The 2019 American Black Film Festival Wraps With Diverse Slate of Winning Films Content Creators and Historic Moments


New York, NY, (June 17, 2019) – The 2019 American Black Film Festival (ABFF) wrapped another successful year of screenings, red carpet events, panels and talent pipeline competitions and welcomed thousands of film enthusiasts, talent and emerging filmmakers. The 23rd annual Festival took place June 12-16 in Miami Beach.

The Festival kicked off with the ABFF Industry Expo, sponsored by AT&T Dream In Black and the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau at the host hotel, Loews Miami Beach. Warner Bros. presented the opening night screening of SHAFT at the New World Center – Performance Hall. The star-studded cast of Samuel L. Jackson, Jessie T. Usher, Richard Roundtree, Alexandra Shipp, Lauren Velez and Method Man were all in attendance along with other celebrity guests and filmmakers. ABFF Ventures GM, Nicole Friday, welcomed guests and talent, along with this year’s celebrity ambassador, La La Anthony to the Miami Beach premiere before heading down to the Bass Contemporary Art Museum for a beautiful opening night celebration, hosted by Hilton.

The spotlight films that screened throughout the Festival included three films by Netflix: BEATS, with appearances by cast members Anthony Anderson (Black-ish), Khalil Everage and director Chris Robinson, THE BLACK GODFATHER, the documentary on the unlikely rise of Clarence Avant a music executive who influenced Quincy Jones, Muhammad Ali, Hank Aaron, President Barack Obama and more, with a talkback with director Reginald Hudlin and moderator Roland Martin and the Clips & Conversation discussion for the hit, SEE YOU YESTERDAY, which featured a conversation with Spike Lee and ABFF alum Stefon Bristol, moderated by ABFF Ventures Founder and CEO, Jeff Friday; TV One’s THE BOBBY DEBARGE STORY, starring Roshon Fegan (Greenleaf), OWN’s DAVID MAKES MAN starring Tarell Alvin McCraney (Moonlight), Phylicia Rashad (Empire), and Akil McDowell (Criminal Acitivities) and AMBITIONS with Robin Givens, Essence Atkins, Brian White; IFC’s SHERMAN’S SHOWCASE, featuring a talkback with creators and actors Diallo Riddle (Marlon) and Bashir Salahuddin (Glow); AIDS Health Foundation presented BURDEN, with talent appearances by Nathan Hale (Director) and Nic Few, moderated by Imara Canady; FX’s SNOWFALL screened at the Festival, with panelists Dave Andron (Producer), and cast members Carter Hudson, Amin Joseph, Angela Lewis, Isaiah John, and Michael Hyatt, moderated by Lola Ogunnaike; Sony’s FOR LIFE film, featured a talkback with Isaac Wright (Attorney), George Tillman (director), and Jennifer Turner (SVP, Sony Pictures Television), BET’s FIRST WIVES CLUB showed clips from their new show and discussed behind the scenes with Tracy Oliver (Executive Producer) and Nicq Hale (Producer); truTV’s LAFF MOBB’S LAFF TRACKS, courtesy of WarnerMedia, was hosted by Clayon English, with panelists Rita Brent, Brandon Glover, Joyelle Johnson and Ronnie Jordan; and the social impact showcase, FATHERHOOD: THE FOUNDATION OF THE BLACK FAMILY, was hosted by Omar Epps. Each screening was immediately followed by a Q&A session with members of the cast.

At the Loews Miami Beach Hotel, there were several company activations and talkbacks for attendees to experience: AT&T’s Dream in Black presented a captivating panel with the cast of POWER. Omari Hardwick, Larenz Tate, and the 2019 ABFF Ambassador La La Anthony were on hand to give a behind the scenes look at the hit series. TV One delivered an exciting event with their CELEBRITY SCENE STEALERS table read of Demetria Lucas’ “Don’t Waste Your Pretty,” featuring the talented Roshon Fegan (Greenleaf), Chyna Layne (She’s Gotta Have It), Malinda Williams (Chandler Christmas Getaway), and moderated by Extra’s Tanika Ray. UMC presented the I GOT THE HOOKUP 2: THE LIVEST PANEL YOU EVER ATTENDED with panelists Master P. (Writer/Producer/Cast Member), Romeo Miller (Producer/Cast Member), Cymphonique Miller (Cast Member), Fatboy SSE (Cast Member), Funny Mike (Cast Member), JuJu Casteneda (Cast Member) and Pio La Ditingancia(Cast Member), and moderated by Gia Peppers.

