The American Black Film Festival Announces 2003 Honorees Russell Simmons and Gabrielle Union

Russell Simmons to Receive AOL Time Warner’s Innovator Award Gabrielle Union to Receive the AOL Time Warner Rising Star Award at FILM LIFE Movie Awards Show Gala in South Beach, Miami June 21

New York, NY, May 30, 2003 – Film Life, Inc. and AOL Time Warner announced today that it will salute the outstanding work and exceptional achievements of entertainment mogul and activist Russell Simmons along with actress Gabrielle Union at the upcoming American Black Film Festival (ABFF) in South Beach, Miami. The star-studded Film Life Movie Awards Show, sponsored by Lincoln, will be held at 6:30 p.m., Saturday, June 21, in the Jackie Gleason Theater.

Russell Simmons will be presented with the AOL Time Warner Innovator Award. His close friend, Cedric the Entertainer, will present the award. Gabrielle Union will accept the AOL Time Warner Rising Star Award. AOL Time Warner is the ABFF’s presenting sponsor.

“AOL Time Warner is proud to honor Russell Simmons and Gabrielle Union — both luminaries in the entertainment industry,” said Gerri Warren-Merrick, vice president, community relations, AOL Time Warner. “Mr. Simmons’ and Ms. Union’s careers have made a profound impact on the African American community, as well as on the entertainment industry.”

“We are honored to salute the accomplishments of Russell Simmons and Gabrielle Union,” said Jeff Friday, president and CEO of Film Life, Inc., and ABFF executive director. “Undoubtedly, Russell Simmons is an icon in the entertainment industry. He has galvanized hip-hop from a small subset of music into a worldwide cultural explosion. The AOL Time Warner Innovator Award is a symbolic reminder of his distinctive and visionary career. Gabrielle Union in a short time has proven her ability as a television and film actress. She is indeed one of the industry’s preeminent rising stars,” Friday said.

As chairman and CEO of Rush Communications, Russell Simmons’ career has successfully built upon his vision of hip-hop as a deep cross-cultural common center. In his position, his watchful eye is on music, Def Jam Records; film, the SimmonsLathan Media Group; television, HBO’s “Def Comedy Jam” and Peabody Award-winning “Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry”; Broadway, the critically acclaimed stage production “Russell Simmons Def Poetry Jam on Broadway”; the fashion industry, the Phat Farm and Baby Phat; finances, Uni Rush Financial Services; advertising, the dRush agency; technology, Rush Mobile; magazine publishing, “One World” Magazine; and most of all, in the community with Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation and the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network.

Gabrielle Union has made an indelible impact on Hollywood in a short time. She will next be seen in Columbia Pictures’ summer release Bad Boys II. Currently she can be seen co-starring with Jet Li and hip-hop artist DMX in Cradle to the Grave. Her other film credits include Deliver Us From Eva, Welcome to Collinwood, Abandon and Bring It On. On television she has appeared in the hit series “Friends,” “Moesha,” “ER,” “Dave’s World,” “The Steve Harvey Show,” “Sister Sister” and “7th Heaven.” Recently, Union was selected as Entertainment Weekly’s “IT Girl,” and one of E!’s “Sizzling 16” and Vogue Magazine’s “Next Generation of Movie Stars.”

The Film Life Movie Awards were established in 1997 and traditionally have been held as the culminating event of the American Black Film Festival. Uniquely, the Film Life Movie Awards salute the work high profile Hollywood talent as well as independent filmmakers.

“The Film Life Movie Awards were developed to bring together established entertainment icons with independent filmmakers who are moving toward establishing their body of work,” said Friday, creator of the Awards. “Like the ABFF, the Film Life Movie Awards provide a platform to honor artistic excellence in Black cinema.”

Other awards to be presented at the Film Life Movie Awards Show include the HBO Short Film Award, the Blockbuster Audience Award for Best Feature Film, the Lincoln Filmmaker Trophy, the Best Performance by an Actor, presented by Phat Farm and the Best Performance by an Actress, presented by ESSENCE. Arista recording artists Kenny Lattimore and Chante Moore will perform at the gala event that will be hosted by actor/director Robert Townsend, who also serves as chairman of the ABFF Advisory Board, and Shaun Robinson of “Access Hollywood”.

Now in its seventh year, Film Life’s ABFF was created to redefine, discover and honor artistic excellence in Black cinema. ABFF provides a platform for the innovative work of contemporary Black filmmakers. Formerly known as the Acapulco Black Film Festival, the five-day retreat and international film market attracts more than 2,500 attendees annually. This year marks the Festival’s second year in South Beach.

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. Friday, a cofounder of the ABFF, has served as executive producer of the Festival since its inception in 1977.

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.