Film Festival: American Black Film Festival 2020 Recap

If you missed this year’s online version of the American Black Film Festival (ABFF), you definitely missed a treat. First of all, it was so dope for the festival to make passes FREE to the community…like, WHAT?! Say word?! If you’ve ever been to a film festival, you know that they can really be magical…being surrounded by fellow film lovers…finding those special gems that may have flown under the radar…and being exposed to filmmakers who are honing their craft and even those at the top of their game. But 2020 and the coronavirus pandemic kind of put a damper on all of that, especially the sense of community.

But the ABFF decided to take their festival online, as opposed to canceling this years…and they wanted to make it inclusive for those who may not otherwise have been able to attend the festival because of location or cost. And for that, they get major props from me! And I made sure to tell all my friends to sign up for passes and check it out too!

Unfortunately, my work week was crazy so I didn’t get a chance to screen as much of festival as I had like, but I did catch some really great panels, some good short films and the film that eventually won the “Fan Favorite” award at the Fest. There was a very informative panel about copyright law and how people of color can and should use it to their advantage. It was amazing seeing such dope and knowledgable women leading that panel! Then there was the panel with Carlos Watson (from OZY), Lamorne Morris (who I would love to meet in person…he is hilarious!) and Romany Malco (who has such an interesting backstory). This was an interesting panel in which they talked about their new projects…all of which seemed very interesting. I also caught a panel with the incomparable Lena Waithe (“Master of None” “Queen & Slim” “The Chi”), Little Marvin (“Them: Covenant”), Tayarisha Poe (“Selah & the Spades”), Tracy Oliver (“Girls’ Trip”) and Barry Jenkins (“Moonlight” “If Beale Street Could Talk”) (all of whom have new projects in the works for Amazon and I can’t wait to see them all)…this one was amazing and inspiring!

When it came to the shorts, I watched “A Storybook Ending” (directed by Lanre Olabisi) which was a story of a robbery and burglary gone wrong and the accidental killing of a white cop and how the potential consequences of that impacted everything that followed. It was well shot with a great use of lighting and music to enhance the story.

Then there was “Diopla is Fine” which was a British short about a young African-British teen girl who tries change herself for mainstream society based on the advise of a successful Black woman who is “acceptable.” It s a story about assimilation, beauty standards and embracing your true self…definitely a story that all young girls of color should see.

I also got a chance to watch a couple of shorts under the Emerging Directors” category. First there was “Augustus” which was a wonderfully shot and staged short that spliced time periods together using flashbacks. A timely story about how until America faces its original sin, it will never die…the past is never past. The same theme with this months “Antebellum.”

“Blight” was about racial violence and a smart play on turning the tables. Its the story of a young Black girl seeking vengeance for the police killing of her brother. Apparently, she has a special power to “turn people invisible” and that was a very clever plot device to to show what its like to “walk a mile in someone else’s shoes” in order to empathize and really see them as human…something we could use in 2020. The story was great but the acting was a little lacking…it was almost there.

Next up was “In Hollywoodland” which was a fun indictment and take on Hollywood through the lens of “Alice in Wonderland.” It was very psychedelic and well acted. A fun watch.

Then there was a 5 minute short called “Rudeboy’s Restaurant” about a white woman in a Jamaican restaurant who claims that Sean Paul is her cousin to get served. It was weirdly funny although filled with stereotypes (the “hip/woke” white folks and “take no stuff” Jamaicans) and at its core touched on how we deal with grief.

And last, but not least, I check out the narrative “Death of a Telemarketer” which actually won “Fan Favorite.” This is a Daturi Turner Production starring Lemorne Morris (“New Girl” “Desperados”), Alisha Wainwright (“Raising Dion”), Haley Joel Osment (“The Sixth Sense”), Matt McGorry (“Orange is the New Black”) and Jackie Earle Haley (“Watchmen”). There were lots of familiar faces in this weirdly funny dramedy. I can definitely see why it won fan favorite!

I’m sure I missed some real gems…so if you caught the festival, let me know what stood out to you!