Five films we can’t wait to see at the American Black Film Festival

The festival returns to celebrate its 25th anniversary, featuring an impressive lineup of narrative features, documentaries and more.

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The American Black Film Festival returns for its 25th anniversary this year with a hybrid in-person/virtual ceremony. From the inspirational Williams tennis family story King Richard to exciting adaptations like B-Boy Blues, theGrio‘s got the five projects we can’t wait to see at ABFF this year.

BET Presents the American Black Film Festival Honors - Show
BEVERLY HILLS, CA – FEBRUARY 17: Founder of the ABFF Jeff Friday speaks onstage during BET Presents the American Black Film Festival Honors on February 17, 2017 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

King Richard

King Richard, the highly anticipated film about Richard Williams (Venus and Serena Williams‘ father), opens the festival this year. The film stars Will Smith in the titular role, as well as rising stars Saniyya Sidney and Demi Singleton as Venus and Serena.

Per the film’s official synopsis: “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.”

Nicole Friday, president and general manager of ABFF Ventures LLC, shared an official statement regarding King Richard’s inclusion in ABFF’s lineup: “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.”

B-Boy Blues

B-Boy Blues, an adaptation of James Earl Hardy‘s 1994 book of the same name, makes its directorial debut at the festival. The film marks Jussie Smollett‘s directorial debut, and stars Timothy Richardson, Ledisi, Brandee Evans, Broderick Hunter, Marquise Vilson and Thomas Mackie as Raheim.

The synopsis reads from the official ABFF site reads: “Class and culture clash when a college-educated journalist from Brooklyn and a homeboy-bike messenger from Harlem fall in love.”


ABFF recently announced that it selected Academy Award winner Halle Berry as ambassador for this year’s festival. After a decades-long career in the industry, the honor comes at a perfect time for the actress as she releases her directorial debut, Bruised, Nov. 21 on Netflix. Berry also stars in the film as a mixed martial arts fighter.

“I definitely feel like there’s a turning point,” Berry shared in a statement regarding her selection as ambassador. “I’m more encouraged that as women, we are feeling confident enough to tell our stories. And there is a place for us to tell our stories. For so long, our experiences have been told narratively through the guise of men.”

100 Years from Mississippi

100 Years from Mississippi highlights the life of director Tarabu Betserai Kirkland‘s 111-year-old mother, Mamie Lang Kirkland. Kirkland takes his mother back to her original home of Ellisville, Miss. to honor her family and tell her story.

Per the official description, “100 Years From Mississippi is a documentary on the life of Mamie Lang Kirkland, a 111-year-old African American woman who experienced and survived racial terrorism, segregation, bigotry and bias, and yet continued to have hope, joy and love of life, full of the certainty that we can do better.”

The Outlaw Johnny Black

The Outlaw Johnny Black, from Michael Jai White and Byron Minns, premieres at this year’s ABFF. The official synopsis reads, “Hell bent on avenging the death of his father, Johnny Black vows to gun down Brett Clayton and becomes a wanted man in the process while posing as a preacher in a small mining town that’s been taken over by a notorious Land Baron.”

The film stars White, Minns, Anika Noni Rose, Erika Ash, Chris Browning, Kevin Chapman, Tommy Davidson, Kym Whitley, Randy Couture, Barry Bostwick, and Glynn Turman.

For more on ABFF and how to attend virtually or in person, head to the official site here.

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