When you think about a festival that gives a platform to independent filmmakers, you may automatically think of Sundance or Cannes, maybe even Pan African. If you are a person of color with a film or television project, it’s difficult to find a venue that would offer the access needed to get quality distribution deals. Luckily, the American Black Film Festival has been in existence for over 20 years filling that void for new filmmakers.
It has also launched exclusive film and television programming from cable networks like BET, TV One, OWNTV, and HBO.
This year’s festival showcased insightful women’s narratives, hip hop heavyweights, urban reflections of HBCUs, Broadway and William Shakespeare theater, the LA Riots, and family dynamics.
Pick #1: GIRLS TRIP
It’s Opening Film began a fantastically fresh Will Packer production entitled Girls Trip which stars Mrs. Jada Pinkett Smith, Hip Hop and Media Royalty Queen Latifah, Think Like A Man and When The Bough Breaks star Miss Regina Hall and NBC’s The Carmichael Show’s breakout star Miss Tiffany Haddish.
It follows these college friends from Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University aka FAMU, a historically black university from the state of Florida, as they prepare for a “girls trip” to the Essence Music Festival in New Orleans.
The adventure tests the limits and understanding of each other as black women and friends, fluctuating between raunchy college hijinks of Bridesmaids and Animal House with the empathetic heart of Steel Magnolias and Waiting To Exhale. You will respond out loud in the theater – whether it is overwhelming laughter or cutting commentary to the film’s characters as if they can hear you. Its worldwide release date is July 21 so make sure you grab your best girlfriends to see Girls Trip.
Pick #2: WHEN LOVE KILLS: THE FALICIA BLAKELY STORY
TV One is one of the sponsors that continue to release cutting-edge programming such as its Unsung franchise, the Unsung Hollywood companion series and the true-crime series For My Man.
TV One continues the trend of true-crime drama with the real-life drama When Love Kills: The Falicia Blakely Story which centers around the destructive relationship between the title character, (played by Lil’ Mama) and her abusive boyfriend, Dino (Lance Gross). The fact that Blakely descends into becoming an exotic dancer to appease him is equally significant given the film premiered here in Miami, a city notorious for the seedy underbelly of exotic entertainment for hip-hop celebrities in the form of strip clubs.
Domestic violence and emotional manipulation play their part in breaking Falicia down at the expense of her self-worth, informing young girls in a similar situation that getting out of it sooner rather than later will save their lives.
Pick #3: CLAWS
Thanks to the groundbreaking efforts of Ms. Shonda Rhimes, television is brimming with dynamic diversity led by empowering women protagonists like Olivia Pope from Scandal, Annalise Keating from How To Get Away with Murder and most recently, Rosaline Capulet from her spring series Still Star Crossed.
The cable network of TNT follows up the trend with its latest project and hour-long series Claws starring The Soul Man and Comedy Central’s Reno 911! alum Miss Niecy Nash, Iyanla, Fix My Life alum Miss Karrueche Tran and Devious Maids alum Judy Reyes.
In this multicultural cast, Writer/Producer and fellow #BlackGirlMagic honoree Miss Janine Sherman Barrois transports us to Manatee County, Florida where four nail technicians strive for upward mobility in a shady underbelly of the Sunshine State.
Above: The cast of Claws. Photo by Laurean Robinson.
Nash’s character, Desna, is trying to secure an upscale nail salon in hopes of a better living arrangement for herself, her employee friends and her autistic brother, played brilliantly by William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet alum and Best Man’s Holiday star Mr. Harold Perrineau.
So what could be standing in her way?
Her sexually potent yet toxic relationship with the resident snowflake entrepreneur Roller played immaculately by Jack Kesy, who encourages her and her friends to launder money for him and establish new pain clinics in town. But when promises are broken in between pillow talk, Desna makes a decision that changes the entire trajectory of her life and the lives of her loved ones.
And No. I’m not going to tell you what it is.
The series premiered last Sunday and continues Sundays on TNT at 9 PM EST – A must-see.
Pick #5: BIGGIE – THE NOTORIOUS LIFE OF B.I.G.
Biopics of urban music artists have also become lucratively popular thanks to the success of such mainstream films as Oscar Award-winning Ray, Walk The Line and Straight Outta Compton.
Despite the controversy surrounding the Tupac Shakur film All Eyez On Me over authenticity, ABFF has showcased a variety of hip hop documentaries such as BET’s Tales and HBO’s The Defiant Ones.
Rounding out the roster of hip hop legends is A&E’s Biggie: The Notorious Life of B.I.G. – a two-hour documentary produced by Christopher Wallace’s mother, Miss Voletta Wallace.The documentary includes interviews with his widow, Miss Faith Evans, his crew, Junior Mafia and Dr. Sean “Diddy” Combs, as well as his competitors/contemporaries, Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter and Nas. It is the first biography authorized by the Christopher Wallace estate and its co-executors, Ms. Wallace and Ms. Evans.
Here is Christopher, not the Notorious B.I.G., narrating his life story using archival footage, audio recordings, and new interviews to create a textured and complete sketch of a talented young man who loved his mother and wife, wanting something better for his life and his children, who left us too soon.