who discovers a connection between serial killings in Chicago and Herman Webster Mudgett Jr., a serial killer who was buried face-down over a hundred years ago, and who had vowed to seek revenge on the descendants of those who buried him facing Hell.

The Walk – High Def/Color/USA, 2003/79 min. directed by Thomas Forbes. The Walk follows the troubled life of a girl who turns her back on her faith and all things associated with it. After getting in trouble with the law, her life is redirected back to the church where she meets someone who helps her to accept God back into her life.

One Love – 35-mm/Color/USA, 2003/100 min. directed by Rick Elgood. One Love tells the story of the forbidden love between Kassa, a young Rasta reggae musician, and Serena, the gospel-singing daughter of a devout Pentecostal preacher. Brought together through their mutual love of music, One Love explores how the power of music and love can overcome the strongest cultural and religious differences.

30 Miles – HDCAM/Color/USA, 2003/80 min. directed by Ryan Harper. A wealthy agent driving down a deserted highway stops to help a stranded motorist by the side of the road. His act of kindness will change both men forever as day turns to night in a desert that buries all secrets.

Documentary Section

African American – 16mm/Color/USA, 2004/104 min. directed by Askia Holloway. African American is a film that confronts the harsh conflicts between Black Americans and Africans. Shot on location at a historically Black college, the campus serves as a microcosm for Black America and for Africans and their experiences in America.

Barbershops Uncut: East Coast – World Premiere – Mini-DV NTSC/Color/USA, 2003/62 min. directed by Dabo Ché. For years the barbershop has served as the center of communication in the Black community. It is the one place where Black men feel comfortable voicing their opinions and discussing whatever comes to mind. Follow us as we travel the East Coast and visit with an eclectic and entertaining host of characters whose shared stories, jokes, trials and tribulations remind us all why the realities of Urban culture are often imitated but can never be duplicated.

Beef II – World Premiere – Digital Betacam NTSC/Color/USA, 2003-2004/98 min. directed by Peter Spirer. From labels and lawyers to managers and media, these battles rage behind the scenes of the music business. The increasing popularity and commercialization of rap music has created enormous wealth and irrevocably changed the tradition of battling within hip-hop culture. The true hip-hop battle is no longer a fight to prove one’s skills, but a fight for money, power and respect.

Chisholm ’72 – Unbought & Unbossed – Digital Betacam/Color/USA, 2004/76 min. directed by Shola Lynch. Chisholm ’72 – Unbought & Unbossed is the first historical documentary on Brooklyn Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm and her campaign for the Democratic Party presidential nomination in 1972. Following Chisholm from the announcement of her candidacy in January to the Democratic National Convention in Miami, Florida, in July. The story is like her: fabulous, fierce and fundamentally “right on.”

The Donnie McClurkin Story – From Darkness to Light – Digital Betacam NTSC/Color/USA, 2003/85 min. directed by Stephanie Fredric. The Donnie McClurkin Story – From Darkness to Light is an inspirational concert docudrama about the extraordinary life of Grammy Award-winning gospel singer Donnie McClurkin. The film reveals the once-troubled man behind the music and his road to redemption.

Short Film Section

Hold Up – World Premiere – 35-mm/Color/USA, 2004/8:58 min. directed by Tanya Boyd. Kevin is a college student, desperate to be accepted. He is surprised to be invited to pledge a fraternity and wholeheartedly begins his hell week. After days of no sleep, no food, hazing and a series of humiliating exercises, he is now finally about to complete the final night and become a full-fledged member of the organization. The final task will force Kevin into a night he never imagined.

Time Out – 35-mm/Color/USA, 2003/19 min. directed by Xelinda Yancy. Alice wandering in the land of reality would best describe the journey on which you’re invited to travel with first-time director Xelinda Yancy. Time Out offers a chapter in the life of its nine-year-old character, Lauren Martin. Secrets unburied, confrontations boldly faced, and decisions defiantly made, all make way for events that will forever change the road she chooses to follow.

One Flight Stand – 35-mm/Color/USA, 2003/12 min. directed by Saladin K. Patterson. Their first date is dinner and a movie…in Business Class. Ben walks Alexis home…well, back to her seat. He agrees to come in for just one cup of coffee. Cut to the next morning…Ben’s still there. When you’ve gone this far, there’s only one logical next step…move in together. Ben moves his whole life…well, maybe just his carry-on, from Coach to First Class next to Alexis. Things heat up pretty quickly between them and he wonders if he moved in too quickly. A well-timed argument sends Ben running back to Coach…for the life he once knew. After he’s had some time to clear his head, he realizes that Alexis is the seat he wants to commit to for the rest of his life…er, flight. But a beautiful flight attendant seems to have other plans in mind for Ben. Can Ben resist? Or will this relationship be another one-flight stand?

Shooter – World Premiere – Digital Betacam (NTSC)/Color/USA, 2003/24 min. directed by Todd Jeffrey. A recipient of the prestigious Martin Ritt fellowship, Shooter is the suspenseful story of a single day in the life of Tasha Johnson. The young talented teenager is put to the test when detectives question her about her sister’s whereabouts the night before. Tasha protects her older sister and vouches for her, providing an alibi before she knows anything about the situation. As Tasha peels away the layers of the world around her, she learns what the price of her loyalty could be and how far a person must go to protect their family.

The Memo – 35-mm/Color/USA, 2003/15 min. directed by Dahéli Hall. The long-awaited Black Revolution is finally announced through the release of The Memo. Felicia is shocked to find out that her co-worker, Ted, isn’t ready…he didn’t get The Memo! Hilarity and profundity ensues as Felicia uses “any means necessary” to get Ted ready. This fast-paced film turns the concept of revolution upside-down. It stars Undercover Brother’s Gary Anthony Williams and the film’s director, Dahéli Hall. So sharp-tongued and quick-witted you better be sure to not miss The Memo.

Time Warner is the Presenting Sponsor of ABFF. HBO is the festival’s Founding Sponsor. The festival’s Platinum Sponsor is Lincoln. Gold Sponsors are Blockbuster, Fox Searchlight Pictures, Martell Cognac, Phat Farm, Upscale magazine and UrbanWorks Entertainment. Silver sponsors are ABC, Inc., American Airlines, BET, Daily Blossom, Enyce, Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau (GMCVB), Maverick Entertainment, Miami Beach Visitor and Convention Authority (VCA), Miami Dade County Tourist Development Council (TDC) and Nielsen Media Research. This year’s industry partners are Kodak, Miami-Dade County Mayor’s Office of Film and SAGIndie, while Africana.com, AOL Black Focus, Black Elegance, Black Enterprise, Essence, In Focus magazine, Premiere magazine and ProductionHUB.com are media partners.

Jeff Friday is a cofounder of the ABFF, which is now solely produced by Film Life, Inc. Friday has served as executive producer of the ABFF since its inception in 1997. Formerly known as the Acapulco Black Film Festival, the international film market attracts more than 2,500 attendees annually.

Film Life Inc., is a film marketing and distribution company based in New York and established by Jeff Friday. Its mission is to spearhead the commercial development of independent Black films.

Time Warner is the world’s leading media and entertainment company, whose businesses include interactive services, cable systems, filmed entertainment, television networks, music and publishing.