Black Film Fest Gets Underway

On Wednesday, the seventh annual American Black Film Festival will return to South Beach, Fla., for the second consecutive year after being held in Acapulco for its first five. Celebs including Cedric the Entertainer, Chris Tucker, Robert Townsend and many more expected to attend the festival, which runs through June 22.

“Miami’s such a cultural hot spot, melting pot, that I felt it was the next stop,” festival executive director Jeff Friday told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. “We moved here because we wanted to increase the accessibility of the festival overall to the independent filmmakers, [including] the young artists who need the experience.”

Since South Florida was such a popular location last year for black-led films, including Bad Boys II starring Will Smith and Martin Lawrence, Out of Time starring Denzel Washington; and 2 Fast 2 Furious featuring Tyrese Gibson and Ludacris, the festival is expected to play well in South Beach.

The ABFF will showcase four world premieres in competition this year, including Dark; Love Chronicles; the psychological thriller Skin Deep; and Gang of Roses, described as a “classic-style Western with hip-hop flavor.”

Other films in competition include the rehab drama Never Get Outta the Boat; the romantic comedy With or Without You; Anne B. Real, billed as a maternal 8 Mile inspired by The Diary of Anne Frank; and The Killing Zone

In the new noncompetitive “world showcase” category, Tim Redi, who played radio DJ Venus Flytrap on the popular CBS 1970s sitcom WKRP in Cincinnati, will present For Real, described as “a My Fair Lady from the ‘hood.” Other films showcased in this category include the road trip comedy Malibooty and the drama Hot Parts, starring actor/musician Sticky Fingaz of UPN’s Platinum, and Miami Tale, featuring local rapper Trina.

This year, the ABFF introduced a documentary section in recognition of artistic achievement in the area of documentary filmmaking. Selections here include Afro Punk: the Rock-n-Roll Nigger Experience, CSA, Cuando los Espiritus Bailan Mambo and Joe Jackson’s Trail.

The festival also will offer network auditions, a new feature that will allow actors to audition for future work. The auditions will be open to every actor participating in the festival’s acting “boot camp.” Friday added that although the 150 actors enrolled are required to pay a tuition fee, they will not be paying to audition for executives from ABC, NBC, CBS.

Tickets to individual screenings, however, are not available and locals have balked at the festival’s pricey cover charge: $600 for the whole festival or $100-$180 for one-day passes.

“The camp-like retreat aspect is the magic,” Friday told the Sun-Sentinel. “[The high pricing] forces people to do this all day: seminars in the morning, films in the afternoon; early evenings, panels; late evenings, more screenings; late, late evenings, parties.”

The week will end with the Film Life Movie Awards at the Jackie Gleason Theater hosted by Townsend and Access Hollywood‘s Shaun Robinson. Deliver Us From Eva‘s Gabrielle Union will be named rising star, while impresario Russell Simmons will receive the AOL Time Warner Entertainment Innovator Award.