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The Short Version: If you and your partner enjoy watching movies together, a film festival can provide a date-worthy marathon of entertainment. It’s a great way to enjoy original films, discover new talent, and learn about industry trends. For over two decades, the American Black Film Festival (ABFF) has attracted thousands of film and television enthusiasts from around the world. Every summer, the ABFF takes over Miami Beach with a fantastically fun five-day event. From the opening night party to the closing ceremony, you can enjoy a full schedule of engaging and educational events focused on people of color. The ABFF celebrates black culture and encourages up-and-coming filmmakers to network with established names in the business. This action-packed event can be a great date activity for movie buffs who want to support creators in the black community.
You can practically feel the excitement in the air as the first day of the American Black Film Festival ramps up. The ABFF attendees walk through the Industry Expo, catch up with old friends and colleagues, and eagerly await the Opening Night Film. After the 8 p.m. screening, people funnel into the after-party. The Opening Night Gala is the perfect opportunity to mingle, network, and maybe even find romance as you discuss compelling films late into the night. It’s a great opening act for the five-day event in the middle of June.
Every year, a diverse crowd of movie lovers comes together at the American Black Film Festival to celebrate and recognize talented black artists in the TV and film industry. Since its first festival in 1996, the ABFF has elevated content created by and focused on people of African descent.
The festival’s dynamic film screenings attract people from all walks of life and offer couples a chance to create lasting memories together.
The American Black Film Festival has a solid reputation in the industry as the largest film festival of its kind. The festival draws over 10,000 attendees hailing from all around the world. From the outset, the goal of the event has been to provide a platform for talented individuals in the black community and present their original narrative features, documentaries, short films, and web series in competitive indie screenings. Winners and finalists of the ABFF’s four competitions attend the festival to network with some of the biggest names in the business.
“I believe I can speak for the entire Team ABFF when I say we want to continue to be the preeminent pipeline to black talent in front of and behind the camera,” said Lamonia Brown, the Programming Director for the ABFF, “as we showcase quality film and television content by and about people of African descent.”
When you walk through the ABFF, you’ll see college students, married couples, and notable celebrities mixing and mingling. Thousands of people from across the country make a trip to the festival because it’s a hot spot for black film and television enthusiasts. Whether you come by yourself or with your significant other, you’ll have a great time watching movies, attending educational talks, and going to parties. The ABFF rolls out the red carpet for its attendees, and many keep coming back because they have such a great time.
“Many attendees have been coming to the festival since its inception in 1996, and have stayed with us from Acapulco to Miami, and all of the cities in between,” Lamonia told us.
At the American Black Film Festival, you can watch premier network film and television shows at Spotlight Screenings or check out the competitive indie screenings from finalists in the narrative feature, documentary feature, web series, episodic, and emerging director categories. On the Sunday of the festival, the ABFF will project the winning film to a large crowd in Overtown.
The ABFF keeps up with notable black artists and filmmakers and offers informational talks with some of the leaders in the industry. This year, American film director Ryan Coogler (who directed “Creed” and “Black Panther”) is headlining one of the ABFF Talks where he’ll share stories and give advice for those who want to direct the next blockbuster. Jada Pinkett Smith has been added to the talks lineup, moderated by Jemel Hill.
The festival presents a variety of panel discussions, Q&As, master classes, and symposiums to connect newcomers with the industry elite and give them valuable guidance as they pursue careers in the entertainment business.
Of course, some people aren’t only there for the educational content — some people are there for the parties also. The Legendary White Party (so named because everyone wears white) on Nikki Beach promises to be a phenomenal night of fun and friendship. DJ D-Nice will keep everyone’s spirits high as they chat, drink, and dance the night away.
“Throughout the week, there are many attractions for our attendees, including sponsored lounges, additional parties, an industry expo and more,” Lamonia said.
Founded by Jeff Friday in 1996, the American Black Film Festival is one of the most efficiently run film festivals in the country. The ABFF’s core team has been together for almost two decades. They have a variety of skill sets, but they all share a passion for great filmmaking. Lamonia said team members trust one another because they’ve been working together for so long.
Overseeing all the moving parts is Jeff’s wife, Nicole Friday, who is the General Manager of the film festival. “She’s always there to help make things go smoother,” Lamonia said. “She does this with such grace and accuracy — we all learn a lot from her.”
