18th Annual American Black Film Festival (ABFF) Complete Film Line-Up

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18th Annual American Black Film Festival (ABFF) Complete Film Line-Up
Posted by Wilson Morales

June 6, 2014

ABFF 2014

Today Film Life’s 18th Annual American Black Film Festival (ABFF), announced its official slate of films, including Opening and Closing Night screenings, Gala screenings along with selections for the Narrative Features Competition, Spotlight Screenings and CNN Films Documentary Competition. The website is at www.abff.com.

Morris Chestnut Tonya Lewis LeeFrom June 19-22, the ABFF will take over New York City with informative Master Classes, Panels, Film Screenings and meet and greets with celebrity attendees.  Actor Morris Chestnut, will serve as this year’s celebrity ambassador AND author/producer Tonya Lewis Lee, will act as our NYC Host Committee Chair.

Think Like A Man Too 5 On Thursday, June 19 at 8 p.m, Think Like A Man Too, from Screen Gems, opens the festival, featuring a stellar cast including Kevin Hart, Terrence Jenkins, Regina Hall, Taraji P. Henson, Michael Ealy, Gabrielle Union, Jerry Ferrara, Romany Malco, Gary Owen, Meagan Good, and Jenifer Lewis. The film, directed by Tim Story, was produced by Will Packer. This unique and affecting film is a coming of age story about two boys trying to survive the summer in their Brooklyn housing projects without parental supervision.

Spike Lee 3Closing the festival on Sunday June 22 at 7 p.m. and 9:45 p.m is the world premiere of Spike Lee‘s Kickstarter-funded project, Da Sweet Blood Of Jesus. An upcoming independent romantic horror comedy directed by Spike Lee ,Da Sweet Blood Of Jesus is described as “Human beings who are addicted to Blood. Funny, Sexy and Bloody. A new kind of love story (and not a remake of “Blacula”).”

Director Tate Taylor and cast members of the James Brown biopic Get On Up will be at the festival discussing the upcoming film.

Jeff Friday“With local as well as globalist perspectives, this year’s films are a tribute to the breadth of talented filmmakers that contribute to the success of the Festival. I am proud to present such outstanding work, unrivaled topics of interest and remarkable artists. The multifaceted themes of the roster of films are reflective of the diversity ABFF’s new backdrop, New York City,” said Jeff Friday, ABFF founder and CEO of Film Life, Inc.

Opening Night Film: Think Like A Man Too

Think Like A Man Too posterDirected by Tim Story, the film stars Kevin Hart, Terrence Jenkins, Regina Hall, Taraji P. Henson, Michael Ealy, Gabrielle Union, Jerry Ferrara, Romany Malco, Gary Owen, Meagan Good, and Jenifer Lewis.

In the highly anticipated sequel, which was inspired by Steve Harvey’s best-selling book Act Like a Lady, Think Like A Man, all the couples are back for a wedding in Las Vegas. But plans for a romantic weekend go awry when their various misadventures get them into some compromising situations that threaten to derail the big event.

“Too” basically picks up where the first film left off, happily ever after for all the fine couples involved. Michael (Terrence Jenkins) and Candace (Regina Hall) are getting married and have decided to have their bachelor and bachelorette parties on the same weekend in Las Vegas. Great idea, right? Then everyone can make bad decisions together. The group splits into guys vs. girls, and they decide to have a friendly competition to see which gender can party hardest.

Get On Up

Get On Up poster 2“Get On Up” is a biopic about the Godfather of Soul, James Brown, starring 42′s Chadwick Boseman as James Brown.

The Help’s Tate Taylor is directing the film with Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, Nelsan Ellis, Lennie James, Jill Scott, Dan Aykroyd, Tika Sumpter, Keith Robinson, Craig Robingson, Ralph Tresvant, Lennie James, and Julius Tennon.

The film will give a fearless look inside the music, moves and moods of Brown, taking audiences on the journey from his impoverished childhood to his evolution into one of the most influential figures of the 20th century. Davis plays Brown’s mother while Spencer his Aunt Honey. Robinson is Maceo Parker, a funk and soul saxophonist who played with Brown in the 1960s.Brown died in 2006.

