The American Black Film Festival relocates to NYC

theGRIO REPORT - From the bustling lifestyle of Miami to the concrete utopia of New York City, the American Black Film Festival (ABFF) has traded in the milieu of palm trees and an oceanside breeze for the urban city paradise of the Big Apple...

Luther Vandross was outed as gay after his death.

MIAMI — From the bustling lifestyle of Miami to the concrete utopia of New York City, the American Black Film Festival (ABFF) has traded in the milieu of palm trees and an ocean breeze for the urban city paradise of the Big Apple.

The American Black Film Festival was created to connect some of the most remarkable members of the black filmmaking community including actors, writers, directors and celebrities with up and coming film enthusiast from all over the country. Established in 1997, the ABFF has held this retreat every year which boasts over 5,000 attendees, to salute the cinematic achievements of emerging artists and to uphold cultural diversity within the motion picture industry …as they put it… “Because Hollywouldn’t.”

In an effort to promote and strengthen the Black film industry, Hollywood’s top celebrities including Nia Long, Regina King, Morris Chestnut, Spike Lee, Robert Townsend, Sanaa Lathan, Boris Kodjoe and many others come out in full support year after year.

Bienvenido a New York

Although, not officially announced yet, the move to New York City was discussed at a recent upfront presentation. With the success of the 2013 festival not too far behind, Jeff Friday, founder of the American Black Film Festival and CEO of Film Life Inc., has decided that in order to take this event to the next level, it would require a grand move to solidify its growth and true potential.

“We have been thinking about the evolution of this event. We had to ask ourselves is Miami a great destination? Yes! But is it the best place for us to grow the brand,” Friday stated.

For the past three years, thousands of festival attendees have flocked to the Sunshine State to be a part of the American Black Film Festival. This move isn’t the first Miami departure the festival has experienced. From its inception, ABFF has called Acapulco, Mexico home until coming to Miami in 2002. Consequently, the festival relocated to Los Angeles in 2007 to only later return to Miami in the summer of 2009.

Throughout the years, the Miami tourism community has been very supportive of the festival, as it has brought in a significant increase of travelers to the area during the slower travel season.

William D. Talbert, President & CEO of the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau prides himself on being able to represent one of the top destinations in the world and knows the ABFF will forever be a part of the Miami community. He is confident this move is temporary.

“ We have been honored to host the American Black Film Festival 11 out of the 17 years of its existence and it has been very important to our community. [ABFF] may move but it will be back. I’m confident that the ABFF will return home once again,” Talbert stated.

Rolando Aedo, executive vice president and chief marketing officer of the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau always believed this event to be an opportunity to serve as a valued niche market and looks forward to maintaining the relationship with the ABFF family long after the move.

“The film festival was part of a broader relationship we have with Film Life and we anticipate this relationship will continue and thrive in a different capacity,” Aedo stated.

Jeff Friday and the entire ABFF team have been fully appreciative that Miami has welcomed them with open arms over the years. They vow to remain committed to the Miami community moving forward and have demonstrated their dedication with the groundbreaking of a new Film Center in the heart of Overtown.

The Miami Film Life Center was unveiled during the 2013 American Black Film Festival. Five years in the making, Jeff Friday along with City of Miami Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones in collaboration with the Southeast Overtown/Park West Community Redevelopment Agency (SEOPWCRA) and the City of Miami, opened the Miami Film Life Center (MFLC) in an effort to bring light to the potential of Miami’s ability to be a flourishing film haven. The mission of the Center is to provide access to the art of film making to the residents of Southeast Overtown and the surrounding areas. Miami-Dade County Public Schools (MDCPS) and the Black Archives History and Research Foundation of South Florida also contributed to the Center.

David Karsh, director of communications at the Miami Community Redevelopment Association has been a strong supporter of the ABFF. The festival has received grants on behalf of the CRA worth $100,000 over the past couple years.

“We want to let Hollywood know that this is an area of the future,” Karsh shared in a statement back in 2011.

Clarence E. Woods III, executive director of the Miami Community Redevelopment Association is proud to have had the opportunity to collaborate with the ABFF. He believes that the move will make a significant impact in the area but he looks forward to maintaining ABFF’s legacy as the festival plans to leave the city.

“ We are hopeful that there is another opportunity that will come about where we can do something with the residents of the redevelopment area along with the Miami Film Life Center… something that is more catered to the folks here in Miami. We still want to educate the residents about the creative industry from screenwriting, production, cinematography, etc. and we look forward to still being able to do that,” Woods III stated.

Although ABFF will be missed, Woods III hopes this isn’t a permanent  ‘goodbye’ but more so a ‘see you later.’

“We want to and hope to continue the relationship in some other way with ABFF,” Woods III concluded.

It’s Up To You, New York

Miami is known for it’s sundry of unique cultures, boastful talent and exotic people, however the zenith of a melting pot is best associated with the landscape of New York City.

Jeff Friday couldn’t agree more. He believes that the festival’s cultural diversity is greatly mirrored with the ebullience of the city of New York and that there is no other place more perfect to grow the festival.

“We need to make this [event] more accessible to the people we are serving so we need to be in a city that has a much higher multicultural audience. We want to attract people who are fans of black film and black culture and we want to be in a market that has a higher concentration of our core audience,” Friday shared.

A source close to the festival suggests the Florida Boycott movement from the recent acquittal of George Zimmerman regarding the killing of Trayvon Martin was also influential to the decision to move the event out of Florida. However, Friday believes it to be a matter of coincidence that this unfortunate incident occurred at the same time a move was being discussed.

“New York City is the number one city in the world and the largest city in the world and it has 3 million black people throughout the 5 boroughs. We’re looking to grow our audience to an excess of 30,000 people from 5,000 and the only way to do that is to make a major change. That’s what really precipitated this move,” Friday concluded.

Details about the 2014 American Black Film Festival dates will be announced soon.