Miami was blazing as Jeff Friday, Founder and CEO of the American Black Film Festival, lit up South Beach to celebrate the festival’s 21st anniversary with star power. From the beach front of the Lowes Hotel event headquarters, festival goers came from all around the country to be a part of this year’s festivities. Screenings and panel discussions were set throughout the South Beach city blocks. The New World Center was one such hot spot as the lights were shinning bright from sunrise to sunset in this state-of-the-art facility. This space was lit with actors, directors, producers, publicists, and studio executives all excited to discuss their projects. EGL was there camera ready, to chat about the films, characters, plot twists, and what makes each project so worthwhile.
This year marked an important year in television and film for African-Americans. There were major accomplishments achieved with big wins at the Oscars. The beautiful thing is that ABFF has been the ultimate platform acknowledging and showcasing independent and studio film as well as television and digital content created by and featuring African-Americans for two decades. The tradition carried on for the 2017 celebration. Regina Hall, the star of this summer’s much anticipated blockbuster Girls Trip was honored with the title of the 2017 ABFF Festival Ambassador. There were so many amazing actors there to represent their films, television shows, and new media content that festival goers were challenged in a fantastic way as to what they wanted to get a first look at and who they wanted to hear speak. Everything Girls Love was granted a media pass to all the action. We sat up close and personal with some of television and films hottest actors, directors, producers, and executives for amazing conversations.
One of the kickoff discussions was the ABFF First Look Panel: “Girls Trip-The Anatomy of a Scene.” Actress Regina Hall, producer Will Packer, and director Malcolm D. Lee spoke of the importance of the film. Girls Trip which hosts an all-star cast featuring Regina Hall, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Queen Latifah, and Tiffany Haddish is sure to score big at the box office highlighting the shenanigans that go down as the group of friends travel to the Big Easy for the Essence Festival. Spoken firmly and unapologetically, Packer stated his intentions for the film.
“The film is really a testament to the power of black girl magic,” he said. “We put four women at the forefront, they are the stars of this movie and are African American females… I so badly want this film to work because I want Hollywood and the world to see what black women can do.”
Lee feels confident in Girl Trip’s ability to be powerful enough to impact audiences of various backgrounds.
“Black women can open this movie by themselves,” Lee emphatically expressed. “If other people come, great, if they don’t, alright… we made a really fun funny movie that is relatable across the board. We could not be more universal with our story.”
Bonding and an honest reflection of real life friendships was the sentiment Reginal Hall expressed of her feelings on participating in this project.
“You don’t know how everyone is going to be [when you go into working on a film]. It was amazing to working with Tiffany [Haddish]. The affection that everyone had for Jada and Queen Latifah and what they have for each other was so [beautiful].” She went on to share, “Your girlfriends are like family. Girlfriends allow you to be vulnerable, exciting, and scary.”
Ladies the good news is that we can all head out to the movies to get a sense of what Regina, Will, and Malcom spoke of. Girl Trip will be in theaters nationwide on July 21ST.
Families are sometimes composed of the merger of relatives and friends who love each other. It was a special moment to talk to the family of the late great Christopher Wallace known to music aficionados as the Notorious B.I.G. ABFF premiered A&E’s Biggie: The Notorious Life of B.I.G., the authorized biography of the lyrical maestro. Biggie’s former wife Faith Evans, his mother Voletta Wallace, close friend and crew member Lil Cease, alongside producer Mark Ford sat for a heart-warming conversation about why this film is so important 20 years after Biggie’s death. Everything Girls Love posed a question to which Lil Cease responded.
EGL: How do you think this film impacts Hip Hop today?
Lil Cease: “I think it will show BIG was one of the greatest rappers out there. How we gonna pump the music without acknowledging that? It will help rappers of today understand his thought process, how good he was at rhyming. Seeing this biography will help others to value the art of storytelling through his music and how he lived his life.”
There were so many gems that were shared in the interview room. The casts of “Claws,” “Survivors Remorse,” “Queen Sugar,” and “Star” bared what it’s like to thrive in the field you worked so hard to find success. Co-Star of Queen Sugar, Dawn Lyen-Gardener, said it was “overwhelming” in the best way. Each actor was excited to share their experiences. “Insecure” cast members Jay Ellis, Yvonne Orji, and Amanda Seals were all no-holds barred with their candor. Orji who hosted the HBO Comedy Wings Competition had everyone in stitches with her endless comedic antics. Ellis and Jay did a tag-team interview that left everyone in the room anticipating the next season of Issa Rae’s hit HBO series.
EGL also had a chance to speak with Dennis Williams, HBO SVP, Corporate Social Responsibility & Corporate Affairs. Williams enthusiastically expressed HBO’s commitment in their partnership with ABFF to continue to encourage and support “unique, defiant, and emerging voices” in television and film. As a part of HBO’s corporate social responsibility initiatives Williams stated that HBO plans to continue to assist Jeff Friday and staff in empowering black film and the media community.
Checkout more pictures from the weekend below:
Everything Girls Love is honored to have been a part of the 2017 American Black Film Festival. We are marking our calendars now for next year’s celebration!
Written By: Tawana C. Coleman