Head of Events and Activation, Ghana Wilson, is in charge of designing, producing, and decorating 50+ events and attractions for ABFF. She makes sure every discussion panel and screening goes off without a hitch. She also handles the sponsorship/event activation for ABFF Honors. Ghana has been with the ABFF for over 20 years, so she knows what it takes to make the event shine.
Jazmin Washington began volunteering at the ABFF five years ago and is now the Manager of Marketing and Audience Development. She spends her days creating a buzz on social media about the event and building a following by spreading the word about everything the festival can offer black people in the film industry. She has built the ABFF’s social media following, including 21,500+ followers on Twitter and 77,000+ Facebook likes.
These are just a few of the committed individuals who lend their efforts and talents to the ABFF. Many seasonal employees and volunteers contribute to the event planning, and some people have been helping out for over 15 years.
“This type of dedication is rarely seen in the entertainment business, which is a testament to environment of loyalty and integrity created by the CEO and founder,” Lamonia told us. “There is a genuine atmosphere of caring, honesty, and loyalty that makes it exciting to go to work every day.”
Thousands of married and dating couples attend the American Black Film Festival every year. It’s a wonderful opportunity to take a significant other to the movies, have an intimate dinner, and then let loose at a flashy party full of talented folks who love making great films.
“Tack on celebrity sightings, palm trees, sunshine, and the beach every morning, and you have the best date ever!” boasted Lamonia. “There are countless stories about people who meet their spouse at the ABFF — just ask Lamman Rucker, who met his wife at the festival.”
This year, the ABFF will be in Miami, so you can spend a day at the beach with your date in between award shows and industry-oriented lectures.
“Thank you for all you do for the black community.” — Stacey on the ABFF Facebook page
Plenty of celebrity couples, including Chris and Vanessa Spencer, Dondre and Salli Whitfield, Alvin and Terri Bowles, as well as Mara Brock and Salim Akil, attend the festival together. Many happy couples can be seen holding hands during screenings and dancing together at evening parties.
“The mere fact that so many black couples come to the festival each year is a testament to how conducive it is as a fantastic date location,” Lamonia said. “I actually hope to have a great date at the ABFF one day myself! We also received an email that a longtime ABFF volunteer just got married two days ago to the another ABFF volunteer she met at the festival.”
As part of its founding mission, the ABFF fosters up-and-coming black talent in the TV and film industry. Around 1,000 filmmakers enter their best work to the festival’s competitions, and the winners have the chance to rub elbows with some of the biggest names in the business.
In March 2018, for instance, comedian Kevin Hart offered filmmakers the chance to have their comedic films premier on LOL Network. Three lucky winners of his Filmmaker Fellowship will receive a $20,000 production budget to turn their scripts into a 10-minute film that will premier at the 2018 American Black Film Festival.
“It doesn’t get better than that,” Kevin Hart said. “I’m doing this simply because I’m nice and because I like to give great opportunities — this is one of them.”
“It means a lot to know that we are having such a positive effect on the filmmaking community, particularly in terms of educating them about this business,” Lamonia said. “However, the ABFF is unique in that before, during, and after the parties, attendees can walk away with new business contacts, career-altering information, and follow-up meetings.”
For 22 years, the American Black Film Festival has provided a space where black artists, filmmakers, and movie lovers can come together. They celebrate their accomplishments, support new voices and talent, and build momentum as an influential artistic community. The festival empowers individuals to share their stories and shape the future of film.
As the largest festival of its kind, the ABFF offers couples a terrific opportunity to share their passion for film and African American culture in a five-day extravaganza. You can take a date to Miami this June to enjoy film screenings, exclusive parties, and star-studded talks presented by the festival.
The ABFF’s team of movers and shakers continually look for ways to highlight diverse voices in the media and entertainment. In fact, last year, the ABFF launched Greenlighters Academy, an academic program for African American college students who want to pursue careers on the corporate side of film, television, and media. ABFF Studios, headed up by Melanie Sharee, will also release a slate of new shows and movies for a primarily black audience. Finally, in the fall of 2019, the ABFF will host its first ever ABOUT WOMEN Conference to connect female professionals in Hollywood.
“The goal of ABOUT WOMEN is to ensure that the voices of women in Hollywood are heard and their perspectives considered,” Lamonia said, “as well as to provide insight and guidance defining clear pathways to success for aspiring female artists and executives.”
ABFF is held in Miami Beach, Florida June 13-17. To purchase passes and tickets, go to www.ABFF.com.
You can follow Lamonia on Instagram and Twitter @gilchristsays.