Cory Hardrict receiving the Grand Jury Prize for Best Actor at ABFF 2016
Top awards went to "Destined," "Daddy Don't Go" and "Service to Man" at the 20th annual American Black Film Festival (ABFF) awards ceremony on Saturday, June 18, at the Loews Miami Beach Hotel.
This year’s ABFF star-studded lineup included Common, Omari Hardwick, Robert Townsend, Cedric the Entertainer, Gabrielle Union, Nate Parker, Will Packer, Tichina Arnold, Teyonah Parris, Nicole Beharie, 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 buddy action film, starring Kevin Hart and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, which 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.
Spotlight Screenings, Master Classes, Industry Coaching Seminars, and informative panel discussions, among other exciting events, comprise the five-day festival.
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; and “TV Production – The HBO Way” presented by Bruce Richmond, EVP of Production; and the Actor’s Boot Camp, led by Bill Duke.
This year's “A Conversation With,” part of the ABFF’s top-rated Talk Series, featuring TV One's NewsOne 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.
"ABFF First Look: 'The Birth of a Nation'" presented by the MPAA, courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures, featured journalist and author Star Jones moderating a discussion with filmmaker and actor Nate Parker and actor Gabrielle Union about the 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, producer Will Packer and actress Gabrielle Union.
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, Jazmyn Simon and John David Washington.
Networking opportunities for attendees this year included “Power Lounge,” sponsored by Cadillac, a three-day lounge for Deco passholders and included meet and greets with actors Omari Hardwick and Tichina Arnold.
There was also the 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 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, where Cadillac is based.
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 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 ABFF 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 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.
The HBO Short Film Competition, presented by HBO, was won by director Nikyatu Jusu's "Flowers" and the Best Web Original, presented by Comcast Xfinity, went to "2 Self Help Books Away From Being Perfect," from director Lopez Williams.