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American Black Film Festival Highlights

The American Black Film Festival (ABFF) personifies the glow and energetic spirit of Black creators, and its 27th year felt extremely timely. The featured films, TV shows, shorts, and documentaries exemplified the modern Black experience. The festival draws a global crowd and enhances the international understanding of Black people in the diaspora for its attendees. It is revolutionary. Jeff and Nicole Friday, the founders of the festival, can be found mingling amongst panel goers and top filmmakers in the industry. 

This year's festival featured an impressive lineup of screenings, panels, receptions, and parties over its five-day duration. Its commitment to providing a comprehensive experience was evident, leaving festival goers eager to participate in every moment. The diverse range of programs ensured attendees had ample opportunities to explore different aspects of Black cinema and engage in meaningful discussions. 

Friday

Amongst the notable films available for viewership was “The Perfect Find,” a romantic comedy directed by Numa Perrier, starring Gabrielle Union, Keith Powers, and Gina Torres. During the premiere, I had a chance to interview Gabrielle Union, and she shared that her favorite aspect about playing romantic interest roles is having a chance to embrace complexity and showcase a range of emotions, including humor, drama, and vulnerability. "The Perfect Find" producers Elaine Oliver and Tommy Oliver, were asked "What is it like collaborating with your romantic partner (on a romance film)?" Amidst kisses from Tommy, Elaine answered, “It’s a journey, we have been working together since we met (2013), and at the end, when the baby is out, it feels really good.” The film is scheduled to be released on June 23rd on Netflix, which I highly recommend as a kick start of the summer.

Saturday

"That’s Our Business: A Conversation with Tabitha and Chance Brown," featured a sea of guests with Black hair in all forms of beauty and the eyes of said guests were glued to the stage. Tabitha Brown is a rising Hollywood star whose career in acting was boosted during the pandemic through social media content. “Fridays with Tab and Chance,” a video blog of the married couple, became a hit conversation for viewers amongst social media crowds and is now being developed into an official podcast. Their frankness, clear love, and willingness to support each other through the phases of Hollywood are inspirational, no wonder why no one could look away. 

Sunday

The final day of the festival coincided with Father’s Day and Juneteenth weekend, adding to the festive and celebratory atmosphere. I asked Jeff Friday what is he most proud of on this day of many celebrations, “It is great to be a father. Raising my children is my number one priority; this (festival) comes second or third. For this (fest) to be as popular and to advance the careers of people of color as it is 27 years later, it is an unbelievable feeling to have sustained this festival for so long.”

The last day of the festival, coined “Community Day,” featured guests such as Issa Rae, Matthew Cherry ("Hair Love"), Syreeta Singleton ("Rap Sh!t"), and Mark Davis ("Young Love"). The combination of guests displayed what true community looks like; Issa is featured in Chicago’s very own, Matthew Cherry’s "Hair Love," a short about the magnitude of Black hair care, and their continued collaboration shows growth in a communal form. Matthew also gave welcoming words towards children who are first exposed to media through animation: "Animation is the first form of media that kids are exposed to. Anything you can do in media that speaks to children, is an incredible medium,” he said.

Matthew and Mark welcomed communal expression through their conversation around animation and made a call to action for more Black people, particularly Black women, to get involved in the field of animation and offered their own contact information to those interested.

Attending ABFF was a breathtaking experience that felt like I had been transported to a Black Heaven in the warm atmosphere of Miami. Interactive workshops like "Where Black is Infinite: Welcome Home" hosted by Andscape, created an affirming atmosphere for the entirety of the Black room. A space where Black people can be affirmed, redirected, and nurtured by Black people is a rarity, and I was fortunate to escape rainfall and find myself there. Attending ABFF was a dream come true, and although I want this festival to remain on the global stage, a small part of me hopes that its quaint nature remains sacred just for us. 

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