Articles: ABFF 7th Season Exclusive Reports




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ABFF Awards
Elena Brown

MIAMI BEACH (Sunday, 22 June) - The rain had been drizzling the entire day and just before the show began South Beach Miami went from "swampy" to downright wet. But the downpour didn’t dampen too many sprits. And the Jackie Gleason Theater was brimming with smiling wet people as they attended the ABFF’s Film Life Movie Awards. And with the stellar line up which included actors Robert Townsend, Russell Simmons, Gabrielle Union, Cedric the Entertainer, Kenny Lattimore and Chante’ Moore, the award show which honors the work of independent filmmakers and actors was not to be missed.

"Swallow," a 23-minute film, won the $20,000 HBO Short Film Award. The sought after Lincoln Filmmaker Trophy, a peer award, went to first time director Sacha Parisot for his film, "Skin Deep."

"I just wanna know--how we’re gonna split the car," said "Skin Deep’s" Best Actor winner, Steve White.

Steve White

The filmmaker Trophy winner is awarded a two-year lease of a Lincoln Navigator.

The Best Actress award went to Ja Nice Richardson for her work in the film "Anne B Real." The movie has been described as "Anne Frank meets '8 Mile.'"

Ja Nice Richardson

Gabrielle Union praised the ABFF as a breeding ground for opportunity. She was honored with the AOL Time Warner Rising Star award.

"I am so honored to receive an award by the very people I work most hard to impress." Union can be seen in the upcoming films "Bad Boys II" and "The Breakup Handbook," with Jamie Foxx.

Dick Parsons, whom Cedric the Entertainer introduced as "CEO of AOL and H.N.I.C.," came onstage to personally award Russell Simmons with The Innovator Award.

Simmons encouraged all the filmmakers and creative storytellers to keep fighting to tell the stories.

"Because in time there won’t be black stories, but instead, American stories," Simmons said.

The ABFF has unofficial plans to return the film festival back to South Beach next year.

ABFF Film Life Movie Awards
Elena Brown

MIAMI BEACH (Saturday, 21 June) - Cameras flashed. Pens scribbled hurriedly across notebooks. And three huge cameras were strategically set up in the Main Ballroom of the Royal Palm Hotel. The press had arrived.

The Royal Palm opened its doors to the media for the press conference announcing the ABFF Film Life Movie Awards. The star-studded show will be hosted tonight by actor/director Robert Townsend and "Access Hollywood’s" Shaun Robinson in the Jackie Gleason Theater.

Entertainment mogul Russell Simmons will be presented with the AOL Time Warner Innovator Award. His close friend, Cedric the Entertainer will present the award. Actress Gabrielle Union will accept the AOL Time Warner Rising Star Award.

Russell Simmons

Gabrielle Union

Making the announcement were ABFF founder, Jeff Friday, actor/director and ABFF Advisory Board Chairman Robert Townsend, activist and honoree Russell Simmons and Miami Beach City Commissioner Luis R. Garcia, Jr.

Commissioner Garcia celebrated and acknowledged the long journey Miami has taken in its struggle to embrace diversity.

"Forty-two years ago in Miami things were different," Garcia said. "If you looked like you and sounded like me, you couldn’t walk down the street. Now look at us."

Russell Simmons spoke briefly about the corporate struggle to create diversity and acknowledge culture.

"It’s time to accept our numbers. And I hope the corporations will catch-up with the talent of the people."

AOL Time Warner is one of the major corporations already stepping to the plate. They are the presenting sponsor for this year’s ABFF Film Life Movie Awards, and have also hosted panels during the festival. Tonight’s show is also being sponsored by Lincoln.

In earlier statements, Gerri Warren-Merrick, vice president, community relations, AOL Time Warner; and Jeff Friday, president and CEO of Film Life, Inc., and ABFF executive director both commented on tonight’s honorees.

"AOL Time Warner is proud to honor Russell Simmons and Gabrielle Union -- both luminaries in the entertainment industry," said Warren-Merrick. "Mr. Simmons' and Ms. Union's careers have made a profound impact on the African-American community, as well as on the entertainment industry."

"We are honored to salute the accomplishments of Russell Simmons and Gabrielle Union," said Friday. "Undoubtedly, Russell Simmons is an icon in the entertainment industry. He has galvanized hip-hop from a small subset of music into a worldwide cultural explosion. The AOL Time Warner Innovator Award is a symbolic reminder of his distinctive and visionary career. Gabrielle Union in a short time has proven her ability as a television and film actress. She is indeed one of the industry's preeminent rising stars."

