World premiere of HBO Documentary Film’s Donyale Luna: Supermodel Exploring the Life and Career of the First Black Supermodel; OWN’s Time of Essence; Lionsgate’s The Blackening Directed by Tim Story; Prime Video’s I’m A Virgo Directed by Boots Riley, Starring Jharrel Jerome
Plus – A Centerpiece Screening of Netflix’s The Perfect Find, Starring Gabrielle Union and Keith Powers
LOS ANGELES, (April 27, 2023) – The 2023 American Black Film Festival (ABFF) today announced its lineup of spotlight screenings and world premieres. The festival will take place in Miami Beach June 14-18, followed by a virtual segment June 19-25 on ABFF PLAY (https://abffplay.com/), showcasing a selection of exclusive programs from networks and streamers at the forefront of diverse storytelling.
This year’s lineup includes features and series premieres plus a first look at some highly anticipated releases. World premieres include: HBO Documentary Film’s Donyale Luna: Supermodel, exploring the revolutionary life of the pioneering Black supermodel Donyale Luna. It is the second project from the initiative created jointly by Lightbox and Jeff Friday Media to foster diversity in documentary filmmaking and support emerging African American directing talent. NBC’s Found is a twisty and timely new drama that follows a PR specialist and her crisis management team as they search for missing people from marginalized groups all the while this everyday hero harbors a dark secret of her own. The series was created by Nkechi Okoro Carroll and stars Shanola Hampton and Mark-Paul Gosselaar and will premiere on NBC this fall. BET+’s world premiere of Average Joe, a darkly comedic intense one-hour drama starring Deon Cole. Warner Bros. Pictures unveils a sneak peek of a bold new take on a beloved classic, The Color Purple, produced by Oprah Winfrey, Steven Spielberg, Scott Sanders and Quincy Jones and starring Taraji P. Henson, Danielle Brooks, Colman Domingo, Corey Hawkins, H.E.R., Halle Bailey, Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor and Fantasia Barrino.
The program also features Prime Video’s upcoming series I’m A Virgo created, written, and directed by Boots Riley, starring Jharrel Jerome, Allius Barnes, Brett Gray, Kara Young, Olivia Washington, Walton Goggins, Carmen Ejogo, and Mike Epps; Time of Essence, a five-part docuseries celebrating 50 years of Essence Magazine presented by the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN); A&E’s Exposing Parchman, an investigative documentary that explores the efforts to reform the Mississippi correctional system led by a team of attorneys on behalf of the inmates of Parchman Prison featuring Shawn “JAY-Z” Carter and Mario “Yo Gotti” Mims, with an encore virtual presentation; Lionsgate and MRC’s The Blackening , directed by Tim Story, starring Grace Byers, Sinqua Walls, Jay Pharoah, and Yvonne Orji, a horror comedy centering on a group of Black friends who reunite for a Juneteenth weekend getaway only to find themselves trapped in a remote cabin with a twisted killer – which poses the sardonic question: if the entire cast of a horror movie is Black, who dies first?; and Netflix’s centerpiece screening of The Perfect Find directed by ABFF alumnus, Numa Perrier, starring Gabrielle Union, Keith Powers, Aisha Hinds, DB Woodside, Janet Hubert, Alani, “La La” Anthony and Gina Torres.
Other festival highlights include TV One’s original film A Mother’s Intuition, directed by Cas Sigers-Beedles; YouTube Black Voices Film Showcase, highlighting original short films from Black Voices creators Baby Tate, Armani White, Conscious Lee and Glen’ Beleaf’ Henry; the return of Three Ways (known as Threesome), a bold, sexy drama written and directed by Jamal Dedeaux, made its feature film debut as an audience favorite among the official selections at last year’s ABFF was acquired by Andscape and premiered on Hulu; ALLBLK’s Judge Me Not, executive produced by Judge Lynn Toler, cast its leading man Javon Terrell from their 2022 Shoot Your Shot national casting call at ABFF. This year, the original series will screen during the virtual program. Other virtual programming includes OWN’s encore showing of Ready to Love 100th Episode Special and season 8 sneak peek produced by ABFF alumni Will Packer, Will Packer Media and Lighthearted Entertainment and hosted by Tommy Miles. Andscape’s The Conversations Project, a limited unscripted series of funny, fearless and far-ranging dinner parties among some of the most prominent figures in culture, hosted by Elaine Welteroth, David Lawrence and Andscape’s Senior NBA writer Marc Spears, debuting on Hulu in August.
