Seventh Annual American Black Film Festival to be held in South Beach, Florida June 18-22, 2003

AOL Time Warner Signs on as Presenting Sponsor

New York, March 25, 2003 – The stage is set in South Beach, Florida, for a special engagement as Film Life, Inc. returns with the seventh annual American Black Film Festival (ABFF), presented by AOL Time Warner Inc. HBO is the founding sponsor. Entries are now being accepted for the ABFF’s feature presentation, which includes cinematic works from black filmmakers around the globe. Appearances by established film industry heavyweights, aspiring actors and filmmakers, and rising stars are planned throughout the week of workshops, panel discussions, screenings, and special events.

“We are pleased to present the seventh annual ABFF, which was developed to provide emerging as well as accomplished independent Black filmmakers with a dynamic forum for showcasing their work,” says Jeff Friday, president and CEO of Film Life, Inc and ABFF executive director. “This year, we are continuing that mission as we host Governor Jeb Bush and the United Negro College Fund to announce The UNCF/Richard E. Norman Scholarship for African American Cinema. This scholarship will open new avenues for Black students pursuing filmmaking degrees and enliven the industry with a fresh pool of talent.”

“AOL Time Warner is proud to be a presenting sponsor of the 7th Annual American Black Film Festival. We’re especially proud of HBO’s role both as a founding sponsor of the ABFF and as patron of the HBO Short Film Award. As a company, we at AOL Time Warner are committed to finding and developing the widest possible diversity of talent. The ABFF is a particularly important opportunity for us to help bring to light the creative genius of black filmmakers and to infuse the entire film industry with new ideas, perspectives and energy,” says Gerri Warren-Merrick, Vice President of Corporate Community Relations.

ABFF Films are cast in competitive or non-competitive roles across two sections. Section one, the competitive showcase, includes the Feature Film Competition and the HBO Short Film competition. Feature films are eligible for The Blockbuster Audience Award, The Lincoln Filmmaker Trophy, The Best Performance by an Actor and The Best Performance by an Actress. Short films compete for the HBO Short Film Award and a $20,000 grand prize. The World Showcase, the ABFF’s noncompetitive section, highlights feature length films, works-in-progress and documentaries. The deadline for entries in all categories is April 5, 2003.

Held in conjunction with the ABFF, The Film Life Black Movie Awards, takes place on the final night of the Festival. It is dedicated to saluting the accomplishments of African Americans in Hollywood. Halle Berry, Denzel Washington, Debbie Allen, Robert Townsend, Mekhi Phifer, Delroy Lindo, Sanaa Lathan, John Singleton, Keenan Ivory Wayans, and Chris Tucker are among the many Hollywood luminaries who have participated in past shows.

AOL Time Warner is the presenting sponsor of the ABFF, and HBO is the founding sponsor. The Festival’s platinum sponsor is Lincoln. Other sponsors include ABC Inc., American Airlines, Black Enterprise, Blockbuster, Daily Blossom, Daily Variety, DV Republic, Essence, Heineken, Kodak, Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau, Upscale, UrbanWorks Entertainment.

The ABFF has premiered a number of films that have subsequently received wider theatrical distribution. These include, One Week directed by Carl Seaton (Film Life), Crazy As Hell directed by and starring Eriq LaSalle and Hav Plenty (Miramax) directed by Christopher Scot Cherot. Last year’s award winning films were The Riff starring Antonia Fargas and Nia Peebles and Civil Brand directed by Emmy® Award winner Neema Barnette. Actress Monica Calhoun took home the Audience Award for her performance in Pandora’s Box, and actor Clifton Powell garnered the Audience Award for his role in Civil Brand. The HBO Short Film Award grand prize went to “Quest to Ref” written and directed by Benjamin Watkins, who also starred in the film.

Jeff Friday is one of the original co-founders of the ABFF, which is now solely produced by his company Film Life. Friday has served as executive producer of the ABFF since its inception in 1997. Formerly known as the Acapulco Black Film Festival, the five-day retreat and international film market, attracts more than 2,500 attendees annually. It was held in South Beach for the first time last year.

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.

AOL 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.