ABFF announces 2022 Spotlight Screenings lineup

Issa Rae's Rap Sh!t, Aftershock, and more take center stage at this year's festival

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The American Black Film Festival is weeks away, and on Thursday they announced their official lineup of 12 spotlight screenings.

As theGrio previously reported, the American Black Film Festival is gearing up for its 26th year, which will include a hybrid online and in-person film festival that highlights, “emerging artists and content made by and about people of African descent.”

While full film selections were announced last month, the festival recently added 12 spotlight screenings, which include premieres and previews of feature films, documentaries, and episodic series.

American Black Film Festival Honors Awards Ceremony - Arrivals
Ken Charles, Nicole Friday, and Jeff Friday attend the American Black Film Festival Honors Awards Ceremony at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on Feb. 23, 2020, in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Amy Sussman/Getty Images)

One of the biggest live screenings will be Rap Sh!t, the new series from Insecure creator Issa Rae, presented by HBO Max. Rae was recently announced as ambassador for the 26th annual festival. She shared in a recent statement, “I’m honored to be this year’s Festival Ambassador. ABFF was the first major festival to showcase my work and they continue to elevate Black creatives from the ground level. It’s also fun as hell.” 

HOORAE x Kennedy Center Weekend Takeover
Issa Rae attends HOORAE x Kennedy Center Weekend Takeover at The Kennedy Center on March 25, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images for HOORAE)

Also featured as a spotlight screening is Aftershock, which premiered earlier this year at the Sundance Film Festival. TheGrio‘s Cortney Wills highlighted it as a standout from the festival and even sat down with the documentary’s creators for theGrio’s Acting Up podcast. The doc, which received rave reviews, centers around the maternal health crisis in America.

A preview of Prime Video’s A League of Their Own starring Chanté Adams will also take center stage, as well as the Disney+ reboot of The Proud Family, The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder. Also included is the opening film CIVIL, which per theGrio is a Netflix film described as, “an intimate vérité look at the life of maverick civil rights attorney Ben Crump.”

Nicole Friday, the festival’s co-producer and president of ABFF Ventures LLC. said in a statement, “We are thrilled to open the festival with CIVIL, a timely documentary bringing light to issues of social justice and equity in America. We’ve curated an entertaining and thought-provoking lineup of features, documentaries, and web series and I am so excited to share our content with a live audience again.” 

For more on ABFF tickets and programming, head to the official site.

Here are the festival’s Spotlight Screenings and their summaries below:

Rap Sh!t  

Rap Sh!t follows two estranged high school friends from Miami, Shawna, and Mia, who reunite to form a rap group.
Cast:  Aida Osman (Shawna), KaMillion (Mia), Jonica Booth (Chastity), Devon Terrell (Cliff,) RJ Cyler (Lamont)
Executive Producer/Writer: Issa Rae (for HOORAE); Executive Producer/Showrunner: Syreeta Singleton; Executive Producer: Montrel McKay (for HOORAE); Executive Producers: Dave Becky and Jonathan Berry (for 3 Arts Entertainment); Executive Producer: Deniese Davis 

Courtesy of Warner Bros. Discovery and HBO Max 

Down With the King  

Rap star Money Merc (Freddie Gibbs) has been sent by his manager, Paul, to a rural house in the Berkshires to focus on his next album. Disenchanted with his music career and the 24/7 upkeep that such fame entails, Merc has no desire to write or record music. Instead, he spends most of his time at his neighbor’s farm learning about farming and enjoying the simplicity of country life. After Merc abruptly announces his retirement on Twitter, Paul rushes to the countryside to lure him back into the music industry.  

YouTube Artist Lounge at Weekend 1 of Coachella 2022 - Day 2
Freddie Gibbs, Vince Staples and Eli Derby attend YouTube Artist Lounge during Weekend 1 of Coachella 2022 at Empire Polo Club on April 16, 2022 in Indio, California. (Photo by Anna Webber/Getty Images for YouTube)

Director: Diego Ongaro 

Producers: Rob Cristiano, Zach LeBeau & Kim Jackson 

Cast: Freddie Gibbs, Jamie Neumann, David Krumholtz, Sharon Washington & Bob Tarasuk 

Courtesy of Sony Pictures Entertainment 

A League of Their Own  

A League of Their Own evokes the joyful spirit of Penny Marshall’s beloved classic while widening the lens to tell the story of an entire generation of women who dreamed of playing professional baseball. The show takes a deeper look at race and sexuality, following the journey of a whole new ensemble of characters as they carve their own paths towards the field, both in the League and outside of it. 

