The American Black Film Festival kicked off it's 11th year on Thursday with a slew of starrahs including Gabriel Aubry's baby mama and a host of activities in and around the Sofitel Hotel in Los Angeles.
One of the first major events was the Lincoln-sponsored "Off the Red Carpet" program that featured actors from Tyler Perry's "The Family That Preys." Joining moderator Jon Kelley were Sanaa Lathan, Rockmond Dunbar, Taraji P. Henson, Cole Hauser and the film's producer Roger Bobb.
Later that evening Oscar winner Halle Berry introduced the opening night film, "Carmen Jones." The 1954 musical starred Dorothy Dandridge, who received an Oscar nod for her performance; Pearl Bailey; Harry Belafonte; Diahann
Carroll and Brock Peters. Still trying to figure out why ABFF opened with a film that's more than 50 years old, but I guess you had to be in the room when that decision was made.
Maybe that's the only way they could get Halle out of the nursery.
In between all that, New York event planner Bevy Smith hosted a Beverly Hills dinner party for actor Anthony Mackie, this year's ABFF ambassador, at the Bond Street restaurant in the Thompson Hotel. The evening was
sponsored by Hennesey, which just happens to be one of Mackie's favorite libations. The New Orleans native has a bunch of movies in post-production including "Notorious," the Biggie Smalls biopic. Mackie plays Tupac Shakur.
'The coolest part was really getting to know Pac,' Mackie said. "The thing about Pac is that he lives in so many parallel realities that there’s no right way or wrong way to portray him. He’s truly an innovator of our universal hip reality."
One of Mackie's guests last night was producer Will Packer ("This Christmas," "Stomp the Yard") who has just wrapped a thriller called "Obsessed" for Screen Gems. The flick stars Beyonce Knowles and Idris Elba (isn't he in everyone's movie these days?) and is scheduled to hit theaters on Feb. 27, 2009. B and Elba play a married couple whose idyllic lives are threatened by a stalker. According to Packer, Beyonce really brings it in this one.
"B did well," Packer said. "She was excellent. I think she's going to surprise a lot of people with the way she really stretched herself for this role. She charmed us all."
And she did all of her own stunts.
The ABFF continues today with another "Off the Red Carpet" event featuring Mos Def and the premiere of "Love For Sale," a romantic comedy starring Essence Atkins, Clifton Powell, Jackie Long and Mya. Elba, Packer and others will talk about being black men in Hollywood on Saturday.
Other notable events include the tribute to "Waiting To Exhale," with Angela Bassett, Loretta Devine and Lela Rachon expected to attend; "A Conversation with Young Hollywood" featuring Evan Ross, Lauren London; "Can We Get Some Love?" a discussion about black sexuality in the movies with Tina Andrews ("Why Do Fools Fall in Love") and Salli Richardson-Whitfield; and the closing night screening of HBO's "The Black List."