A big attraction for aspiring filmmakers and actors were the many Business of Entertainment panels at ABFF. The line-up included RATE MY MOVIE: A CONVERSATION WITH THE LEADERS BEHIND MPAA’s FILM RATINGSwith Marilyn Gordon (Chairman of the Advertising Administration and Vice-Chairperson of CARA), Yulia Dashevsky (Deputy Chairman of the Advertising Administration), and Kelly McMahon (Chairman of the Classification and Rating Administration (CARA), with directors and ABFF alums Qasim Basir, Storm Saulter and Deniese Davis from Issa Rae Productions/Color Creative, moderated by John Gibson, (VP, External & Multicultural Affairs at MPAA); SPOTIFY PRESENTS: BLACK HISTORY IS HAPPENING NOW: A CONVERATION WITH MARSAI MARTIN, was moderated by Essence Magazine’s Danielle Young; THE ART OF DIRECTING panel, sponsored by Capital One Spark Business, discussed deconstructed scenes from blockbuster films with directors Malcolm D. Lee (Night School), Steven Caple Jr. (Creed II), George Tillman Jr. (The Hate You Give) and Boots Riley (Sorry to Bother You), moderated by Black Film’s Wilson Morales.

Other notable business entertainment panels included the Warner Bros. SEE YOURSELF IN THE WORK WE DO panel with Nafessa Williams (Black Lightning), Kofi Siriboe (Queen Sugar), D. Harris-Lawrence (David Makes Man Showrunner), Odetta Watkins (SVP of WBTV) and Kevin E. Fortson(EVP, Production Warner Horizon Television), moderated by Essence Magazine’s Cori Murray; EQUIP YOUR PITCH, sponsored by Verizon Media, highlighted ways to develop and pitch stories for multiple platforms with Caroline Christoper, Brittany Jones-Cooper and Roger Bobb, moderated by Ramces Jean-Louis; MY JOURNEY FROM ABFF TO THE CLAWS WRITING ROOM: THE CINDERFELLA STORY OF 2017 ABFF AWARD WINNER DARRIN DORTCH, included panelists Janine Sherman Barrois(Showrunner) Eliot Laurence (Executive Producer), and Darrin Dortch,(Writer), moderated by Jennifer Williams (Director, Global Inclusion & Diversity, Turner People Development); CASTING: ILLUMINATING THE PROCESS, presented by BET, included Robi Reed (VP of Talent and Casting, BET Networks) and actors Sinqua Walls and Sarunas Jackson and moderated by Yvette Nicole Brown.

Every year, the Festival’s panels are a big hit and this year was no different: the ABOUT WOMEN panel, sponsored by Accenture and Hilton, featured an in-depth discussion with industry tastemakers Tracy Oliver (Girls Trip), La La Anthony (Power), Iyanla Vanzant (Iyanla: Fix My Life), and Connie Orlando (EVP Head of Programming, BET Networks); The HOT IN HOLLYWOODpanel, presented by American Airlines, included the very talented Damson Idris (Snowfall), Damarsis Lewis (BlacKkKlansman), Lil Rel (Uncle Drew) and Marsai Martin (Little). Cadillac sponsored the KEEP RISING KEYNOTE CONVERSATION, an up close and personal discussion with Sanaa Lathan on her road to success, which was moderated by her long time friend and collaborator, director Malcolm D. Lee; NBCUniveral presented THE COME UP: A CONVERSATION WITH THE STARS OF NBC panel featured discussions with stars from various NBC hit series stars including Yaya Decosta (Chicago Med), Ego Nwodim (SNL), Niles Fitch (This is Us) Jocko Sims (New Amsterdam) and LaRoyce Hawkins (Chicago P.D.), THE STORY BEHIND THE MUSIC WITH SONGLANDS ESTER DEAN panel included an intimate conversation with Ester Dean (Pitch Perfect, NBC’s Songland) and Chrissie Fit (Pitch Perfect 2 & 3), as well as the BRAVO MEDIA PRESENTS: FAMILIES & BLACK LOVE panel included a conversation on love, family, and relationships with reality stars Porsha Williams (Real Housewives of Atlanta), Karen Huger (The Real Housewives of Potomac), and Dr. Jacqueline Waters(Married to Medicine) and his informative panel was moderated by Cori Murray, Entertainment Director for Essence Magazine; Sony Pictures Entertainment sponsored the BEYOND THE SPIDER-VERSE: WHAT’S NEXT FOR SONY PICTURES ANIMATION panel and presented a look at what made the Academy Award-winning Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse a global hit. Panelists included Academy award-winner Peter Ramsey (Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse), Matthew A. Cherry (Hair Love) and moderated by Karen Toliver (Senior Vice President of Creative for Sony Pictures Animation).

