Kimberly Elise, Isaiah Washington, Common & S. Epatha Merkerson are among the stellar list of Grand Jury nods from Film Life’s 16th Annual American Black Film Festival

NEW YORK, May 15, 2012 – Film Life Inc., today announced the Narrative Features Competition selections and Grand Jury Award nominees for the 16th Annual American Black Film Festival (ABFF) taking place in South Beach Miami, FL, June 20th – 23rd. Kimberly Elise, Isaiah Washington, Common and S. Epatha Merkerson are among the stellar list of thespians nominated to receive the Grand Jury prize for their work.

The films in ABFF’s 2012 Narrative Features section reflect a creative multiplicity which can be seen, felt and heard in controversy through rhythmic Jamaican patois (Better Mus’ Come) to a young Parisian woman’s search for her father (Elza). Struggle and disappointment between generations is candidly explored (LUV) and two men of the cloth face consequences (The Undershepherd).

Each film in the narrative features section must be directed by a person of African descent, tell a story of the Black experience or feature a person of African descent in a leading role. Films that are submitted for consideration are reviewed by a team of film industry professionals, which comprises the ABFF’s screening committee. Each film is graded on artistic merit and impactful subject matter. As this year’s Grand Jury President, Actor, Mekhi Phifer (“Lie to Me,” “ER”), will serve as a judge and will present prizes in front of the festival audience at The Winners Circle awards presentation on the closing day of the festival.

The complete list of the 2012 Narrative Feature films is as follows:

Written and directed by Storm Saulter, produced by Paul Bucknor

CAST: Sheldon Shepherd, Nicole ‘Sky’ Grey, Everaldo Creary, Ricardo Orgill and Roger Guenveur Smith

SYNOPSIS: The film follows warring political factions in 1970s Jamaica as they enlist the support of gangs to enforce their policies, and advanced their political agenda.


Written by William Wells, Kadeem Hardison, Salenta Baisden and Terry Wilkerson, produced by Terry Wilkerson, Deji LaRay, Salenta Baisden and William Wells, directed by Kadeem Hardison

CAST: Kadeem Hardison, Marcus Patrick and Tiffany Hines

SYNOPSIS: When two best friends want to find true love, a radio talk psychologist helps them throw the ultimate blind date party and serous social experiment.


Written and directed by Matthew Cherry, produced by Ellis Hobbs, Monique Hobbs, Nikki Love and Scott Hebert

CAST: Lance Gross, Nicole Behari, Vanessa Bell Calloway, Obba Babatundé, Darrin DeWitt Henson, Michael Moss, Harry Lennix, Keith David

SYNOPSIS: An NFL journeyman struggles to deal with life’s complexities after his professional career is over at twenty-five.


Written and directed by Sheldon Candis and Justin Wilson, produced by Jason Berman, Datari Turner, W. Michael Jenson, Gordon Bijelonic, Joel Newton, James Rosenthal, Common and Derek Dudley

CAST: Common, Michael Rainey Jr., Dennis Haysbert, Danny Glover, Charles S. Dutton, Michael Kenneth Williams and Meagan Good

SYNOPSIS: An orphaned eleven-year-old boy is forced to face an unpleasant truth about his beloved uncle during one harrowing day in the streets of Baltimore.


Written and directed by Mariette MonPierre and Mama Keita, produced by Mariette MonPierre, Gerard LaCroix, Eric Basset

CAST: Stana Roumillac, Vincent Byrd Le Sage, Christophe Cherki, Sophie Berger

SYNOPSIS: A young Parisian woman of Caribbean descent returns to her native island of Guadeloupe in search of the father she has never known.


Produced and directed by Russ Parr, produced by Russ Parr, Eric Tomosunas, Scott Aronson and Isaiah Washington

CAST: Isaiah Washington, Louis Gossett Jr., Lamman Rucker, Malinda Williams, Vanessa Bell Calloway, Elise Neal, Robinne Lee, Clifton Powell, Keith David and John Wesley

SYNOPSIS: Two minister’s opposing decisions destroy their friendship as the ascension of evil verses the struggle of an honest church impact the entire community.


Film awards presented include: Grand Jury Prize for Best Screenplay, sponsored by Ciroc; Grand Jury Prize for Best Director, sponsored by Cadillac; Grand Jury Prize for Best Actor, sponsored by Gold Peak Tea; Grand Jury Prize for Best Narrative Feature, sponsored by BET Networks; and Best Documentary sponsored by CNN. Prizes will be presented at ABFF’s culminating ceremony, The Winners Circle on June 23.


The four films in the narrative features category compete for ABFF’s Grand Jury Prizes for:

Best Screenplay, presented by Ciroc
Best Director, presented by Cadillac
Best Actor, presented by Gold Peak Tea
Best Narrative Feature, presented by BET Networks


The specific nominees are as follows:

Grand Jury Prize for Best Screenplay, presented by Ciroc
Storm Saulter – BETTER MUS’ COME
Matthew Cherry – THE LAST FALL
Mariettte MonPierre and Mama Keita – ELZA

Grand Jury Prize for Best Director, presented by Cadillac
Sheldon Candis – LUV
Matthew Cherry – THE LAST FALL
Storm Saulter – BETTER MUS’ COME

Grand Jury Prize Best Performance by an Actor (Male or Female), presented by Gold Peak Tea
Common – LUV
Lance Gross – THE LAST FALL
Sheldon Sheppard – BETTER MUS’ COME
Isaiah Washington – THE UNDERSHEPHERD

Nicole Behari – THE LAST FALL
Kimberly Elise – TIES THAT BIND
Malinda Williams – THE UNDERSHEPHERD

Grand Jury Prize for Narrative Feature, presented by BET Networks

Grand Jury Prize for Documentary, presented by CNN
THE CONTRADICTIONS OF FAIR HOPE, co-directed by S. Epatha Merkerson and Rockell Metcalf FORCE M.D.s RELIVED, directed by Frazier Prince THINK NFL, LOVE DAD (The DeSean Jackson Story), co-directed by Byron Jackson and Kern Konwiser SOUL FOOD JUNKIES, directed by Byron Hurt


Full pass and ticket information for the 2012 ABFF can be found at abff.com

HBO (Founding and Premier Sponsor); Gold Peak Tea (Premier); gmc Television Network, American Airlines, Cadillac and CNN (Official Sponsors); Grab Media, NBCUniversal, Nickelodeon, smartwater, Nielsen, BET Networks, Stella Artois and Wells Fargo (Supporting Sponsors); The Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau, Miami Beach Visitor & Convention Authority and Miami Community Redevelopment Agency (Host Sponsors) and SAGIndie, One Village Entertainment, Miami Film Month, thirdREEL (Promotional Partners); Media Sponsors include: Black Enterprise, Uptown (Official Level); Jones Magazine and Precious Times (Supporting Level).

Established in 1997, the core mission of the ABFF is to promote cultural diversity within the motion picture industry. Through its film showcases and special contests, it annually introduces the top echelon of emerging artists to the film and television industry.

The ABFF is a property of Film Life, Inc., a New York-based event marketing, production and film distribution company founded in 2000 by Jeff Friday (CEO). For full details on this year’s festival, please visit abff.com.

For media inquiries, contact Lisa Sorensen at 646-330-5458 or [email protected]