Closing Night Film: Da Sweet Blood Of Jesus

Da Sweet Blood Of Jesus posterAn upcoming independent romantic horror comedy directed by Spike Lee ,Da Sweet Blood Of Jesus is described as “Human beings who are addicted to Blood. Funny, Sexy and Bloody. A new kind of love story (and not a remake of “Blacula”).” The film stars The Wire’s Michael K. Williams and Felicia Pearson, Stephen Tyrone Williams, Steven Hauck and Zaraah Abrahams.

This 40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks project does not have a distributor as of yet.

The ABFF is a five-day retreat and international film market dedicated to strengthening the Black filmmaking community. Established in 1997, the core mission of the festival is to showcase quality Black films and promote cultural diversity in front of and behind the camera. ABFF’s winning formula comes from the quality of its programming and expert production. Films, coupled with panels, master classes, celebrity conversations and high profile social events hosted by leading media companies, attract top-tier talent and approximately 5,000 festival goers to the annual event. HBO is the festival’s founding and premier sponsor.

13 - 15th ABFF Bill Duke and Robert TownsendThis year’s Master Class lineup includes, “Bill Duke’s Actors Boot Camp,” one of the Festival’s most anticipated 2-day scene study program where performance and the craft of acting is shaped through hands on direction and supportive critique from Mr. Duke.

“The Ultimate Pitch,” led by Robert Townsend is designed for those seeking to master the art of pitching. This class will explore techniques for pitching ideas from concept to development, through the different stages of rewrites, pitching to executives at studios and advice on how to close the deal with clarity, precision and confidence. Direct critique will be given to selected class attendees, who pitch their story ideas, idea in order to help refine them.

As a highlight to the week of events, the ABFF will honor Spike Lee with an event that will celebrate the 25 years of his film, “Do The Right Thing,” as well as a retrospective of his illustrious career.

Below is the full 2014 film lineup by section:


Feature-length films in this section compete for the ABFF’s Grand Jury prizes for Best Screenplay, presented by Nickelodeon, Best Actor presented by Marriot International, Best Director and Best Film, presented by Cadillac.

Blackbird, New York Premiere

Blackbird poster 1Directed by Patrik-Ian Polk and based on the coming of age novel of the same name by Larry Duplechan, the film stars Academy Award winner Mo’Nique (“Precious”), Isaiah Washington, newcomer Julian Walker, Terrell Tilford, Gary L. Gray, Kevin Allesee, Torrey Lamaar, Nikki Jane and D. Woods.

Written by Rikki Beadle Blair and Patrik-Ian Polk, the film centers on a young singer who struggles with his sexuality and the treatment of others while coming of age in a small Southern Baptist community.

Blackbird tells the story of 17-year-old Randy Rousseau (newcomer Julian Walker), a devout high school choir boy struggling to come of age in the small religiously conservative Mississippi town he calls home. Randy juggles his role as star of the church choir with facing the everyday trials of life as a high school misfit- a misfit plagued by eerie visions and premonitions. Complicating matters, his little sister has gone missing and his parents have subsequently split up, leaving him to care for his heartbroken mother, Claire (Mo’Nique). When Claire discovers a shocking secret her son has been hiding, she blames him for the disappearance of his sister. Randy’s father, Lance (Isaiah Washington), who has been keeping a watchful eye on his broken family, steps in to give his son a hand as he struggles to make the difficult transition into manhood.

CRU, World Premiere

Cru 1 - Antwon Tanner, Keith Robinson, and Sammi RotibiCRU is written, directed and executive produced by Alton Glass (The Confidant), and starring Keith Robinson (Dreamgirls), Sammi Rotibi (Django Unchained), Antwon Tanner (“One Tree Hill”) and Richard T. Jones (“Hawaii Five-O”). The film also stars Alison Eastwood (Finding Harmony) and Melissa de Sousa (“Reed Between The Lines”).

CRU is the tale of a tight knit group of high school athletes, Marshall (Robinson), Adisa (Rotibi), Eric (Tanner) and Richard (Jones), who after the emotional high of winning the state basketball championships experience a catastrophic, life altering accident. The mental and physical trauma changes their once idealist relationships and lives forever.