Additional ABFF Talks for film and music enthusiasts included the ABFF SOUND LAB: MUSIC + FILM, a discussion about music, film, and the leverage and opportunities artists have when crossing over into film and television, with Bryan Smiley (Sony), Cassandra Butcher (Bron Studios), Leah Daniels Butler (Casting Director), Cameron Mitchell, Max Gousse (CEO, Artistry Music Group, WMG), and moderated by Shawn Finnie (Associate Director of Membership Relations and Outreach, Academy of Motion Pictures). This panel was sponsored by Crown Royal, programmed in association with Artistry-Curated by Media; The Facebook-sponsored BLACK MAGIC AND THE POWER OF DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKING panel was comprised of panelists Jacqueline Olive (Always in Season) and Michelle Materre (Black Women in Medicine), moderated by Terri Prettyman Bowles and Michelle

The Master Class Series, presented by Prudential Financial, provided opportunities for attendees to acquire knowledge on several facets of business entertainment, including MAKING THE DEAL- KNOWING WHAT MATTERS, a class conducted by entertainment lawyers Lisa Davis, Marcie Cleary, and Sean Jefferson from Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz; PRODUCING FILM AND TELEVISION with Datari Turner, Producer (Shut Up and Dribble; A Boy. A Girl. A Dream) was an informative session for attendees; the WRITING FOR TELEVISION class was led by Karen Horne (SVP of Programming, Talent Development & Inclusion for NBC Entertainment and Universal Television Studios) with guest Kay Oyegun (This Is Us).

Founding and Presenting Sponsor HBO presented interactive events including “ASK HBO” SESSIONS with panelists Kalia Booker (Director, Drama, Programming), Robert Patla (Manager Talent Development), Gena Desclos(Post-production), Natasha Foster-Owens (VP, Production), Jackie Glover(SVP, HBO Docs), Kelly Edwards (SVP, Talent Development) and Amy Hodge(VP, Comedy Programming); TRUE JUSTICE: A CONVERSATION WITH BRYAN STEVENSON was an exclusive conversation with Alabama public interest attorney, founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative; and the HBO POV: CREATORS MIXER, an interactive session hosted by creators behind some of HBO’s biggest titles where attendees networked and mingled with other creators.

Networking opportunities for attendees and filmmakers included the ABFF PASSHOLDER LOUNGE, sponsored by American Airlines featured happy hour cocktails by Crown Royal, COCKTAILS, CONVERSATIONS & FINANCIAL FACTS, hosted by Prudential Financial with panelists Victoria Rowell (The Young & the Restless) and Affion Crockett (Undercover Brother 2).

To tickle your funny, the ABFF COMEDY WINGS COMPETITION, presented by HBO, is always a hit. Hosted by Deon Cole, five aspiring comedians fought for the title of ‘winner’ in front of a sold-out audience and Baltimore native Ty Davis took home the top prize.

The ABFF INDUSTRY EXPO was a heavily anticipated event. The expo included exhibits hosted by the Greater Miami Convention & Visitor’s Bureau, AT&T Dream in Black, Warner Bros., HBO, The DC Office of Cable Television, Film, Music & Entertainement (OCTFME), Comcast NBCUniversal, Atlanta Mayor’s Office of Film and Entertainment, Fulton Films, Arrington & Phillips, LLP and Creative Artists Agency (CAA).

After days of screenings, events, panels and conversations, ABFF knows how to keep the party going, including the LEGENDARY WHITE PARTY at Nikki Beach, with music by DJ D-Nice, the “29 Below” Mixer, presented by AT&T Dream in Black and the “BEST OF ABFF” closing night party at the Loews Miami Beach Hotel, with music by DJ M.O.S. and DJ Kiss.

ABFF continues to support and provide programming for the community, with its ‘Coffee Talks’ and annual Community Day Showcase. Capital One Spark Business presented a Coffee Talk Series with intimate conversations with celebrities discussing hot topics in Hollywood, moderated by The Grio’s Cortney Wills. Guests included Jacob Latimore, LisaRaye McCoy, and Disney and Pixar animators Aphton Corbin and Michael Yates from TOY STORY 4. ABFF COMMUNITY DAY, sponsored by the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau (GMCVB) and held at The Black Archives Historic Lyric Theater. The day was filled with entertainment curated for family audiences and the program included a conversation with director and ABFF alum Steven Caple Jr. (Creed II), and a screening of short films created by Miami-based student filmmakers and films selected from the Festival’s Social Impact Showcase.

