Star-Studded Lineup of Entertainers Celebrate 20th Anniversary of the American Black Film Festival


Miami, Florida (June 27, 2016) – The 20th annual American Black Film Festival (ABFF) announced the winners of its competition categories at an awards ceremony on Saturday, June 18, at the Loews Miami Beach Hotel. Top awards went to Destined, Daddy Don’t Go and Service to Man.

This year’s ABFF was filled with informative and innovative programming that included film premieres, panels, workshops and master classes led by Hollywood notables.

The star-studded lineup included Common, Omari Hardwick, Robert Townsend, Cedric the Entertainer, Gabrielle Union, Nate Parker, Will Packer, Tichina Arnold, Teyonah Parris, Nicole Bahari, Soledad O’Brien and T.D. Jakes, who joined in the festival’s activities in support of new filmmakers and artists of color.

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) presented the festival’s opening film, Central Intelligence. The charismatic buddy action film, starring Kevin Hart and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, was screened at the historic Olympia Theater in downtown Miami. The film’s leading lady, Danielle Nicolet, greeted attendees and introduced the film, along with a video welcome from her two leading co-stars.

Following the screening, the opening night party, always well attended, proceeded at one of South Beach’s hottest night spots: Story. The wildly popular DJ D-Nice provided sounds well into the night, later joined by this year’s ABFF Celebrity Ambassador, Common, for an impressive spontaneous performance.

The ABFF master classes continue to be a high point for those with interests centered on film and television. This year’s classes included “Writing for Television,” with Comcast NBCUniversal’s SVP of Programming Talent Development & Inclusion for NBC Entertainment and Universal Television Studios.

Karen Horne; “TV Production – The HBO Way” presented by Bruce Richmond, EVP of Production; and the Actor’s Boot Camp, led by Bill Duke.

“A Conversation With,” presented by American Airlines, is part of the ABFF’s top-rated Talk Series. The intimate and powerful exchange between TV One host and journalist Roland Martin and ABFF Celebrity Ambassador Common was particularly revealing and compelling, as they discussed the industry, what it means to be a person of color within it and how levels of success are achieved.

Spotlight Screenings, Master Classes, Industry Coaching Seminars, and informative panel discussions, among other exciting events, comprise the five-day festival.

ABFF First Look: The Birth of a Nation, presented by the MPAA, courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures. Journalist and author Star Jones moderated a discussion with filmmaker and actor Nate Parker (Beyond the Lights, Red Tails) and actor Gabrielle Union (“Being Mary Jane,” Bad Boys II) about this provocative film and the journey from conception to distribution. The Making of Almost Christmas, presented by Comcast NBC Universal, provided an inside look at Universal’s new comedy with writer/director/executive producer David E. Talbert (Baggage Claim), producer Will Packer (Roots, Think Like A Man) and actor Gabrielle Union (“Being Mary Jane,” Bad Boys II). Another highlight of the festival was an Industry Coaching Seminar with Akil Productions, where husband and wife team Salim Akil and Mara Brock-Akil presented how to navigate a career in screenwriting and introduced a new ABFF initiative: ABFF Women’s Writers Lab.

The Spotlight Screening schedule was filled with informative and stimulating topics and conversations, including a screening of TBS’s Angie Tribeca and Q&A with star Deon Cole; Stepping Up: Stories of Jazz & Caregiving, sponsored by AARP; United Shades of America screening and conversation with W. Kamau Bell, courtesy of CNN Original Series; the world premiere of TV One’s Bad Dad Rehab followed by a Q&A with the cast, Malik Yoba, Wesley Jonathan, Robert Riley, Rick Gonzalez and Robert Ri’chard; and Next On HBO, presented by HBO, a conversation with Jacob Anderson, Andre Holland, Nathalie Emmanuel (Game of Thrones), Jazmyn Simon and John David Washington (Ballers).

ABFF is filled with great connecting and networking opportunities for attendees. This year’s “Power Lounge,” sponsored by Cadillac, was a three-day lounge for Deco passholders and included meet and greets with actors Omari Hardwick and Tichina Arnold. McDonald’s sponsored ABFF Game Night, hosted by actress and blogger Skye Townsend. Guests enjoyed complimentary McDonald’s breakfast sandwiches and pies, specialty cocktails, courtesy of Zacapa Rum, and of course games, including air hockey, pool, poker, karaoke and traditional card games. Time Warner hosted a Mojito Mixer for Writers with the goal of connecting with emerging content creators. Kwese’ Media was the host of a private reception to discuss international distribution options with festival filmmakers.

ABFF consistently partners with companies to establish and maintain meaningful relationships and, most importantly, to offer opportunities for creative individuals aspiring to succeed in film and television. To that end, ABFF has created the following competitions and workshops:

For the past three years, HBO and ABFF have partnered to find the next comedy star with the Comedy Wings Competition. This year’s host was Cedric the Entertainer. Out of five finalists, Daphnique Springs deservingly took home the coveted award.