20 years later, leading man, Marshall (Robinson) is faced with a life threatening illness, which compels him to reunite the group in an effort to make amends. Not aware of the challenges Marshall is facing, the once close-knit group are somewhat resistant, especially Richard. Festering old wounds ultimately mar Marshall’s road to redemption and dark secrets are exposed. Eastwood plays Adisa’s wife and de Sousa plays Richard’s wife that holds secrets that could ruin her already damaged family life forever.

CRU is also produced by Danny Green (The Tenants) and executive produced by Matthew Hatchette (The Take).

Devil In The Detail, North American Premiere

Devil In The Detail posterWritten and directed by Shirley Frimpong Manso, Produced by Shirley Frimpong Manso and Ken Attoh

The romantic thriller which stars Nigerian actress Nse Ikpe-Etim alongside Ghanaian’s Adjetey Anang, Ecow Smith-Asante, Ama Ampofo and Mawuli Gavor follows a couple whose almost perfect marriage takes a wild goose chase into the world of sex, lies and betrayal as a result of a suspicious affair, risking everything in one of the craziest love triangles ever.

The film premiered at Silverbird Cinemas, Accra, Ghana earlier this year.

First Impression, New York Premiere

First Impression posterDirected by Arthur Muhammad from a script written by Regis Le’Bron, the cast includes Lamman Rucker, Lisa Arrindell Anderson, Elise Neal, David Mann, Kel Mitchell, Tamela J. Mann, Brad James, Laila Odom, Carl Anthony Payne II, Thomas Mikal Ford

VERNON RICHARDSON and IMANI TOWNSEND meet unexpectedly at a cozy Jazz club, unpretentious, and unaware, they’re a match made for heaven on a popular internet dating website. They fall in love with the people they really are, but the influence of life’s circumstances and false expectations keep them apart. However, their pseudo internet personalities keep them closer than they know. Vernon, an aspiring writer, takes a job at Townsend Publishing, run by Imani, setting up the ultimate serendipitous showdown with destiny…the two Vernons and the two Imanis shall certainly meet. His game of borrowing cars and money to impress the love of his life is soon discovered, leaving Imani heartbroken, so he makes a promise to make it up to her if she will just give him a second chance at a first impression.

Hard Time Bus, New York Premiere

Hard Time Bus posterDirected by Dean Charles, Written by Owen Mowatt

Starring Neil Reidman, Roger Griffiths, Naomi Ryan. Also featuring Michael Ellis, Bailey Patrick, Anthony Warren, Martin Edwards, Tashan Sinclair-Doyle, Nicholas Beveney, Aren Devlin, Juliete de Gannes, Fahad Salman and Charlotte Peak.

After a rude awakening, Mark Bishop`s carefree and complacent lifestyle comes crashing back to reality, forcing him to make hasty plans to marry devoted girlfriend, Denise. His decision opens his eyes to the life he led and the friends he thought he knew, but will the years of complacency finally catch up with him before he makes it to the alter.

Hear No Evil, World Premiere

Russ Parr 3Directed by Russ Parr

Produced by UpToParr Productions

A freak accident jolts 15 year-old Shelby Carson from her peaceful world of silence and seclusion to the center of a world of chaos, confusion and imminent danger. As she struggles to cope with her new found circumstances, Shelby battles with what she learns about the people around her; complete strangers and her dearest loved ones. What seems to be a blessing from God on the surface could very well be a curse.

Myra’s Angel, World Premiere

Produced by Richard “Rip” Hamilton, Skye Dennis, Antonio Lambertis, Shane Daniels and Hakim Hudson, written by Skye Dennis and co-directed by Skye Dennis and Hakim Hudson

Cast: Tobi Gadison, Christopher Mann, Brian Anthony Wilson, John Canada Terrell, Omilio Sparks, Franklin Ojeda Smith, Antonio Lambertis and Skye Dennis

A film about a man’s journey for redemption, as he tries to clear his name of a robbery he didn’t commit.

Rise Up, North American Premiere

Jeta AmataWritten and directed by Jeta Amata. Cast includes Mbong Amata, Mickey Rourke, Kim Basinger, Hakeem Kae Kzim, Akon, Wycley, Anne Heche and Enyinna Nwigwe

“Rise Up” is a full-length fictionalized account of true events and tells the story of an educated Nigerian girl’s return to her rural community to become the leader of a local movement fighting against the polluting oil company.