Cast: Chanté Adams 

Co-creator: Will Graham 

2022 15th Annual ESSENCE Black Women In Hollywood Awards Luncheon – Red Carpet
Chanté Adams attends the ESSENCE 15th Anniversary Black Women In Hollywood Awards highlighting “The Black Cinematic Universe” at Beverly Wilshire, A Four Seasons Hotel on March 24, 2022 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Leon Bennett/Getty Images for ESSENCE)

Executive Producers:  Will Graham, Desta Tedros Reff 

Head of DEI, Prime Video: Latasha Gillespie 

Courtesy of Prime Video  

Aftershock 

Shamony Gibson and Amber Rose Isaac were excited mothers-to-be whose deaths due to childbirth complications were preventable. Directors Paula Eiselt and Tonya Lewis Lee follow Gibson’s and Isaac’s bereaved partners as they fight for justice and build communities of support with other surviving Black fathers. Aftershock shines a light on the world of gynecology—one that has a long-standing history of exploiting and neglecting Black women in America—while simultaneously uplifting the families, activists, and birth workers who are striving to bring change.  

Directed and Produced by: Paula Eiselt and Tonya Lewis Lee  

"Benedetta" Red Carpet - The 74th Annual Cannes Film Festival
Jury President Spike Lee and Tonya Lewis Lee attend the “Benedetta” screening during the 74th annual Cannes Film Festival on July 9, 2021 in Cannes, France. (Photo by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images)

Executive Producers: Dawn Porter, Jenny Raskin, Geralyn White Dreyfous, Patty Quillin, Jennifer and Jonathan Allan Soros, Tegan Acton, Emma Pompetti, Janet Tittiger, Davis Guggenheim, and Rahdi Taylor 

Co-Executive Producers:  Lauren Haber, Kelsey Koenig, Nina and David Fialkow, Barbara and Eric Dobkin, Donna and Kevin Gruneich, Bill and Eva Price 

Courtesy of Onyx Collective and ABC News Studios 

The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder 

A continuation of the acclaimed series, The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder follows the adventures and misadventures of newly 14-year-old Penny Proud and her Proud Family as they navigate modern life with hilarity and heart. The 2020s bring new career highs for mom Trudy, wilder dreams for dad Oscar and new challenges for Penny, including a socially woke neighbor who thinks she has a lot to teach her, bullying social media influencers who want to cancel her and her teenage hormones. 

Black Girls Rock! 2018 - Red Carpet
Kyla Pratt attends the Black Girls Rock! 2018 Red Carpet at NJPAC on Aug. 26, 2018 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images for BET)

Cast: Kyla Pratt, Tommy Davidson, Paula Jai Parker, JoMarie Payton, Cedric the Entertainer 

Executive Producers:  Bruce W. Smith and Ralph Farquhar   

Courtesy of Disney+  

Stranger Next Door  

Former police detective Rochelle Sellers (Vicky Jeudy) has had a year for the ages. After being shot by an unknown assailant and forced to retire, she divorces her husband and has to testify against him as the key witness in a high-profile police corruption trial. To ensure she is protected, she decided to live in seclusion and take on the role of caretaker for her ill father. However, when Jesse Holmes (Skyh Black) moves in next door, Rochelle is smitten. The perceived fairy tale takes a turn for the worst when it appears that Jesse is not the man he professes to be.  

Director: Victoria Rowell  

CBS Daytime Emmy Awards After Party - Arrivals
Victoria Rowell attends CBS Daytime Emmy Awards After Party at Pasadena Convention Center on May 5, 2019 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Leon Bennett/Getty Images)

Cast: Tim Reid (Ernest Sellers), Vicky Jeudy (Rochelle Sellers) and Skyh Black (Jesse Holmes) 

Produced for TV One by Je’Caryous Johnson (Je’Caryous Productions) and Jami McCoy-Lankford (Hillionaire Productions) 

Courtesy of TV One  

Right to Offend: The Black Comedy Revolution  

This new two-part documentary event explores the progression of Black comedy and the comedians who have used pointed humor to expose, challenge and ridicule society’s injustices and to articulate the Black experience in America. The series examines Black comedy through a unique lens, tracing the evolution and social awakening of the courageous comedians who dared to push against the constraints of their time and spoke truth to power. 

Directors:  Mario Diaz and Jessica Sherif 

Executive Producers: Alexa Conway, Mario Diaz, Loren Hammonds, Lance Nichols, Ian Orefice, Jessica Sherif, Brad Abramson and Elaine Frontain Bryant 

Courtesy of A&E Network 

After Jackie  

During the 75th anniversary year of Jackie Robinson becoming the first Black player allowed to play modern Major League Baseball, this new two-hour documentary from The SpringHill Company After Jackie tells the often-overlooked story of the second wave of talented Black baseball players after Jackie Robinson, including Bill White, Curt Flood and Bob Gibson, who fought battles on and off the field to demand a fairer and more inclusive America for African Americans, and athletes around the world. 

