‘Rap Sh!t,’ ‘A League of Their Own,’ and more series shine bright at ABFF

The festival had special "Spotlight Screenings" featuring some of the biggest and most exciting projects coming out in TV and film this year.

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Last week, theGrio attended The American Black Film Festival in Miami, which every year celebrates “emerging artists and content made by and about people of African descent.” 

After virtual festivals because of the COVID-19 pandemic, ABFF returned this year with a hybrid event. The in-person portion of the festival last week (June 15-19) premiered various projects in South Beach, Miami, bringing together some of the biggest names in TV and film. Some are listed below.

2022 American Black Film Festival - "Civil" Opening Night Premiere
(L-R) Nicole Friday, Issa Rae and Jeff Friday attend the opening night premiere of “Civil” on June 15, 2022 at the 2022 American Black Film Festival at New World Center in Miami Beach, Florida. (Photo by Jason Koerner/Getty Images)

Rap Sh!t

Issa Rae’s new show is almost here! That’s right, the “Insecure” creator is back with a brand new series, “Rap Sh!t,” on HBO Max. Aida Osman and KaMillion star as Shawna and Mia, two high school friends who years later reunite in Miami and embark on a journey to become the next great rap duo. Issa Rae and showrunner, Syreeta Singleton, introduced the series and premiered the pilot episode to an excited audience.

As theGrio previously reported, we also attended an intimate panel with some of the creatives behind the series, including Osman who also is in the writers’ room of the series. During the panel discussion, she shed some light on the main characters. “Issa did a really good job of laying out these really distinct and stark characters. Mia and Shawna are polar opposites but they have all of these different, beautiful things that they share being Black women,” she explained. “We sat in the writers’ room and I think we built these beautiful, complex women that are flawed and working on themselves, like we all are. I’m happy with where we got to with Shawna and Mia.”

“Rap Sh!t” premieres July 21 on HBO Max.

A League of Their Own

Another major moment at the festival was the premiere of “A League of Their Own,” Prime Video’s new series based on the beloved film of the same name. Thirty years after the original film debuted, the series once again tells the story of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, a historic women’s baseball league that existed from 1943 to 1954. TheGrio had the chance to watch the first two episodes, which features a powerful performance from Chanté Adams (Max).

Adams’ character is a composite of several Black women (Mamie Johnson, Toni Stone and Connie Morgan) who made history with their involvement in baseball. Adams said pointedly during the post-screening panel discussion, “We don’t know this, but we should: They were the first women to ever play on major league teams. I think the fourth woman to ever do it was Kelsey Whitmore, who was one of our coaches during this process and that was this year. These women did this back in the ’50s! We should know their names. We should know their stories, and that is what I’m hoping we do with this series.”

Right to Offend: The Black Comedy Revolution

The history of Black comedy is on full display in A&E’s “Right to Offend: The Black Comedy Revolution.” The four-hour documentary from Kevin Hart’s Hartbeat and Time Studios dives into the history of Black comedy in the late 20th century. Highlighting comedic legends from Moms Mabley and Redd Foxx to present-day comedic forces like Tiffany Haddish and Key & Peele, the project celebrates all things Black comedy.

Voices that appear in the special include those of Kevin Hart, Tiffany Haddish, W. Kamau Bell, Michael Che, Steve Harvey, Sherri Shepherd, Wayne Brady, Aisha Tyler, Amber Ruffin and Katt Williams.

The producers only screened Part 1 of “Right to Offend” at ABFF, yet it still offered informative, powerful and, yes  — hilarious insights into some of the greatest comedians ever to do it.

The documentary premieres June 29 and 30 on A&E.

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