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Movie Makers and Story Tellers Take Over Miami

From June 20th to the 23rd, my goal was to learn as much about the film industry as possible; to see it through the eyes of the artists, hear it in their voices, see their visions on the big screen, and to gauge the audiences reaction.
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Tyler Perry, Spike Lee, Robert Townsend, John Singleton, Lee Daniels, and Debbie Allen are some of the most recognizable names in film today. Some of their movies include The Five Heartbeats, A Soldier Story, Madea, Why Did I Get Married, Precious, Boyz In The Hood, Jungle Fever, Poetic Justice, Amistad, New Jack City, Love Jones, Cooley High, Mo Better Blues, Malcom X, and Do The Right Thing, to name a few.

Denzel Washington, Angela Bassett, Will Smith, Forrest Whitaker, Kerry Washington, Samuel Jackson, Halle Berry, Morgan Freeman, Viola Davis, Isaiah Washington, Vanessa Bell Calloway, S. Epatha Merkerson, Anthony Anderson, Michael Beach, Boris Kodjoe, Larenz Tate, Nia Long, Sanaa Lathan, Taye Diggs are some of the headliners in todays films. Although these great artists are involved, there is still much work to do. It seems as though we have finally made it. We have found our place, and we can exhale. Or can we really? We have made it in Hollywood. Or have we really?

Four years ago, while in Miami working with Italian Vogue, I ran into the then publisher of Uptown Magazine, Jocelyn Taylor. I learned that the magazine was hosting the annual American Black Film Festival. I was shocked. Shocked that one that existed... Shocked that it didn't make the headline news, both in the black community and in the "general population" (that term really does something to me but that's a different article).

I was excited and appalled at the same time, but I wanted to focus on the positive and just went with my excited emotion. So, since I was only there for two days, I could not attend any of the festivities. I pushed it out of my mind, went about my merry way and forgot about it. Now several years later, I work closely with several artists in the entertainment industry, such as Justiin Davis of HBO Boardwalk Empire. It is my duty, job, responsibility to not only know about these types of events, but get him to those red carpets. In search of the next project, I reached out to have Justiin attend ABFF.

The ABFF PR crew was amazing. Though amazing may not be a strong enough word to describe the diligence and dedication these ladies demonstrate, and the hard work they put in to getting the word out. Lisa Sorensen, Kelly Jackson, Yevette Renee Nelson and their team absolutely orchestrated an amazing event. I was not disappointed.

So imagine this, you are in sunny Miami (although some days it did rain), warm tropical weather, on the strip of Collins Avenue... great food, music, and all new movies from the most talented artists.

The most awe-inspiring movies: Closure, The Coalition (which I can see turning into a regular TV series), Where You APP?, Otelo Burning, Dark Girls, and Stagging Hope. The list goes on. The opening film, Beasts of the Southern Wild, which I had the opportunity to see, was absolutely moving. I cried through the whole movie. The cinematography was breathtaking. The acting was brilliant. This is a thinking movie. The Undershepherd is absolutely a must-see. You will not be disappointed. Isaiah Washington delivers his most brilliant performance yet. Well written by Russ Parr. The Last Fall, Raising Izzie, and Luv are among the many other films on the schedule.

Couple all these activities with the parties, lectures, workshops, competitions, networking events, and you have a smashing weekend planned. But the icing on the cake is the wonderful people I had had the opportunity to interview, share conversation, a drink and a meal with. Boris Kodjoe, Vanessa Bell Calloway, Michael Beach, Jeff Friday, S. Epatha Merckerson, Robinne Lee, Vanessa Williams, power couple Salim and Mara Brock-Akil, and Mekhi Pfeiffer.

From June 20th to the 23rd, my goal was to learn as much about the film industry as possible; to see it through the eyes of the artists, hear it in their voices, see their visions on the big screen, and to gauge the audiences reaction. And, to hear the input of directors, screenwriters and other stakeholders of these projects... these moments proved to be priceless for me.

For the next couple of weeks you will read my journey and point of view on not only Black Hollywood, but on Black films and people of color. So stay tuned.

I urge you all to please read, comment and share with everyone you know. It supports the hard working artists and the people that walk this journey with them. It is more than a business of making money. It's a platform for storytelling--fiction or non-fiction, it is still their story. The fact that they have put their work on public display is an ultimate act of courageous, in my eyes, and deserves all the support we can give.

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