Jackie Robinson, the first Black man to be signed by a Major League baseball team, is shown in post-swing position in front of the stands. Robinson is wearing the uniform of then-Brooklyn Dodgers affiliate the Montreal Royals. (Getty Images)

Executive Producers: LeBron James, Maverick Carter, Jamal Henderson, Phil Byron of The Spring Hill Company; Stanley Nelson, Andre Gaines; Eli Lehrer, Jim Pasquarella of the HISTORY® Channel: Nick Trotta, Jon O’Sheal of Major League Baseball 

Courtesy of the HISTORY® Channel, The SpringHill Company and Major League Baseball 

Black Love 

Black Love, from filmmakers Codie Elaine Oliver & Tommy Oliver and Confluential Films, seeks to answer, “What does it take to make a marriage work?” In the 6th and final season premiere, a diverse set of couples detail the early days of their relationship and how they knew the other was the one. From meeting and marrying in under a year, breakups to make-ups, dating a coworker, and a pre-prison proposal, these couples highlight their beginnings and the hurdles they faced along the way.  

BET Hip Hop Awards 2021 - Arrivals
Remy Ma and Papoose attend the 2021 BET Hip Hop Awards at Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre on Oct. 1, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images for BET)

Couples: Remy Ma & Papoose, Kenric & Sonequa Martin-Green, Ashleigh Blaine Featherson & Darroll Jenkins, Codie & Tommy Oliver 

Director: Codie Elaine Oliver 

Executive Producers: Tommy Oliver, Codie Elaine Oliver 

Courtesy of Confluential Films 

Behind the Smile! 

Focuses on a newly promoted anchorwoman who falls into a severe depression when she is forced to choose between her dream job and her Vitiligo support group. 

Director: Naturi Naughton 

Naturi Naughton theGrio.com
Photo: Getty Images

Executive Producer: Tressa “Azarel” Smallwood 

Written by: Lori Conway Ray 

Courtesy of BET Her 

The Pink Fight 

Revolves around a female boxer who is diagnosed with breast cancer and follows her battle as she and her wife fight for survival both in and out of the ring. 

Director: LisaRaye McCoy  

LisaRaye McCoy thegrio.com
Lisa Raye McCoy attends the premiere of Open Road Films’ “Fifty Shades of Black” at Regal Cinemas L.A. Live on Jan. 26, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)

Executive Producer: Tressa “Azarel” Smallwood 

Written by: K. Senay 

Courtesy of BET Her 

CIVIL 

CIVIL, directed by award-winning filmmaker Nadia Hallgren, is an intimate vérité look at the life of maverick civil rights attorney Ben Crump. Considered a trailblazer in his field, Crump gives viewers an inside look at his mission to raise the value of Black life. As the civil lawyer for the families of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Black farmers, and banking while Black victims, Crump challenges America to come to terms with what it owes his clients.  

Ben Crump / Getty

Directed and Produced by: Nadia Hallgren 

Produced by:  Kenya Barris, Roger Ross Williams and Lauren Cioffi 

Executive Producers: Erynn Sampson, Matthew Carnahan, Geoff Martz 

Courtesy of Netflix 

Spotlight screenings that will appear virtually on ABFF PLAY are: 

Beautiful Resistance 

The Boston Globe culture columnist Jeneé Osterheldt created A Beautiful Resistance to carry on the tradition of Black arts and Black journalists in reclaiming the truth of Black folk.  Like Frederick Douglas taught us, there is power in representation. Too often, we are measured by our suffering. Blackness must not be defined by our brutalization. We are more than death. When we are depicted by our extremes, the truth of us is lost. We live, fully. Our joy, our dreams our everyday stories?  That’s a beautiful resistance. Every season consists of a weekly mixtape:  we deliver a short film, a long-form story, a Q&A, and we invite the community to share their own beautiful resistance on Instagram. There is music, there is story, there is love. Joy lives her.  Join us Globe.com/abeautiful resistance 

Courtesy of The Boston Globe 

What is Costing Hollywood? 

What’s Costing Hollywood? explores the ways in which more transparency around data collection and use can help the film and entertainment industry address costly racial disparities. The mini-documentary develops the story through the lens of changemakers like Kendrick Sampson (actor, activist, and co-founder of BLD PWR); Tas Plater (head of human resources at Endeavor Content); Fanshen Cox (inclusion rider co-author and development executive at Pearl Street Films); and Alex Simmons (data scientist at Snap Inc.) who provide insight into the underlying root issue of data collection and discriminatory algorithms — depicting a clear path for a new paradigm shift in the entertainment industry. 

Moderator:  Kendrick Sampson  

Kendrick Sampson thegrio.com
Kendrick Sampson attends the Celebration of Black Cinema at Landmark Annex on Dec. 2, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Randy Shropshire/Getty Images for the Celebration of Black Cinema)

Panelists:  Rashad Robinson; Romola Ratnam; Aerica Shimizu Banks; and, Darnell Hunt  

Courtesy of Color Of Change’s #ChangeHollywood initiative 

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