Sweetboy, North American Premiere

Directed by Anthony Vander and Written by Joe Havey. Cast includes Joseph Bentil, Jason Carter and Henry Douthwaite.

Sweetboy 1Ryan is ‘Sweetboy’. Sweetboy is a philandering, image-obsessed, self-professed Lothario, who unabashedly seduces a string of women into his web of lies and empty promises – who is also married. When he lets his guard down, his marriage and philandering ways are exposed to the mistresses who each were led to believe that they had unique bond with Sweetboy, prompting them to conspire to extort money from him in return for their silence. As Sweetboy’s ethics are placed under a microscope, his attempt at maintaining his marriage to his college sweetheart while repairing the fractures his infidelity has yield, is compromised by a chain-of-events which threatens tragic outcomes.

Una Vida, New York Premiere

Una Vida 1Directed by Richie Adams. Written by Richie Adams and Nicolas Bazan. Cast includes Joaquim de Almeida, Bill Cobbs, Ruth Negga, Aunjanue Ellis, Sharon Lawrence and Andre Royo

A renowned Neuroscientist, Dr. Alvaro Cruz, encounters an African American Jazz singer, Una Vida, performing on the streets of the New Orleans French Quarter. He hears her sing and soon concludes that she is suffering from Alzheimer’s, the disease that has been his life’s work – and that has just taken the life of his mother. Haunted by personal and professional regret, Cruz risks everything to unravel the mystery of Una Vida’s past before her music stops.


Unsound 1Written and directed by Darious J. Britt.  Cast includes Toreenee Wolf, Darious Britt, R.D. Mower and Kevin Black

An ambitious young filmmaker is in the middle of creating a career-launching documentary when he receives the call he’s been dreading: his mother has succumbed to yet another episode of psychosis. Now, he must resort to extreme measures to save her from herself and reclaim his own life. Shining a light on the struggles of having a family member with mental illness, Unsound is an introspective and heartbreaking debut from writer, director, and actor Darious Britt.


Nonfiction films in this section compete for the Best Documentary Award, presented by CNN Films.

Films selected for the 2014 Documentary Competition is as follows:

25 to Life, World Premiere

25-To-Life pic.jpeg

Directed by Mike Brown, Produced by Leah Natasha Thomas

William Brawner was infected with HIV before he was two years old and kept it a secret for over twenty-five years. Now he struggles to confront his promiscuous past and embarks on a new phase of life with his pregnant wife, who is HIV-negative. “25 TO LIFE” is a startlingly new and critical look at HIV and AIDS in America through the intimate perspective of the Brawner family and the African American middle class community that has been affected by one man’s HIV diagnosis.

Nelson Mandela: The Myth & Me, North American Premiere

Nelson Mandela The Myth & Me 1

Directed by Khalo Matabane. Produced by Carolyn Carew, Christian Beetz and Kerstin Meyer-Beetz

Nelson Mandela is viewed as one of the greatest political icons of the 20th century. His message of freedom, forgiveness and reconciliation has inspired people across the globe. He was elected as the first democratic president of South Africa. How do people interpret Nelson Mandela’s message of freedom, forgiveness and reconciliation in today’s world?

Transcending Surgeon, World Premiere

Transcending Surgeon 1

Written and directed by Sam Hampton, Produced by Kirsten Hampton

“Transcending Surgeon” is a documentary film about renowned trauma surgeon Dr. Edward Cornwell III and the challenges and impact of his career. This film explores Dr. Cornwell’s family upbringing, mentors, education and other guiding forces that led to his successful career. It does so in the context of African American pioneers in medicine, and that many of his patients represent the realities of another side of urban African American life, communities beset by poverty, inadequate education and violence.

Spotlight Screenings

A non-competitive showcase of feature-length films.

A Genius Leaves The Hood

A Genius Leaves The Hood 1Produced by Jamarlin Martin and Marve Frazier.  Directed by Barion Grant

On the surface, “A Genius Leaves the Hood: The Unauthorized Story of Jay Z” chronicles how hip-hop’s most successful rapper of the past two decades reached the top; but at its core, the film attempts to divulge the savvy and cunning business acumen of a mogul who decided being at the top of the charts wasn’t enough.

