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5 reasons to attend the annual American Black Film Festival in South Beach

ABFF Founder Jeff Friday with Halle Berry who appeared at the film fest when it was in Beverly Hills, Calif.

ABFF Founder Jeff Friday with Halle Berry who appeared at the film fest when it was in Beverly Hills, Calif.

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. — Before we get to the reasons why aspiring and active filmmakers, producers, actors and other cinematic artists should attend the 2013 American Black Film Festival in South Beach on June 20-24, lets list the reasons ABFF founder Jeff Friday started the critically-acclaimed filmmakers convention in the first place, now in its 17th year:

1. To create an African American-based venue in the spirit of the Sundance Film Festival: Jeff Friday is a former executive with Uniworld, an African American advertising agency, and he awestruck during his visit to Sundance in suburban Salt Lake City in 1996. But he was disheartened by the conspicuous void of any diversity at the world-renowned festival or any real outlet for black filmmakers and thespians to get their products seen. “It was not diverse by any stretch of the imagination But I had a great time; it was a great experience,” he said.

The ABFF fills this void while providing a fruitful platform where rising stars can blossom.

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2. Movies starring African Americans can have mass appeal: Love Jones, the 1997 classic film starring Nia Long and Lorenz Tate, wins the popular movie award at Sundance that year: This convinced Friday that black films could have appeal if given the platform and opportunities that their white counterparts take for granted.

“There were hardly any blacks there, but this black film Love Jones wins the Audience Award,” Friday said. “How in the world that a film about two young black actors doing poetry by an unknown director win the Audience Award (the popular choice awards). That told me that day that black films do play to broader audiences (and that ) black films are universal.” Soon thereafter, the American Black Film Festival was born.

3. The ABFF, Friday said, was constructed to give black filmmakers a portal by which to showcase their products and help develop critical grassroots momentum needed to get distribution.

4. Also, Friday added, the ABFF was founded to get black independent filmmakers and the Hollywood community “in the same place.” That is never been truer than this year, the 17th annual ABFF. The MPAA — the Motion Picture Association of America — invited representatives of all six major movie studios to South Beach.

Bill Duke, Robert Townsend, Keenan Ivory Wayans, ABFF founder Jeff Friday and actor Mekhi Phifer

Bill Duke, Robert Townsend, Keenan Ivory Wayans, ABFF founder Jeff Friday and actor Mekhi Phifer

Now that we’ve address why Friday founded the ABFF, let’s list the five reasons why the American Black Film Festival is a must-attend event for urban filmmakers looking to take their game to the next level.

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