ABFF ’14 | Festival Preview

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The official slate of films for the Film Life’s 18th Annual American Black Film Festival (ABFF) has been released. In addition, the Opening and Closing Night screenings, Gala screenings along with selections for the Narrative Features Competition, Spotlight Screenings and CNN Films Documentary Competition were also released.

After stints in Acapulco, Miami and Los Angeles, ABFF will make it’s debut on the big stage in New York City. The festival will run from June 19-22, 2014, and feature 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.

The opening night film will be Think Like A Man Too and the closing night film will be Spike Lee’s Kickstarter-funded project, Da Sweet Blood of Jesus.

Here is the lineup of films for ABFF:

Opening Night Film: Think Like A Man Too
Director: Tim Story
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.

Get On Up
Director: Tate Taylor
Stars: Chadwick Boseman, Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, Nelsan Ellis, Lennie James, Jill Scott, Dan Aykroyd, Tika Sumpter, Keith Robinson, Craig Robinson, 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 plays his Aunt Honey. Craig 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
Director: Spike Lee
Stars: Michael K. Williams and Felicia Pearson, Stephen Tyrone Williams, Steven Hauck and Zaraah Abrahams.

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).”

Other festival highlights include Bill Duke’s Actor’s Boot Camp, Robert Townsend hosting The Ultimate Pitch and a celebration honoring the 25th Anniversary of Lee’s Do The Right Thing and a retrospective of his illustrious career.

This year’s lineup of films in the Narrative Competition competing 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 includes the New York premiere of Blackbird starring Oscar-winner Mo’Nique and Isaiah Washington; the world premier of the Keith Robinson/Richard T. Jones drama, CRU; the North American premiere of the romantic thriller, Devil in the Details; the New York premieres of the romantic comedy, First Impression and Hard Time Bus. Other films competing for the top prize include the latest film from Russ Parr, Hear No Evil, Myra’s Angel directed by Skye Dennis and Hakim Hudson, Jeta Amata’s Rise Up featuring Mickey Rourke and Kim Basinger, Sweetboy, Una Vida and Unsound.

The Documentary category spotlights nonfiction films vying for the Best Documentary Award, presented by CNN Films features the HIV story, 25 to Life, Nelson Mandela: The Myth & Me and Transcending Surgeon.

ABFF will also feature Spotlight Screenings showcasing non-competitive feature-length films. Jay-Z’s story takes center-stage in A Genius Leaves The Hood and Come Back Dad starring Charles S. Dutton and the second of two films from Russ Parr.

Another project to keep an eye on is Life’s Essential, the documentary style film about love, art and activism, telling the story of one of the most enduring couples of our times, Ossie Davis & Ruby Dee. Many of the couple’s friends and colleagues offer their insights into this special couple including Alan 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.

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.

For more information, visit www.abff.com.