First American Black Film Festival Global Film Series Event in London is a Resounding Success

(October 2, 2019) – The first installment of the American Black Film Festival’s (ABFF) Global Film Series event, held in London (September 27-29), delivered on its promise of encouraging collaboration and promotion between Black British and Black American filmmaking communities.

The three-day event sponsored by Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE), held at Picturehouse Central in London’s West End, confirmed why this international screening series, an extension of the American Black Film Festival, held in association with Screen Nation, the leading UK platform showcasing Black British film talent, was so necessary in creating a fresh narrative between the two countries.

This was best illustrated with Friday’s historic opening night launch and gala screening of Screen Gems’ Black and Blue, the forthcoming cop action thriller released later this month. The film’s two stars Britain’s Academy Award and BAFTA nominated actress Naomie Harris and American co-star, actor and Grammy nominated singer-songwriter Tyrese Gibson, both appeared on the red carpet, with their presence exemplifying the message of cultural collaboration between the respective countries. Also present was the film’s director Deon Taylor, who exuded an excitement and energy for the event which proved infectious and got the festival off to a memorable and resounding start.

More importantly, the subsequent Q&A with Harris, Gibson and Taylor, illuminated how film’s like Black and Blue are attempting to shift the dial in honestly depicting black stories on the big screen. The powerful testimony of a very animated Taylor in sharing stories of countless rejections on the road to getting his film made was a timely reminder of the many challenges black filmmakers still face within the industry.

Saturday’s industry panel, ‘Creating Blue Oceans in Hollywood’, explored how black filmmakers are attempting to navigate their way within the film industry. The panel of Jeff Friday, ABFF Founder, Charles Thompson, MBE, Founder, Screen Nation, Frances-Anne Solomon, director of Hero and Marshall Tyler, the 2019 ABFF/HBO Short film winner, delivered a very practical discussion on how investors can identify projects from projects from new voices and emerging talent can get their stories heard. Tyler echoed the thoughts of many when he declared “Don’t let anything stop you.”

In addition, the well-attended screenings of Nijla Mu’min’s debut feature, Jinn, a coming of age tale, and Numar Perrier’s emotive Jezebel, which earned her ABFF’s 2019 Best Narrative Feature and Best Director prizes, were both well received by festival audiences hungry for diverse female-led stories. Their respective Q&A’s were equally enlightening with Perrier sharing the journey of her semi-autobiographical drama with moderator Lisa Bent.

The Saturday evening’s packed preview screening of Farming, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje’s directorial debut, based on his own childhood, proved intense viewing and had visible impact on the audience by the time the final credits had rolled. During his very insightful Q&A, Adewale eloquently shared his 14 year struggle to get the film made and why he felt compelled to tell his very unique Black British story. Speaking at the event, he declared: “Nobody’s ever spoken about the African journey. People like me who went through the farming practice became part of the first Black British generation to be born on British soil and consequently a part of British history.

On the Sunday screening, it was the turn of a new generation of filmmakers to take the spotlight. The screening of five exciting entries from this year’s ABFF HBO Short Films competition (Cap, Evelyn x Evelyn, The Fisherman, Flight and Wednesday) demonstrated the importance of giving a platform to emerging directorial talent with distinct stories to tell. Three of the five directors, Marshall Tyler (Cap, 2019 ABFF HBO Short Film Award winner), Zoey Martinson (The Fisherman) and Kia Moses (Flight) took part in the Q&A moderated by award-winning UK director Julius Amedume, a recent addition to the membership of the Academy. Their perceptive sharing of their respective individual journeys on learning their craft, securing funds and trying to establish a foothold in the film industry, was very much a universal theme which would be appreciated on either side of the Atlantic.

Meagan Good’s directorial debut feature (with Tamara LaSeon Bass) If Not Now, When, a crowd-funded sisterhood indie film brought the three-day event to a close. The film was received warmly by the sold-out audience and Good’s special appearance taking part in the film’s Q&A. Excellently moderated by broadcaster and presenter Jasmine Dotiwala, Good’s words of wisdom were a fitting way to bring the curtain down on a historical and important weekend for filmmakers across the Diaspora.