All films in competition, screened their films to an eager audience at the Regal Cinemas South Beach 18 & IMAX, with Q&A’s immediately following with the producers, director and cast.

ABFF always recognizes the accomplishments of the next generation of filmmakers at their annual awards presentation. Actress Erica Ash (Uncle Drew) hosted the “Best of ABFF” Awards at the Loews Miami Beach Hotel, with a musical performance by Jacob Latimore (The Chi). In memory of John Singleton, founding member of the ABFF Advisory Board and friend, the Festival created “The John Singleton Best First Feature” Award to be presented to an aspiring filmmaker, beginning at next year’s Festival, and was announced by his daughter Justice Singleton. A screening of Boyz n The Hood screened on Saturday evening to close out the Festival screening schedule. To cap off the Festival week, for the first time ever, a woman, Numa Perrier, won the Jury Award for Best Director, presented by Cadillac, for her film, Jezebel. ABFF history was made!

The 2020 American Black Film Festival will be held in Miami Beach from June 17-21, 2020.

Here is the full list of the 2019 American Black Film Festival Winners:


Audience Award – Best Narrative Feature (presented by BET Networks: Prize: $10,000)
All In directed by Ibrahim Yilla

Jury Award – Best Narrative Feature (presented by Prudential Financial; Prize: $5,000)
Jezebel directed by Numa Perrier

Jury Award – Best Web Series (presented by Verizon Media; Prize: $2,500)
Little Apple directed by Riley S. Wilson

ABFF HBO Short Film (Prize: $10,000 for winner; $5,000 for finalists)
CAP written and directed by Marshall Tyler

Jury Award – Best Screenplay (presented by ABFF; Prize: $2,500)
Strive written by Piper Dellums and Sha-Risse Smith

Jury Award – Best Documentary (presented by ABFF; Prize $2,500)
One Child Left Behind by Jodi Gomes

Jury Award – Best Performance by a Lead Actor (presented by AT&T Dream in Black; Prize: $2,500)
Essence Atkins in Same Difference

Jury Award – Best Director (presented by Cadillac; Prize: $5,000)
Numa Perrier, Jezebel

Star Project
Alexis Damita

Comedy Wings (Presented by HBO)
Ty Davis

NBC Hosting Workshop Top Performers
Jazmin Bailey, Dennis Pastrorizo, Jasmine Styles, Krystal Vega

WarnerMedia truTV/Comedy
Kim and Domonic Smith-Weston

WarnerMedia Writing Contest TNT/Drama
Darnell Brown

WarnerMedia Writing Contest TBS/Comedy
Claytia Gonsalves

The Sponsors for the 2019 American Black Film Festival are: HBO® (Founding & Presenting); BET, Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau, Cadillac, Comcast NBCUniversal (Presenting Sponsors); AT&T Dream in Black, Capital One Spark Business, Hilton, Prudential Financial, WarnerMedia (Premier Sponsors); AMC, American Airlines, Crown Royal, Motion Picture Association of American (MPAA), Netflix, Sony Pictures, TV One (Official Sponsors); Accenture, AspireTV, Facebook, FX, Gentleman Jack, Miami Beach Visitors & Convention Authority, OWN, Spotify, truTV, UMC, Verizon Media, Warner Bros. (Supporting Sponsors); ABC, BLACC and initiative of AIDS Healthcare Foundation, Atlanta Mayor’s Office of Film & Entertainment, Arrington & Phillip’s LLP – Attorneys at Law, Creative Artists Agency (CAA), DC Office of Cable Television, Film, Music & Entertainment, Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz PC, IFC, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Morris Yorn Barnes Levine Krintzman Rubenstein Kohner & Gellman Law Firm, SAGindie, Walter Kaitz Foundation, Walt Disney (Industry Partners); Black Enterprise, Blackfilm.com, Essence, theGrio.com, and Invest Atlanta (Media Partners).

ABFF Social Media Platforms:

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 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. ABFF 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 entertainment. For more than two decades the festival has been a platform for emerging black artists — premiering the early work and showcasing the talent of many of today’s most successful actors, producers, writers, directors and stand-up comedians. As “the nation’s largest gathering of black film and television enthusiasts” the festival attracts a broad audience of A-list talent, emerging artists, upscale consumers and industry stakeholders. Approximately 7,000 to 10,000 people travel to Miami Beach each year for the event. The five-day festival opens with the premiere of an upcoming Hollywood release followed by independent film screenings, master classes, panels, celebrity talks, live entertainment, and a variety of networking and hospitality events.


Michelle Huff Elliott
Strategic Heights Media
[email protected]