The McDonald’s “My Community” Video Competition encourages filmmakers to produce a 90-second video illustrating what being deeply rooted in your community means. Director Tyshun Wardlaw won the film equipment prize package valued at $2,500 for her film, Be the Seed.

Comcast NBCUniversal partnered with ABFF for two talent initiatives at the festival this year: The Star Project, searches to find the next fresh face for film and television, and the NBC Television Hosting Workshop, designed to help emerging TV hosts sharpen their skills and identify dynamic personalities ready for on-air opportunities.

TV One’s 2nd annual Screenplay Competition highlighted three new writers who received an all-expense-paid trip to the ABFF, where each finalist got an opportunity to direct a scene from their script. Professional actors in front of a live audience at TV One’s “Celebrity Scene Stealers” performed each script during the festival.

VH1 partnered with the ABFF for the first annual Unscripted Workshop, where they selected and hosted five individuals with interesting show concepts. Programming executives spent two days working with them to discuss the business of show creation and provide tips to further develop their projects.

In celebration of 20 years, ABFF ALL ACCESS captured interviews with participating talent, Gabrielle Union, Robert Townsend, Common and more, to discuss their ABFF experiences and stories. All interviews will be available on the ABFF website. Cadillac commissioned artist Brandon Odums to create a mural celebrating ABFF’s 20th year. The installation honored the past by looking toward the future and asked attendees to jot down their ideas for African American characters and storylines missing in today’s movies, and then placed them on the art at the end of each festival day. The finished piece will be displayed in Detroit, Michigan.

ABFF prides itself on supporting its own, and this year it presented special screenings of ABFF alumni work, including writer-director Steve Caple Jr.’s skateboard film The Land, director Randy Wilkin’s documentary on Roy Jones Jr., titled 86-32, and Ringside, the TV One film from radio personality and director Russ Parr. In addition to screenings, ABFF hosted the ABFF Alumni Filmmaker Reunion, sponsored by BET, at the Loews Miami Beach Hotel.

Hosted by actor and comedian Chris Spencer, the 20th anniversary celebration concluded with “Best of the Festival” awards, a star-studded ceremony celebrating the achievements and successes of filmmakers, writers and actors. ABFF’s closing night party, sponsored by Hennessy, capped the night off.

“We are more than honored to have had the opportunity to serve the community of diverse artists and creators over the past twenty years,” said Jeff Friday, ABFF Founder. “We are encouraged that the industry has awakened to the power of inclusion. We salute all of our partners who have sustained us over our journey, with special thanks to founding sponsor HBO and this year’s presenting sponsors Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau, TV One, Cadillac and McDonald’s. Through their support we have been able to realize goals that 20 years ago we could only dream.”

The top winners at the “Best of the Festival” awards were The Fix, taking the coveted “Audience Award,” presented by BET; “Best Screenplay,” presented by Time Warner, went to How To Tell You’re a Douchebag, written by Tahir Jetter; and Destined, directed by Qasim Basir received the award for “Best Director,” presented by Cadillac, with the festival’s highest cash prize of $25,000. Cory Hardrict took top honor as “Best Actor” for Destined and gave a powerful acceptance speech in honor of his mother.

Giving back to the community provided the perfect theme for the conclusion of the 20th anniversary celebration of the American Black Film Festival. As part of Miami Film Month, the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau partnered with the ABFF to host a Community Day film-screening event on Father’s Day at the Lyric Theater, located at 819 NW 2nd Avenue in Historic Overtown. The host for these festivities was singer and actress Brave Williams. Attendees had an opportunity to view three films from the 2016 ABFFs screening schedule, including Bad Dad Rehab, which will air on TV One on July 3, the documentary Through My Lens, which will air on Aspire TV in October during National Anti- Bullying Month, and Love Under New Management: The Miki Howard Story, directed by Christine Swanson and starring Teyonah Parris. Throughout the day there were scheduled speakers, including Malik Yoba and Lamman Rucker.

Following the 2016 ABFF, BET Networks and the American Black Film Festival (ABFF) unveiled a programming partnership, ABFF Encore at BET Experience, at the BET Experience @ L.A. LIVE, June 24-26. ABFF Encore at BET Experience featured select films from the 2016 ABFF (How to Tell You Are a Douchebag, Destined and Everything But A Man), along with master classes in a variety of disciplines including acting, directing and producing. This year’s classes were led by filmmaker/producer Robert Townsend, creator/producer Kenya Barris and actor/producer Tasha Smith.

