ABFF Announces 2012 Winners – Day 4
American Black Film Festival Announces 2012 Winners
Posted by Wilson Morales
June 24, 2012
Film Life’s 16th annual American Black Film Festival (ABFF) announced the winners of their independent film awards in the Salon Room at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel on June 23, 2012.
The fourth and final day of the festival day began with a rewarding panel which featured some of Black Hollywood’s most noted female tastemakers who participated in a verbal walk thru of their journey navigating the film industry in “Beyond the Barriers & Biases – Black Women in Hollywood Panel.” The panel, moderated by African American Cinema Scholar Michele Prettyman Beverly, featured Twinkie Byrd, casting director and producer, Elizabeth Hunter, writer, Angi Bones, SVP of Development (BobbCat Films) and actors Malinda Williams and Tracey Heggins.
Up next, ABFF Sponsor, HBO, hosted a panel entitled “HBO Presents…” featuring some of the cable networks hottest black talent who are making waves this season on series such as “Veep,” “True Blood,” and many others. Actors Sufe Bradshaw, Adina Porter, Michael K. Williams, Nelsan Ellis, JB Smoove and Essence magazine’s Cori Murray were on hand to give perspective to attendee’s on the importance of diversity in the industry and how it strengthens the HBO experience. With HBO as the festival’s founding and title sponsor, the ABFF is the premier international marketplace for films that showcase the best new work by and about people of African descent.
“The Winners Circle,” this year’s award presentation, opened out the top of the evening with a star studded red carpet event.
The HBO Short Film Award was given to ‘Cherry Waves,’ which was directed by Carey Williams. The $20,000 grand prize award was presented by Lucinda Martinez, Vice President, Domestic Network Distribution & Multicultural Marketing of HBO, and Bevy Smith.
The short centers on Angie Adams (played by Tracey Heggins), a deeply spiritual young girl. Blessed with an intense tolerance for pain, Angie has developed into a prolifically successful underground streetfighter. When posed with a life-changing decision, Angie must make sacrifices against her moral convictions for her loved ones, but will her sacrifice ultimately lead to her demise?
In the GMC Faith and Family Screenplay Competition, the winner was Nzinga Kadalie Kemp of Los Angeles, California for her feature film screenplay entitled, ‘In the Meantime.’ The $5000 Grand Prize award was presented by GMC Vice-Chairman Brad Siegel and DeEtta West.
The screenplay involves a bride-to-be who gives her fiancé “creative” freedom before their wedding day, but ends up finding faith and the meaning of true love in the meantime. Jazmin “Jazz” Welles and her fiancé “Blac” are taking a non-traditional approach to their nuptials. They’ve agreed to take nine months off to discover themselves and if it is indeed true love, they’ll show up on the wedding day, no questions asked.
This year’s HBO Star Project two grand-prize winners are Sherial McKinney, an Orange County native and Robert Hunter from Los Angeles. The award was presented by Kendra Carter, Director of Talent Diversity Initiatives, NBC Universal Casting.
Star Project is an international acting competition for emerging multicultural artists. The winners are afforded the opportunity to audition for a leading casting director and one person will be selected to participate in a walk on role on the award-winning NBC daytime drama ‘Days of Our Lives.’
McKinney, an Orange County native, was raised (along with her five sisters) by her adoptive family from the age of 10 years old. Though her professional career began just a few years ago, McKinney’s talent and determination have allowed her to work with hit director Melina Matsoukas in the UK release of Leona Lewis’s “Bleeding Love” as the dramatic lead, garner a lead role in the Netflix featured film “He’s on My Mind” (2009), and host for Style Network’s producers of Vimby.com. Recently, McKinney has also been seen in TV One’s newest series “Will to Live.”
Hunter started in theatre with the roles of Frank Elgin in the Clifford Odets play “The Country Girl” and East in John Cariani’s romantic comedy “Almost Maine.” Hunter made his film debut in 2011 when he starred in a short film entitled “LA Bros.” Hunter is a young actor who is focused on traveling and learning from the best.
