Will Smith led ‘King Richard’ to open ABFF’s 25th year

The film about Serena and Venus' father, Richard Williams, will be released in theaters and stream exclusively on HBO Max this November

American Black Film Festival (ABFF) is gearing up for its 25th year, and just announced that the highly-anticipated film starring Will Smith, King Richard, will officially open the festival in November.

The American Black Film Festival is returning this fall with a hybrid ceremony due to the logistical challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, theGrio previously reported. Dedicated to “showcasing emerging artists and content made by and about people of African descent,” the festival will combine virtual events online with in-person events in Miami.

Kicking off the festival is King Richard, the upcoming Warner Bros. film about Richard Williams, Venus and Serena Williams‘ father.

(Credit: Warner Bros)

From director Reinaldo Marcus Green, Smith leads the film as Richard alongside rising stars Saniyya Sidney and Demi Singleton as Venus and Serena, in a story that follows their father’s coaching and guidance that helped lead them both to international sports superstardom. Aunjanue Ellis, Scandal’s Tony Goldwyn, Jon Bernthal and Dylan McDermott round out the cast.

The film’s official synopsis reads: “Based on the true story that will inspire the world, King Richard follows the journey of Richard Williams, an undeterred father instrumental in raising two of the most extraordinarily gifted athletes of all time, who will end up changing the sport of tennis forever.

Driven by a clear vision of their future and using unconventional methods, Richard has a plan that will take Venus and Serena Williams from the streets of Compton, California to the global stage as legendary icons. King Richard is a profoundly moving film that shows the power of family, perseverance and unwavering belief as a means to achieve the impossible and impact the world.”

Nicole Friday, president and general manager of ABFF Ventures LLC, expressed excitement in an official statement. The statement reads, “It is with pride and excitement that we mark our 25th year opening with Warner Bros.’ King Richard, a film that is a touchstone of ABFF’s legacy of showcasing extraordinary Black talent and inspiring storytelling reflecting the brilliance of diversity in Hollywood.”

Jeff Friday, founder of the American Black Film Festival, during “BET Presents the American Black Film Festival Honors” in Feb. 2017 in Beverly Hills. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

The statement continues, “We’re especially gratified to have the film’s director, Reinaldo Marcus Green, a previous finalist in HBO’s prestigious Short Film Competition, return to ABFF as feature film director — demonstrating the importance of the HBO pipeline in advancing the careers of Black artists. This event is simply a grand slam on every level.”

Green also shared a statement regarding the film’s selection, calling it a “full-circle moment.”

He explains, “Back in 2013, my short film Stone Cars, that I made while studying at NYU screened in competition and was distributed on HBO — so opening up the festival for ABFF’s 25th anniversary means a lot to me. It’s an absolute honor to return this year with our film.

Thank you to Warner Bros. and the whole filmmaking team, the family we built on set, the Williams family for allowing us to tell their groundbreaking story and, of course, our wonderful crew and cast led by none other than Mr. Will Smith.”

For more on ABFF and their expanded 2021 festival from Nov. 3-28, head to their official site, here.

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