Comeback Dad

Comeback Dad 1Comeback Dad marks the fourth film to be produced and air on UP as a direct result of the network’s highly successful “UP Faith & Family Screenplay Competition,” now in its fourth year.

Comeback Dad is a dramatic, emotional father-daughter reunion film, starring Charles S. Dutton, Tatyana Ali, Brad James, Loretta Devine, Donna Brisco, Elizabeth Omilami, Ja’El Robertson, Takara Clark, E. Roger Mitchell, Todd Anthony and Palmer Williams, Jr. The movie is directed and executive produced by nationally-syndicated radio host/writer/producer/director Russ Parr (The Undershepherd, 35 and Ticking) and produced by Swirl Films.

Comeback Dad 2In Comeback Dad, Nima Babineaux (Tatyana Ali) looks like a woman who has it all – she is an accomplished pianist who runs her own music school and is engaged to Spence (Brad James), a successful engineer who adores her. But, in truth, she has never recovered from her alcoholic father, Othell (Charles Dutton), walking out on their family and it has made it hard for her to truly trust anyone. When Othell decides it is time to make amends and tries to reenter her life, Nima begins an emotional and eye-opening journey she could have never expected. Loretta Devine stars as Malinda, Othell’s sister. The ensemble cast also includes Donna Brisco, Elizabeth Omilami, Ja’El Robertson, Takara Clark, E. Roger Mitchell, Todd Anthony and Palmer Williams, Jr.

The script is by newcomer Kimberly Walker, the Honorable Mention Winner in last year’s UP Faith & Family Screenplay Competition at ABFF.

Life’s Essentials with Ruby Dee

Life's Essentials with Ruby DeeProduced by NJ Frank. Directed by Muta’Ali Muhammad

Life’s Essentials with Ruby Dee, a documentary style film about love, art and activism, tells the story of one of the most enduring couples of our times, Ossie Davis & Ruby Dee.

Ossie & Ruby’s achievements in love (sustained marriage for 57 years), art (pioneers in black theater) and activism (always using their influence to help “the people”) parallel nearly a century of change in America. With this story being told through the lens of their grandson (filmmaker), an innate hunger to learn everything possible about Ossie & Ruby’s lives and apply it to today’s fight to preserve love, art and activism is always present.

Life's Essentials with Ruby Dee 2Based on candid questions, revealing conversations, and never-before-seen family archival material, Life’s Essentials with Ruby Dee shares the wisdom of the ages with this present generation and carries the legacy of Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee forward in history for the first time in feature documentary form.

Featuring Alda, Danny Glover, Cicely Tyson, Spike Lee, S. Epatha Merkerson, Malik Yoba, Dr. Cornel West, Giancarlo Esposito, Hill Harper, Sonia Sanchez, Marc Morial, Vernon Jordan, Samuel L. Jackson and Michelle Alexander.

ABFF Independent, Season 3 Sneak Peek (World Premiere)

Omari Hardwick picCourtesy of ASPiRE TV

Produced by Sean Johnson

Panelists: Paul Butler, General Manager, ASPiRE TV; Tina Thompson, Director, Programming, ASPiRE TV; Sean Johnson, Producer, ABFF Independent

ASPiRE TV offers you a sneak peek of its original series ABFF Independent Season 3 hosted by Omari Hardwick, and focuses on how your film project can be a part of this flagship series.

“Black Dynamite” (Season 2 Premiere)

Courtesy of Adult Swim

Black Dynamite - Michael Jai White and Scott SandersExecutive produced and directed by Carl Jones (N-BOMB SQUAD), executive produced by Jon Steingart (Ars Nova) and Cartoon Network Studios, Inc.

Produced by Byron Minns, Scott Sanders, Jillian Apfelbaum and Michael Jai White

Voice talents: Michael Jai White, Tommy Davidson, Kym Whitley and Byron Minns

Black Dynamite, the 30-minute animated series, is back for a second season on Adult Swim. Based on 2009’s critically acclaimed feature film, the Black Dynamite animated series further chronicles the exploits of the central character, Black Dynamite, and his crew.

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