The award for best documentary was given to ‘Soul Food Junkies,’ written and directed by Byron Hurt and produced by Lisa Durden. The award was presented by a CNN spokesperson.
‘Soul Food Junkies’ explores the history and social significance of soul food to black cultural identity and its affect on African-American health, good and bad. Soul food will also be used as the lens to investigate the dark side of the food industry and the growing food justice movement that has been born in its wake.
This year’s festival Ambassador, actress Tracey Ellis Ross, came on stage to thank Jeff Friday for all the work he had done to make the festival a success and also gave a shout-out to Bill Duke for his documentary, ‘Dark Girls.’
As this year’s Grand Jury President, Actor, Mekhi Phifer (“Lie to Me,” “ER”), served as a judge and presented prizes in front of the festival audience.
The Grand Jury Prize for Best Performance by an Actor was a tie with Malinda Williams for her performance in ‘The Undershepherd,‘ and to Sheldon Shepherd for his performance in ‘Better Mus Come.’ The award was presented by Mark Pitts, VP and General Manager of Coffee and Tea for Coco-Cola. Prize includes $5000 sponsored by Gold Peak Tea.
Williams plays play Cassandra, Isaiah Washington’s wife in The Undershepherd, directed by Russ Parr. She’s the first lady of this mega church and the theme around the film is on the church and corruption. It’s also a person being corrupted by power and that’s Isaiah in the film. People’s morals get questioned in the film based on the power and money and things that surround running a mega church that way. .
Sheldon Shepherd plays the lead role of “Ricky” in ‘Better Mus Come‘, which follows warring political factions in 1970s Jamaica as they enlist the support of gangs to enforce their policies, and advanced their political agenda.
The Grand Jury Award for Best Screenplay was given to Matthew A. Cherry for his film, ‘The Last Fall.’ The award was presented by a Ciroc brand manager.
“The Last Fall” is a coming of age sports drama about the difficulties an NFL journeyman faces when trying to transition to life after his playing days are over. The film stars Lance Gross, Nicole Beharie, Vanessa Bell Calloway, Michael Moss, and Keith David.
The Grand Jury Prize for Best Director was given to Russ Parr for his film ‘The Undershepherd.’ The award was presented by Don Butler,U.S. Marketing Vice President for Cadillac. The winner receives film stock valued at $5000.
Parr’s film was also given the Grand Jury Prize for Best Film. The award was presented by Connie Orlando, VP of Original Programming at BET Networks. The winner receives film stock valued at $5000.
The film centers on best friends LC and Roland, two young, ambitious ministers who are climbing the ranks at the First Baptist Church. Coming up under the leadership of Dr. Ezekial Canon, the church’s elderly pastor, Roland and LC have dreams of becoming the predecessors of the aging pastor. But, the feeble Dr. Canon stubbornly refuses to step-down, forcing the two young ministers to make pivotal decisions that ultimately fray the fabric of their deeply-woven friendship. The film stars Isaiah Washington, Lamman Rucker, Louis Gossett Jr., Elise Neal, Clifton Powell, Malinda Williams, Vanessa Bell Calloway, Keith David and Robinne Lee.
After the award ceremony, folks went over to the Colony Theater for the World Premiere of ‘Raising Izzie,‘ which is based on the winning screenplay submitted by David Martyn Conley. He was the 2011 winner of the GMC Faith and Family Screenplay Competition. Directed by Roger M. Bobb, making his feature film debut, Raising Izzie stars Vanessa Williams (“Lincoln Heights,” “Soul Food”), Rockmond Dunbar (“Soul Food”), Kyla Kenedy (Three Stooges, “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation”) and Victoria Staley (“My Parents, My Sister and Me”, “Surface”).
The ABFF Closing Night Reception was held at Dream Hotel/Tudor House.