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More Than Movies: American Black Film Festival Brings Hollywood Heat To Miami

The 21st annual American Black Film Festival (ABFF) concluded in South Beach Miami on Sunday, June 18 after five days of film screenings, industry panels, celebrity interviews, master classes, talent showcases, symposiums, and soirees presented by their corporate sponsors. This year the sold-out festival, founded by Jeff Friday, was back in Miami, where it returned to last year for it’s 20th anniversary after several years of being in New York City.

Lil Mama, Lance Gross & Tami Roman at the TV One Dinner (Photo courtesy of TV One by Thaddaeus McAdams)
Lil Mama, Tasha Smith & Lance Gross at the TV One Dinner (Photo courtesy of TV One by Thaddaeus McAdams)

Actress Regina Hall was the ABFF Celebrity Ambassador this year. Her first time ever attending the festival, Hall expressed she was overwhelmed by the amount of love she was receiving during the opening night film premiere of her upcoming movie, “Girls Trip.” In the ensemble feature, Hall stars alongside Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett Smith and comedienne Tiffany Haddish. Just based on the falling-in-the-aisle laughing response from the capacity crowd at the Olympia Theater, this movie is going to be a huge hit this summer.

ABFF should use the hashtag, #MoreThanMovies as the festival really offers a bevy of showcases and symposiums in television, digital and comedy; as well as even things like fitness (actress Elise Neal hosted a workout boot camp), personal style (sponsor Shea Moisture hosted a beauty lounge) and women’s health (sponsor Planned Parenthood presented several information-oriented events).

Sherri Shepherd moderated TNT's "Claws" panel with Judy Reyes, Karrueche Tran & Janine Sherman-Barrois (Photo courtesy of ABFF by Shan)
Sherri Shepherd moderated TNT’s “Claws” panel with Judy Reyes, Karrueche Tran & Janine Sherman-Barrois (Photo courtesy of ABFF by Shan)

There were screenings and cast Q&A’s with television shows like “Power” (Starz), “Queen Sugar” (OWN), “Claws” (TNT), “Snowfall” (FX), “BIGGIE: The Life of Notorious B.I.G.” (A+E Networks), “Insecure” (HBO) and others. TV One was on hand taping “News One Now with Roland Martin” live during ABFF, as well as presenting their annual screen play competition.

One of the many highlights of the weekend was the 20th annual HBO Short Film Competition. The event was hosted by Bevy Smith and included five very different filmmakers showcasing their respective stories. Filmmakers included Hamila Lucas (“Amelia’s Closet”), Kendrick Prince (“Gema”), Nailah Jefferson (“Plaquemines”), Stefon Bristol and Frederica Bailey (“See You Yesterday”), and Dionne Edwards (“We Love Moses”). (Find out who won the competition this year below on the winners list.)

Tami Roman, Jeff Friday & Lisa Wu (Photo courtesy of TV One by John Parra)
Tami Roman, Jeff Friday & Lisa Wu (Photo courtesy of TV One by John Parra)

Among the other notable names that were on hand to participate in panels, Q&A’s and various other ABFF activities were Terrence Howard, Tasha Smith, David Banner, Issa Rae, Jay Ellis, Yvonne Orji, Lance Gross, Tami Roman, Jessie T. Usher, Lil Mama, LeToya Luckett, Elijah Kelley, Erica Ash, Boris Kodjoe, Nicole Ari Parker, Jimmy Jean-Louis, Mona Scott-Young, Spike Lee, Lisa Wu, Tobias Truvillion, John Singleton, Faith Evans, Voletta Wallace, Lil Cease, Kofi Siriboe, Rutina Wesley, Omar Dorsey, Tina Lifford, Amin Joseph, DeWanda Wise, Alano Miller, Dawn Lyen-Gardner, Elvin Ross, Merle Dandridge, Dondre Whitfield, Karrueche Tran, Judy Reyes, Janine Sherman-Barrois, Marque Richardson, Nischelle Turner, Roger Bobb, Tai Beauchamp, Nathan Hale Williams, Teyonnah Parris, MC Lyte, Damon Williams, LT Hutton, Benny Boom, Demetrius Shipp, Jr., Dennis L.A. White, DJ D-Nice, Misha Green, Irv Gotti, Amanda Seales, Bill Duke, Nicci Gilbert, Dave Andron, Damson Idris, Carter Hudson, Isaiah Johns, Malcolm Mays, Michael Hyatt, Will Packer and Fox’s “Star” cast Ryan Destiny, Jude Demorest and Brittany O’Grady.

Jawn Murray, Kofi Siriboe, Koshie Mills & Demetria Lucas-D'Oyley (Photo courtesy of ABFF by Shan)
Jawn Murray, Kofi Siriboe, Koshie Mills & Demetria Lucas-D’Oyley (Photo courtesy of ABFF by Shan)

Though its been three years since I’ve attended ABFF, I would venture to say the festival had more celebrities, notable executives and general industry Influencers than I recall ever seeing.

ABFF will return to Miami next June.  For details on the 2018 festival, visit ABFF.com.


WINNER’S LIST

2017 HBO SHORT FILM AWARD, presented by HBO (Prize: $10,000)

“Amelia’s Closet” written and directed by Halima Lucas

2017 STAR PROJECT WINNER, presented by NBC

Duain Richmond

2017 TV ONE SCREENPLAY COMPETITION WINNER, presented by TV One (Prize: $5,000 and a production deal)

“Down for Whatever” – a drama written by Tim Folsome

Roland S. Martin and John Singleton (Photo courtesy of TV One by Thaddaeus McAdams)
Roland S. Martin and John Singleton (Photo courtesy of TV One by Thaddaeus McAdams)

2017 TURNER TV WRITING CONTEST WINNERS, presented by Turner

Darrin Dortch “Short Changed” (Comedy)

Derege Harding “Fulfillment” (Drama)

2017 BEST WEB ORIGINAL, presented by Xfinity
(Prize: $2,500)

Brooklyn.Blue.Sky created by Rhavynn Drummer and Dui Jarrod

2017 GRAND JURY AWARD BEST NARRATIVE FEATURE, presented by Prudential (Prize: $5,000)

“Ambition’s Debt” directed by Devin E. Haqq

2017 GRAND JURY AWARD BEST DIRECTOR, presented by Cadillac (Prize: $25,000)

Eden Marryshow – “Bruce”

ABFF attendees pack out The Colony Theater for a screening (Photo courtesy of ABFF by Shan)
ABFF attendees pack out The Colony Theater for a screening (Photo courtesy of ABFF by Shan)

Miami Tourism and the Hyatt Centric South Beach hosted us for the American Black Film Festival. Thanks to Michelle Huff and the ABFF team for their support throughout the weekend.

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ABOUT JAWN MURRAY: Jawn Murray is a TV Host, Pop Culture Expert, Journalist and Influencer. Jawn has hosted specials for Travel Channel, NFL Network and EPIX; as well as appearing on “The Wendy Williams Show,” “The Meredith Vieira Show,” CNN, HLN and TV One’s “News One Now with Roland Martin” and “Unsung.” A former on-air personality on the nationally syndicated Tom Joyner Morning Show, Jawn was named by the NAACP as one of “40 Power Players Under 40;” by Don Julio Tequila as one of Washington, DC’s “12 Most Influential Men;” and named by Ebony magazine as one of the “30 on the Rise” to watch in the entertainment industry.