As the chairman and CEO of Rush Communications Simmons has successfully built a career on hip-hop with Def Jam Records. His involvement with films is through the SimmonsLathan Media Group. In television he developed HBO's "Def Comedy Jam" and the Peabody Award-winning "Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry," which also ran on Broadway. His hand in the fashion industry guides the Phat Farm and Baby Phat clothing lines, and he also heads companies in the fields of financial services, advertising and magazine publishing.

Less than 2 years ago Simmons’ worth was estimated at $200 million. But he hasn’t kept it all to himself. His community efforts include the Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation and the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network.

Gabrielle Union has made an indelible impact on Hollywood in a short time. Her latest film is Columbia Pictures' summer release "Bad Boys II." Her other film credits include "Cradle to the Grave," "Deliver Us From Eva," "Welcome to Collinwood," "Abandon" and "Bring It On." On television she has appeared in the hit series "Friends," "Moesha," "ER," "Dave's World," "The Steve Harvey Show," "Sister Sister" and "7th Heaven." Recently, Union was selected as Entertainment Weekly's "IT Girl," and one of E!'s "Sizzling 16" and Vogue Magazine's "Next Generation of Movie Stars."

Other awards to be presented at the Film Life Movie Awards include the HBO Short Film Award, the Blockbuster Audience Award for Best Feature Film, the Lincoln Filmmaker Trophy, Best Performance by an Actor, presented by Phat Farm and Best Performance by an Actress, presented by ESSENCE. Arista recording artists Kenny Lattimore and Chante Moore will also be performing at tonight’s event.

Guy Torry
Elena Brown

MIAMI BEACH (Friday, 20 June) -- I am still down in South Beach Miami where it has been best described as "swampy". And while most folks are donning beach hats and flip-flopping their way to the ocean, others are standing in a long line for the second screening of "With Or Without You".

It is one of 8 films entered into the main competition at the American Black Film Festival, and stars: Mushond Lee, Cynda Williams and Guy Torry.

I met comic/actor Guy Torry (Joe Torry’s lil’ brother) and he was all smiles. He’s doing more here than just "shopping" around this film. He may be picking up an award.

Guy Torry

Torry has been nominated for Best Actor in the ABFF Independent Film Awards. The awards will be announced at the Film Life Awards Show this Saturday.

"This movie was one of those, your truck is your trailer type of budgets," Torry says with a smile. "This (budget) was no Peal Harbor."

Torrys’ background is stand-up comedy, but he doesn’t prefer comedy to drama when acting. And when choosing to do "With or Without You" he says he reacted to the characters’ role. Torry plays Greg in the film. Greg is a little man with a big secret amidst his ‘fellas’ on a boy’s night out.

"I just responded to the script," he explains. "Plus it had a director and character I could believe in. When I read the script I wanted that challenge."

Torrys’ presence is the type that’s sneaks up on you. Many moviegoers walked right past this undemanding man with the wide smile, only in hindsight to realize, he was the same man they had been looking at for 90 minutes.

Look for Torry later this year in the October and December releases of John Grisham’s "Runaway Jury" and the Farlley Brothers comedy "Stuck On You."

Bridging Hollywood And The
Independent Black Film Community

Elena Brown

MIAMI BEACH (Thursday, 19 June) --- This week marks the 7th annual American Black Film Festival (ABFF). For the next five days the ABFF will showcase 26 independent films at various Miami theaters, host panel discussions, actor’s and writer’s boot camps as well as a forum discussion with actor, Laurence Fishburne (The Matrix Reloaded).

The ABFF connects Hollywood and the independent black film community.

The films at ABFF are held in both competitive and non-competitive selections. The winners of the independent film competitions will be announced at the Film Life Awards Show on Saturday, June 21 at the Jackie Gleason Theater.

The Film Life Awards Show will take place on the final day of the festival. The awards show will honor and award innovator Russell Simmons and rising star, Gabrielle Union (Bad Boys II, Cradle to the Grave, Deliver Us From Eva, and Bring It On)

A new addition at the ABFF is "The Network Casting Room," hosted by ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox. The casting room is an all-call for aspiring actors.

Another ABFF feature this year will be the HBO premiere of an episode of its series "The Wire" followed by a discussion with creator and producer, David Simon and cast members.

AOL Time Warner Inc., is this year’s presenting sponsor. Other sponsors include: HBO, Lincoln, ABC Inc., and Blockbuster. The ABFF, formerly known as the Acapulco Black Film Festival, is held for the second time in South Beach, Miami Florida and attracts more than 2,500 attendees annually.

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