*There was no shortage of star power in Miami’s South Beach thanks to the fourteenth American Black Film Festival (ABFF). From June 23-26, 2010, networking and celebrating were at an all time high with a fully-loaded schedule of World Premiere screenings, cocktail parties, mixers and after parties in full swing until the wee hours of the morning.
Idris Elba did a multi-faceted job as ABFF’s Ambassador. He was in heavy rotation throughout the weekend starring in the Opening Night Premiere of “Takers” and the ABFF Best Film Winner,” Legacy,” where he had doubled as executive producer. The newest moniker Elba sports is “hype man” as he rocked the mic alongside the legendary D-Nice during Film Life’s 10th Anniversary Party @ LIV.
According to Elba he constantly tries to challenge his abilities by portraying a palate of different types of characters. Elba looks forward to producing and directing future projects though his production company.
ABFF founder Jeff Friday and his team left no stone unturned when it came to the festival’s underlying theme of educating and giving back to the community. The line-up of heavyweight events included master classes on cinematography (Cliff Charles), screenwriting (Steve Duncan) and the art of filmmaking (Spike Lee), as well as candid conversations sessions with Elba, CNN’s Soledad O’Brien and Spike Lee’s “Katrina – 5 years after the storm.”
ABFF sponsored a “Why Me?” essay contest awarding three winners with master class sessions passes. They went out in style with a community screening of “Stomp the Yard: Homecoming,” courtesy of Stage 6 Films, RCR Partners & Rainforest Films, held at Booker T. Washington senior high school.
HBO, ABFF’s founding and premier sponsor, hosted a talk series featuring artists from their shows and sponsored the HBO Short Film Competition, hosted for the ninth consecutive year by Actress Tamara Tunie. The five incredible shorts were “The Cycle,” “If I Leap,” “Moth,” “Say Grace Before Drowning” and “Stag & Doe.” Tunie charmed the audience with her graceful and witty interviews with the respective directors following the presentation of their piece.
Producer/director Robert Townsend hosted the closing night ABFF Honors ceremony leaving the audience in hysterics as he played “name that film” and acted out some of his favorite childhood movie memories. Townsend highlighted the power of ABFF by telling the incredible journey of Rainforest Films partners Rob Hardy and Will Packer (Obsessed & Stomp The Yard).
A decade ago, Hardy and Packer flipped a coin to see which one of them would travel to ABFF to screen their first film, “Trois.” Fast forward…they both presented this years Opening Night film “Takers,” starring Idris Elba, T.I., Chris Brown and Paul Walker; and the ABFF Centerpiece Screening “Stomp The Yard: Homecoming,” starring Pooch Hall, Collins Pennie, David Banner, Terrence J. and Keith David.
Oscar nominated producer/director Lee Daniels was honored with ABFF’s career achievement award, Golden Brooks took home the best actor award for her performance in “The Inheritance,” Idris Elba’s “Legacy” won best film and the coveted HBO Short Film Award went to “Stag & Doe,” co-directed by New York duo Justin Staley and Daniel Patterson.
Staley and Patterson were presented with a $20,000 prize from HBO’s executive vice president, affiliate marketing, Olivia Smashum, and Actress Tamara Tunie. The rising icon award was presented to singer/songwriter Chrisette Michele, who thanked ABFF and the film community for recognizing her as a fellow artist. One of the evening’s highlights belonged to 2010 ABFF star project winners Emayatzy Corinealdi and Stephen Hill.
In recognition of presenter Gina Prince-Blythewood and the tenth anniversary of her classic “Love & Basketball,” the two rising stars recreated the climatic scene where Sanaa Lathan challenges Omar Epps character to a game of one-on-one for his heart.
Aside from the incredible films featured in this year’s ABFF, highlights for the approximately 3,500 festivalgoers were the endless opportunities to engage in “real talk” with the ABFF film stars, presenters, sponsors and hosts.
Daily cocktail hour events and networking/recruitment events were hosted by Grey Goose, Stella Artois Cutting Room and MTV Networks. Keith David, Jamie Hector, Kenya Moore, Darren Dewitt Henson, David Banner, Pooch Hall, Omari Hardwick, Wood Harris and Rochelle Aytes were all on hand to support their films, share their experiences, advice and wisdom with many of the ABFF attendees who are aspiring actors, directors and producers.
Off site, casting director Winsome Sinclair hosted a private cocktail party at the beautiful South Beach condo of Alicia Keys longtime manager, Jeff Robinson, CEO / MBK Entertainment.
MBK’s Clarissa Robinson and rapper turned producer Nefertiti were on hand to help Sinclair introduce director Alphonso Rodriguez from the Dominican Republic. Rodriguez premiered the trailer for his upcoming film “Pimp Bullies” starring Ving Rhames. Among the attendees were actors Jamie Hector (The Wire), Omari Hardwick (Next Day Air, Blue Steel), Chyna Layne (Precious) and a host of industry executives and VIPs. (Photos by Charles Jones)
Dedra N. Tate is one of the founders of the New York-based Unlimited Contacts, Inc. and can be reached at 917-217-2222