Barry Jenkins, Gabrielle Union
Barry Jenkins, Gabrielle Union

The first virtual edition of the American Black Film Festival (ABFF), now in its 24th year, will feature a robust slate of speakers including Stacey Abrams, Kenya Barris, Mary J. Blige, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, Barry Jenkins, Gabrielle Union and Lena Waithe, as well as panels ranging from the business of Hollywood to spotlights on new films and television series. The festival will offer a mix of live and on demand content from August 21st to 30th at abff.com.

Opening night will feature the HBO Short Film Competition, a platform which has been responsible for showcasing the early work of such industry notables as Ryan Coogler (Black Panther), Ben Watkins (Hand of God) and Stephen Caple Jr. (Creed II) followed by a virtual version of ABFF’s legendary “White Party.”

It will close with “The Best of American Black Film Festival Awards” Ceremony, hosted by Boris Kodjoe and Nicole Ari Parker and simulcast on IMDb.com, followed by a post awards celebration. Presenters include: Lee Daniels (The United States vs. Billie Holiday), Laz Alonso (The Boys), Bevy Smith (BEVELATIONS) Logan Browning (Dear White People) and Spike Lee (Da 5 Bloods).

Jemele Hill will host a Cadillac sponsored one-on-one conversation with Blige, who is this year’s festival ambassador. In addition to “Conversations With” Blige and Abrams, Angela Rye will moderate a discussion with Barris. Evening programming will also include “Comics on Comedy” hosted by Yvonne Orji (Insecure) featuring Lil Rel Howery (Get Out), a screening of Yusuf Hawkins: Storm Over Brooklyn, presented by HBO, a first look at the highly anticipated Universal Pictures film, Candyman with director/co-writer Nia DaCosta, and a panel on the new animated series Woke from Sony Pictures Entertainment.

Additional highlights include a conversation with directors Gina Prince-Bythewood (The Old Guard), Christine Swanson (The Clark Sisters: First Ladies of Gospel) and Jacqueline Olive (Always in Season). Amazon Studios presents a Hot at Amazon panel featuring Barry Jenkins, Lena Waithe and Tracy Oliver; a Garrett Bradley Time conversation as well as a discussion with Stacy Abrams. STARZ presents Power Book II: Ghost panel with Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, Michael Rainey Jr., Naturi Naughton, Mary J. Blige and Cliff “Method Man” Smith. Netflix brings a discussion with The 40-Year-Old Version writer/director Radha Blank.

There will be opportunities to meet the filmmakers from the competitive categories, panel discussions on “The Hollywood Executive Experience Through The Black Lens,” “Navigating the Network and Studio Process,” and “Black Female Perspectives on Directing and Storytelling” among others. The 90 films featured during the program will be available on demand for the duration of the festival.

“We are gratified by the outpouring of industry support for this year’s ABFF, creating an opportunity for us to reach a global audience with a broad range of compelling content both live and on demand,” said Jeff Friday, founder and CEO ABFF Ventures. “Although we plan to be back in Miami for 2021, this year’s virtual festival enables us to engage with an audience that might never be able to attend a destination event. Thanks to our sponsors and everyone who participated, we are able to deliver provocative conversation and compelling entertainment when our community most needs it.”

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