Links to Images:

ABFF Encore @ BET Experience Master Class

ABFF Encore @ BET Experience Screening Destined

ABFF Encore @ BET Experience Screening How To Tell You’re A Douchebag

ABFF Encore @ BET Experience Screening The Life of a Showrunner / Master Class


(Presented by BET)

Director: Paris Bauldwin
Writer: Paris Bauldwin
Producers: Paris Bauldwin, Kenny Lofton, Brenton Earley
Cast: Meta Golding, Eric Roberts, Asia Queen, Nicole Steinwedell, Blaine Gray, Jeremy Suarez, Sean O’Bryan, Timon Kyle Durrett, Jeremy Luke

(Presented by Time Warner)

Director: Tahir Jetter
Writer: Tahir Jetter
Producers: Julius Pryor, Marttise Hill, Tahir Jetter
Cast: Charles Brice, DeWanda Wise, Jenna Williams, William Jackson Harper, Tonye Patano, Alexander Mulzac

(Presented by Cadillac)

Writer/Director: Qasim Basir
Producers: Tommy Oliver, Rick Rosenthal, Matt Ratner
Cast: Cory Hardrict, Jesse Metcalfe, Margot Bingham, Robert Christopher Riley, Zulay Henao, Jason Dohring, Mo McRae, La La Anthony, Hill Harper, James McCaffrey, Curtiss Cook

(Presented by Prudential)

SERVICE TO MAN *World Premiere
Directors: Aaron Greer, Seth Panitch
Writer: Seth Panitch
Producers: Aaron Greer, Seth Panitch
Cast: Morgan Auld, Christopher Livingston, Lamman Rucker, Keith David


Cory Hardrict
Writer/Director: Qasim Basir
Producers: Tommy Oliver, Rick Rosenthal, Matt Ratner

(Presented by HBO)

FLOWERS *World Premiere
Directors: Nikyatu Jusu, Yvonne M. Shirley
Writers: Nikyatu Jusu, Yvonne M. Shirley
Producers: Nikyatu Jusu, Yvonne M. Shirley
Cast: Amee Apedo, Belle LeGrand, Grant Tambellini

(Presented by Comcast Xfinity)

Director: Lopez Williams
Writer/Creator: Kimberly Young
Producers: Lopez Williams, Kimberly Young, Morris Young, Richard Monroe, Lori Stewart Tannis, Sam Baumel
Cast: Kimberly Young, DJ Cipha Sounds, Nate Gill, Carmen Lynch, Sharron Paul, Jourdan Guyton, Jared Prudoff-Smith, Lauren Besser, Gibran Saleem, Godfrey Taylor, Jr., Sue Berch

(Presented by Hennessy)

Director: Emily Abt, Andrew Osborne
Writer: Emily Abt
Producers: Emily Abt, Keryn Thompson, Suzette Burton, Omar Epps, Malik Yoba


(Presented by HBO)
Daphnique Springs

Be the Seed
Directed by: Tyshun Wardlaw

(Presented by NBC)
Kelcy Griffin

Tale of a Script
Written by: N’Zuri Za Austin

Join the conversation on social media by logging on to ABFF’s multiple social media platforms:

Sponsors for the 2016 American Black Film Festival are HBO® (Founding and Presenting Sponsor), Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau (Host and Presenting Sponsor), TV One, Cadillac and McDonald’s (Presenting Sponsors); BET, Comcast NBCUniversal, Hennessy and Prudential (Platinum Sponsors); AARP, American Airlines, Coors Light, Kwesé Media, Miami Beach Visitor & Convention Authority (MBVCA), Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), Time Warner and VH1 (Official Sponsors); Planned Parenthood of America, Tanqueray and TBS (Supporting Sponsor); 21st Century Fox, ABC, ASPiRE, Atlanta Mayor’s Office of Film & Entertainment, CAA, CNN Original Series, Facebook, Fox Searchlight Pictures, Miami-Dade County Tourist Development Council (TDC), Motion Picture Editors Guild, RLJ Entertainment, SAGIndie, The Root, and Walter Kaitz Foundation (Industry Partners); Black Enterprise, Ebony Magazine, MIA Magazine, Upscale and TheYBF.com (Media Partners); and Blacknoir.com and The JDot Agency (Promotional Partners).

The American Black Film Festival (ABFF) is an annual event dedicated to showcasing quality film and television content by and about people of African descent. The festival is committed to the belief that Black artists and content creators deserve the same opportunities as their mainstream counterparts. ABFF founder Jeff Friday conceived the festival in 1997 as a vehicle to promote diversity in the motion picture industry, and strengthen the Black filmmaking community through resource sharing, education, artistic collaboration and career development. Today, the ABFF is recognized as the preeminent pipeline to new Black talent, both in front of and behind the camera, and is regarded as one of the leading film festivals in the world. The ABFF is a property of ABFF Ventures, LLC., which is a partnership between Film Life, Inc., and Black Enterprise.

Strategic Heights Media