The annual festival highlighting films by and about Black people turns 25 this year and will be held virtually and in-person in the fall.
It’s that time of the year! The American Black Film Festival has officially announced its 2021 lineup, and if the list is any indication, attendees are in for a treat this fall.
As theGrio reported earlier this year, ABFF is set to celebrate its 25th anniversary in November, setting the stage for a hybrid ceremony due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A mix of in-person gatherings in Miami, Florida and virtual events online, the festival is dedicated to “showcasing emerging artists and content made by and about people of African descent.”
While officials have been dropping hints and details since its initial announcement in March, they have officially released their film roster.
Jeff Friday, founder of the American Black Film Festival, speaks onstage in Beverly Hills during “BET Presents the American Black Film Festival Honors” in Feb. 2017 in Beverly Hills. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
Check out the exciting list of films included in this year’s festival, as they describe them.
A Message from Brianna
Synopsis: When an African American couple move into their new home, their 2-year-old daughter becomes a terrifying messenger from the other side.
USA | 80 min
Director: DeShon Hardy
Writer: DeShon Hardy
Producers: DeShon Hardy, Vernon Davis
Cast: Vernon Davis, Asia’h Epperson, Kevin Benton, Liana Kristina Mayer-Reinach, Adaisha Strong, Stan J. Adams, Brittany Beckett, Amanda Felix, Leigh Bodden, Mohamed Sanu, Brittany Geertgens, Rita Bacot, Ethan Henderson, Robert Epstein, Tracy Oliver
B-Boy Blues (World Premiere)
Synopsis: Class and culture clash when a college-educated journalist from Brooklyn and a homeboy bike messenger from Harlem fall in love.
USA | 106 min
Director: Jussie Smollett
Writers: James Earl Hardy, Jussie Smollett
Producers: Jussie Smollett, Madia Hill Scott
Cast: Timothy Richardson, Thomas Mackie, Landon G. Woodson, Brandee Evans, Michael Jackson Jr., Jabari Redd, Heather B., Brian Lucas, Jahleel Kamara, Broderick Hunter, Derrick Downey, Marquise Vilson, Otis Winston, Bry’Nt, Eric R. Williams, Tieisha Thomas, Shawn Sutton, Andre Virgo, Anthony Virgo, Mariama Diallo, Ilara Phoenix Williams, Sampson McCormic, Ledisi
Doctor Gama (U.S. Premiere)
Synopsis: The history of Luiz Gama, the most important abolitionist leader in Brazil.
Brazil | 92 min
Director: Jeferson De
Writer: Luiz Antonio
Producers: Egisto Betti, Heitor Dhalia, Manoel Rangel, Pedro Betti, Cris Arenas, Cacá Digues
Cast: César Mello, Zezé Motta, Mariana Nunes, Angelo Fernandes
I’m Fine (Thanks for Asking)
I’m Fine (Thanks for Asking)
Synopsis: When a recently widowed mother becomes houseless, she convinces her 8-year-old daughter that they are only camping for fun while working to get them off the streets.
USA | 90 min
Directors: Kelley Kali, Angelique Molina
Writers: Kelley Kali, Angelique Molina, Roma Kong
Producers: Roma Kong, Angelique Molina, Kelley Kali, Capella Fahoome, Deon Cole
Cast: Kelley Kali, Wesley Moss, Deon Cole
Liam White (Festival Premiere)
Synopsis: A novelist who is told he has a few months to live is forced to come to grips with his life thus far and reflect on the people who shaped him, for better and worse.
USA | 87 min
Director: Harold Jackson III
Writer: Harold Jackson III
Producers: Wendy Anderson, Tawanna Terrell, Harold Jackson, Kiyoka Rhodes
Cast: Shaun Woodland, Jasmine Guy, Terrence “TC” Carson, Brave Williams
Margarine (World Premiere)
Synopsis: A short-tempered, trigger-happy gun fiend terrorizes his community until he meets a charming girl named Margarine, who drives him to question his ways.
South Africa | 115 min
Director: Thabo Khambule
Writer: Thabo Khambule
Producers: Carmel Khambule, Bheki Ncube, and Thabo Khambule
Cast: Finito Bullet, Mammy Manique, Linda Sobezo, Motsoaledi Setumo, Themba Mkhoma, Sibonakaliso Nqabadi, Thapelo Mooki, Precious Nxumalo, Banele Sibisi, Thembeni Joni, Kamvaletho Tshabala, Kabelo Molefe, Sibusiso Makqate
Synopsis: A Black high school student finds himself under suspicion following his classmate’s mysterious disappearance.
USA | 85 min
Director: Delmar Washington
Writer: Tucker Morgan
Producers: Eric B. Fleischman, Maurice Fadida
Cast: Skylan Brooks, Rutina Wesley, Taryn Manning, Diamond White, Shane West, Bill Engvall
The Outlaw Johnny Black (Festival Premiere)
Synopsis: From the brothers who brought you Black Dynamite comes a western adventure that’s sho’ outta sight!
USA | 130 min
Director: Michael Jai White
Writers: Michael Jai White, Byron Minns
Producer: Donovan de Boer
Cast: Michael Jai White, Anika Noni Rose, Byron Minns, Erika Ash, Chris Browning, Kevin Chapman, Tommy Davidson, Kym Whitley, Randy Couture, Barry Bostwick, Glynn Turman
Trees of Peace
Synopsis: When four women from different backgrounds and beliefs are trapped and hiding during the 1994 Genocide Against the Tutsi in Rwanda, their 81-day fight for survival forges an unbreakable sisterhood.
