It’s a wrap on the 23rd Annual American Black Film Festival! I got to attend this year on behalf of The Root (I have more coverage from the fest coming soon; look out for it!) and as always, it was delightfully black as fuck.
If you were at the festival for even a day, you couldn’t go without hearing two important names—the festival’s founder Jeff Friday and first lady of the festival, Nicole Friday.
After having a few festivals under my plate (Sundance and SXSW), I have to admit it’s always extra comforting to be amongst your people. I don’t have to search for the black shit at the ABFF festival—everything is the black shit. I don’t have to find a safe space (like the much-appreciated Blackhouse at Sundance) to find my sense of community, the entire festival is a safe space. It’s truly special and I don’t take it for granted.
There were great organic moments at ABFF, such as attendee Racha Barlow getting her script optioned by BET after asking a question during the First Wives Club Talk Back. Seriously, you never know who you’ll meet at ABFF. Or who’s listening.
Per usual, the festival wrapped up with its annual awards ceremony, Best of the ABFF Awards, hosted by Erica Ash (Uncle Drew) on Saturday night. A highlight of the evening involved a special honor given the late John Singleton, who was a frequent patron of the festival. Along with confirming that Singleton attended 17 of the festivals, Mr. Friday introduced the iconic and beloved director’s daughter Justice Singleton with a major announcement—ABFF is launching an award to honor directors with their first feature in Singleton’s name, with the inaugural award to be presented at the 24th Annual American Black Film Festival in 2020.
It’ll be called the John Singleton Best First Feature Award. This is fitting, since Singleton’s first feature, Boyz n the Hood earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Director. He made history as the first black director and youngest director (at 24 years old at the time) to do so.
Additionally, Numa Perrier made history as the first woman to win the Jury Award in Directing (Narrative Film) for Jezebel.
The complete list of winners for the 23rd Annual American Black Film Festival are below:
Audience Award - Best Narrative Feature (presented by BET Networks)
All In directed by Ibrahim Yilla
Jury Award - Best Narrative Feature (presented by Prudential Financial)
Jezebel directed by Numa Perrier
Jury Award - Best Web Series (presented by Verizon Media)
Little Apple directed by Riley S. Wilson
ABFF HBO Short Film
CAP written and directed by Marshall Tyler
Jury Award - Best Screenplay (presented by ABFF)
Strive written by Piper Dellums and Sha-Risse Smith
Jury Award - Best Performance by a Lead Actor (presented by AT&T Dream in Black)
Essence Atkins, Same Difference
Jury Award - Best Director (presented by Cadillac)
Numa Perrier, Jezebel
2019 Star Project Winner - Alexis Damita
2019 HBO Comedy Wings Winner - Ty Davis
NBC Hosting Finalists - Jazmin Bailey, Dennis Pastrorizo, Jasmine Styles, Krystal Vega
TruTV Winner - Domonic Smith-Weston
TNT Drama Winner - Darnell Brown
TBS Comedy Winner - Claytia Gonsalves