ABFF festival founder and ABFF Ventures CEO, Jeff Friday, commented: “London was a great place to kick-off our first Global Film Series and with support of leading Black film actors and filmmakers from both sides of the Atlantic it has been a resounding success. Going forward, we aim to debunk the perception that black film does not travel and the roll out of our Global Film Series in different major cultural cities will definitely prove that.”

Wayne Garvie, President of International Production, Sony Pictures Television said: “ABFF in London was terrific, a wonderful showcase for a great range of talent and films. We at Sony Pictures were honoured to support the festival and build a bridge between the American and British creative communities. Here’s to next year!”

Screen Nation founder and CEO, Charles Thompson MBE, commented: “This event has kick-started an important dialogue between black film talent in the UK and US, which I believe has laid really solid foundations for navigating the industry in the future and offers a fresh and exciting shared vision between the two organisations.”

Richard Adeshiyan [email protected] +44(0)7956 106627

Notes to Editors:

  1. ABFF London, in association with Screen Nation, was held from September 27-29, 2019 at Picturehouse Central, Corner of Shaftesbury Avenue, Piccadilly Circus, London W1D 7DH.
  2. Black and Blue is a fast-paced action thriller about rookie cop (Naomie Harris) who inadvertently captures the murder of a young drug dealer on her body cam. After realizing that the murder was committed by corrupt cops, she teams up with one person from her community who is willing to help her (Tyrese Gibson) as she tries to escape both the criminals out for revenge and the police who are desperate to destroy the incriminating footage.

    Directed by Deon Taylor. Written by Peter A. Dowling. Produced by Sean Sorensen. Joshua Throne and Roxanne Taylor serve as executive producers. The film stars Naomie Harris, Tyrese Gibson, Frank Grillo, Mike Colter, Reid Scott, Beau Knapp and Nafessa Williams.

ABFF Global Film Series (ABFF Global) is an international screening series and extension of the American Black Film Festival (ABFF), the premier event in the United States showcasing the work of content creators of African descent. The series mission is to promote the universal appeal of films by and about people of color and encourage collaboration between content creators throughout the African Diaspora, with the objective of expanding distribution opportunities for black content on an international scale. The ABFF Global Film Series will visit other major cultural hubs, after London, including Madrid, Cape Town and Paris in 2020.

The American Black Film Festival (ABFF) is an annual event dedicated to empowering black artists and showcasing quality film and television content by and about people of African descent. Committed to the belief that diverse artists deserve the same opportunities as their mainstream counterparts, ABFF founder & CEO Jeff Friday conceived the festival in 1997 as a vehicle to strengthen the black filmmaking community by encouraging resource sharing, education and artistic collaboration. He ultimately envisioned it as a cornerstone of diversity in Hollywood. Since its inception, the ABFF has been a platform for emerging black artists, having premiered the early work and showcasing the talent of many of today’s most successful actors, producers, writers, directors and stand-up comedians. Today, the festival is the pre-eminent pipeline for black artists in front of and behind the camera, and has significantly expanded the range of talent working in Hollywood. For more information, please visit https://www.abff.com/miami/.

Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE) is a subsidiary of Tokyo-based Sony Corporation. SPE’s global operations encompass motion picture production, acquisition, and distribution; television production, acquisition, and distribution; television networks; digital content creation and distribution; operation of studio facilities; and development of new entertainment products, services and technologies. SPE’s Motion Picture Group production organizations include Columbia Pictures, Screen Gems, TriStar Pictures, Sony Pictures Animation, Stage 6 Films, AFFIRM Films, and Sony Pictures Classics. For additional information, visit http://www.sonypictures.com/corp/divisions.html.

The Screen Nation Film & TV Awards, formerly the bfm (black filmmaker) Film and TV Awards, was founded in September 2003 by independent film producer Charles Thompson MBE as a platform to raise the profile of black British and international film and television talent of African heritage. The awards ceremony – dubbed the “Black BAFTAs brings together actors, actresses, directors and filmmakers from the British and international film and TV industry.