USA | 137 minutes
Director: Alanna Brown
Writer: Alanna Brown
Producers: Ron Ray, Barry Levine, Mike Bundlie, Brian Baniqued, Jeff Spiegel, Vicky Petela, Alanna Brown
Cast: Eliane Umuhire, Charmaine Bingwa, Bola Koleosho, Ella Cannon, Tongayi Chirisa
Synopsis: In 1936 Harlem, the first all-Black cast production of Macbeth struggles to make it to opening night amid the downward spiral of their young and untested director, Orson Welles.
USA | 108 min
Directors: Dagmawi Abebe, Victor Alonso-Berbel, Roy Arwas, Hannah Bang, Christopher Beaton, Agazi Desta, Tiffany Kontoyiannis Guillen, Zoë Salnave, Ernesto Sandoval, Sabina Vajrača
Writers: Agazi Desta, Jennifer Frazin, Morgan Milender, Molly Miller, Amri Rigby, Joel David Satner, Erica Sutherlin, Chris Tarricone
Producers: Jason Phillips, Miles Alva, Xiaoyuan Xiao
Cast: Inger Tudor, Jewell Wilson Bridges, Jeremy Tardy, June Schreiner, Wrekless Watson, Gary McDonald, Ashli Haynes, Daniel Kuhlman, Hunter Bodine
100 Years From Mississippi (Festival Premiere)
Synopsis: A documentary on the life of Mamie Lang Kirkland, a 111-year-old African American woman who experienced and survived racial terrorism, segregation, bigotry and bias, and yet continued to have hope, joy and love of life, full of the certainty that we can do better.
USA | 60 min
Director: Tarabu Betserai Kirkland
Writer: Tarabu Betserai Kirkland
Producers: Tarabu Betserai Kirkland, Gina Rugolo Judd
Anatomy of Wings
Synopsis: Black and white, young and old, a group of women risk their personal identities to build a second family while creating a documentary film across the inequities of their Baltimore city neighborhoods.
USA | 85 min
Directors: Nikiea Redmond, Kirsten D’Andrea Hollander
Producers: Kirsten D’Andrea Hollander, Nikiea Redmond
Cast: Brittany Backmon, Teshavionna ‘Tazz’ Mitchell, Sheila Butler, Marquise Weems, Brienna Brown, Danisha Harris, Cami McCrief, Tywana Reid, Quandra Jones, Quanisha Carmichael, Cinnamon Triano, Kata Frederick
Big Chief, Black Hawk (World Premiere)
Synopsis: A short and intimate look into the life of the youngest Mardi Gras Indian Big Chief in New Orleans and his “tribe” as they navigate the social and environmental issues facing “the culture.”
USA | 74 min
Director: Jonathan Isaac Jackson
Writer: Jonathan Isaac Jackson
Producer: Paul V. Fishback
Cast: Terrance Williams Jr., Tyrell “Ty” Williams, Simeon “Fatman” Israel Jr., Dow Edwards, Joseph Boudreaux Jr.
Little Satchmo (U.S. Premiere)
Synopsis: Louis Armstrong is iconic, a symbol of musical genius and unparalleled success. He held dearly to what he loved. Perhaps dearest was a child whom he hid from the world: a daughter sworn to a life of secrecy until now.
USA | 61 min
Director: John Alexander
Writer: John Alexander
Producers: Lea Umberger, JC Guest
Cast: Sharon Preston-Folta
The Neutral Ground
Synopsis: The Neutral Ground documents New Orleans’ fight over monuments and America’s troubled romance with the Lost Cause.
USA | 82 min
Director: CJ Hunt
Writers: CJ Hunt, Jane Geisler, James Hamilton
Producer: Darcy McKinnon
Subjects of Desire (Festival Premiere)
Synopsis: Subjects of Desire is a thought-provoking feature documentary that examines the cultural shift in beauty standards towards embracing Black aesthetics and features.
Canada | 103 min
Director: Jennifer Holness
Writer: Jennifer Holness
Producers: Jennifer Holness, Sudz Sutherland
Cast: Ryann Richardson, Alexandra Germain, Seraiah Nicole, Brittany Lewis, Jully Black, Rachel Dolezal, Dr. Cheryl Thompson, Dr. Carolyn West, Dr. Heather Widdows, India Arie
Unzipped: An Autopsy of American Inequality (World Premiere)
Synopsis: An intimate and heartbreaking film about the affordable housing crisis in America told through the prism of one zip code’s struggle with the growing income divide.
USA | 108 min
Director: Colin K. Gray
Writer: Colin K. Gray
Producers: Megan Raney Aarons, Jamila C. Fairley, Carol Gronner, Colin K. Gray
Cast: Nikol Williams, DeShawn Huff, William Attaway, Rayanne Schmidt, Monica Perez, Eric Garcetti, Mike Bonin, Mark Ridley-Thomas, Naomi Nightingale, Va Lecia Adams, Kellum, Elizabeth Benson Forer, Becky Dennison, Miguel Bravo, Rick Massie, Mark Ryavec, Ananya Roy, Coley King, Kristina Von Hoffman, M.B. Boissonnault
Why Is We Americans? (World Premiere)
Synopsis: A portrait of the iconoclastic poet Amiri Baraka, his family and their legacy of social activism, poetry, music, art and politics.
USA | 101 min
Directors: Udi Aloni, Ayana Stafford-Morris
Writer: Udi Aloni
Producers: Udi Aloni, Ayana Stafford-Morris, Ms. Lauryn Hill, Oren Moverman
Cast: Amiri Baraka, Ras Baraka, Amina Baraka, Ms. Lauryn Hill, Amandla Baraka, Cory Booker, Amiri Baraka Jr., Roxanne Shanté, Maya Angelou
The in-person ABFF will officially run from Nov. 3-7, with the online portion running directly afterward from Nov. 8-14. For more information on tickets, the Web Series selections and more, head over to the official ABFF website.
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