For more than two decades the American Black Film Festival has been a platform for emerging Black artists and veterans of Hollywood to come together with the goal of sharing knowledge and showcasing new creative ventures. In 2019, the festival returns to Miami Beach to showcase the latest in television and film created by and catering to Black audiences. In addition to many informative panels and workshops, ABFF will be screening several spotlight films featuring Black talent produced by a variety of outlets.
Here are five films and TV projects to look out for at the 23rd annual American Black Film Festival.
In this latest installment of the John Shaft cinematic saga, director Tim Story unites three generations of Shaft for a modern-day action-comedy. Richard Roundtree, the original Shaft from the '70s, is joined by Samuel L. Jackson and Jesse T. Usher (John Shaft II and grandson John Shaft Jr.) to take to the streets and clubs of Harlem to solve a mysterious murder.
John Jr. (JJ) is a millennial cyber security expert with a degree from MIT but is a little short on street smarts. This is where his estranged father, Shaft II, steps in to show him the ropes.
“Shaft was, to a certain degree, our first Black superhero,” says Tim Story. “From the start, he was a man’s man with style and swagger who didn’t take any b.s. from anyone. He had a way of talking to everyone that, being Black, I wanted to emulate growing up. It wasn’t just a movie; it meant so much more.”
In this clash of generations, can the old school and new school learn to appreciate each other’s talents before one of them ends up dead? Shaft is the opening night film for ABFF and will be in theaters Friday, June 14.
In this coming-of-age drama, a reclusive teenage musical prodigy (Khalil Everage) forms an unlikely friendship with a down-on-his-luck high school security guard (Anthony Anderson). United by their mutual love of hip-hop, they try to free each other from the demons of their past and break into the city's music scene. Directed by Chris Robinson (ATL, The New Edition Story), Beats features Everage in his feature film debut and co-stars Uzo Aduba and Emayatzy Corinealdi. Beats is the ultimate ode to Chicago's South Side, and its long history of creating music that forms the city's beating heart. Beats will be premiering on Netflix later this month, but there is nothing like seeing it on the big screen first.
See You Yesterday
High school best friends and science prodigies C.J. and Sebastian spend every spare minute working on their latest homemade invention: backpacks that enable time travel. But when C.J.’s older brother, Calvin, dies after an encounter with police officers, the young duo decide to put their unfinished tech to use in a desperate bid to save Calvin.
Set in a West Indian enclave of Brooklyn, NY, See You Yesterday is also a love letter to Stefon Bristol’s home borough. “I grew up in Coney Island, and my mother always used to take me to Flatbush to get chicken patties… I grew up going to East Flatbush all the time, and the one thing I’d never seen on film is Caribbean people, done right and done respectably.”
From director Stefon Bristol and producer Spike Lee comes See You Yesterday, a sci-fi adventure grounded in familial love, cultural divides and the universal urge to change the wrongs of the past. Eden-Duncan Smith (Annie and Master of None makes her feature film lead debut as C.J. and is joined by Dante Crichlow and Brian “Stro” Bradley as her brother Calvin.
See You Yesterday is streaming on Netflix now.
Boyz N the Hood
In celebration of the late John Singleton’s gripping directorial debut, a special screening of the 1991 film Boyz N the Hood will be hosted at ABFF. The drama set in South Central Los Angeles starred Ice Cube, Cuba Gooding, Jr. Morris Chestnut, Larry Fishburne, Nia Long, Regina King and Angela Bassett. Set against the backdrop of gang violence and gentrification, Boyz N the Hood made John Singleton the youngest person and the first African-American to be nominated for Best Director by the Film Academy. Singleton, a native of South Central, died on April 28, 2019, after suffering a stroke.
First Wives Club
In this reboot of the 1996 film starring Bette Midler, Diane Keaton and Goldie Hawn, Girls Trip co-writer Tracy Oliver re-imagines the story of three women who band together after their marriages fall apart. In this series based on the film, Jill Scott, Michelle Buteau and Ryan Michelle Bathe star as Hazel, Bree and Ari, three divorcees who find strength in their sisterhood while getting a little bit of revenge on their exes. First Wives Club will be exclusive to BET’s new streaming service, BET+, but you can get a first look at ABFF!
Photo Credit: Warner Bros, Netflix, BET, Getty Images