“There’s a variety of projects from our network and streaming partners this year. We’re excited for our attendees to experience all of the great content both live and virtually. From conspiracy theories to romance and comedy horror, to learning about the first Black supermodel named Donyale Luna to grace the cover of British vogue. There really is something for everyone to see at the festival,” said festival producer and ABFF Ventures President/COO Nicole Friday. “It’s a thrill to be able to program provocative and captivating stories each year at ABFF.”
As previously announced, the American Black Film Festival opens with Juel Taylor’s directorial debut They Cloned Tyrone, a Netflix film that follows a series of events that thrusts an unlikely trio – John Boyega, Teyonah Parris and Jamie Foxx – onto a trail of nefarious government conspiracy.
Emmy Award-winning writer, producer and actor Lena Waithe is ABFF’s 2023 Festival Ambassador.
For more updates on programming follow @ABFF on Twitter and @AmericanBlackFilmFestival on Instagram and Facebook. To purchase passes for the 2023 American Black Film Festival, visit www.abff.com.
The Full Spotlight-Screenings Lineup:
A Mother’s Intuition
A young, pregnant woman grieving the sudden death of her husband is told that her baby was stillborn; but she suspects a switched-at-birth cover-up, implicating the very doctors trusted to care for her.
Cast: Denise Boutte, Matt Cedeño, Brély Evans, Hazel Renee, Tamar Braxton, Jeff Marchelletta and Karon Riley
Director: Cas Sigers-Beedles
Executive Producer: Dr. Holly Carter of Relevè Entertainment
Writer: Nicole D. Sconiers
Courtesy of: TV One Networks
Inspired by the life of creator Robb Cullen, “Average Joe” is a darkly comedic, intense one-hour drama set in “The Hill” district of Pittsburgh. Blue-collar plumber, Joe Washington, discovers his recently deceased father lived a secret second life and stole millions of dollars from dangerous people just before he died. Now those people think Joe knows where the money is. A bloody and violent confrontation triggers a chain of events that force Joe and his close-knit circle of family and friends out of their very average and mundane lives into a life-or-death race against time to find the truth and the millions.
Cast: Deon Cole, Tammy Townsend, Malcolm Barrett, Cynthia Kaye McWilliams, Michael Trucco, Ashley Olivia Fisher, Pasha Lychnikoff
Directors: Eric Dean Seaton, Christoph Schrewe, Marshall Tyler, David Katzenberg, Joy T. Lane
Writers: Robb Cullen, Scott Boden Hodges, Tyrone Finch, Arthur Harris, Bryce Ahart, Hawa Macalou, Paul McLalin, D.J. Ryan, Stephanie McFarlane, Jerron Horton, Kevin O’Hare
Executive Producers: Robb Cullen, McG, Mary Viola, Corey Marsh
Produced by: Wonderland Sound and Vision
Courtesy of: BET+
Donyale Luna: Supermodel
Donyale Luna: Supermodel explores the remarkable life and career of Donyale Luna, one of the first Black supermodels who graced the covers of both Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar in Europe. Today, most people have never heard of her. Born Peggy Anne Freeman in Detroit, Donyale Luna went on to revolutionize the fashion industry in the 1960s and 1970s, becoming the muse to some of the foremost photographers of the 20th century until her untimely death at the age of 33 in 1979.
Cast: Dream Cazzaniga, Beverly Johnson, Omar Boone, Kyle Hagler
Director: Nailah Jefferson
Producers: Melissa Kramer, Isoul Harris, Melanie Sharee
Executive Producers: Jonathan Chinn, Simon Chinn, Jeff Friday, Dream Cazzaniga
Courtesy of: HBO Documentary Films
From A&E Network, Roc Nation, Good Caper Content, and Red Summer comes “Exposing Parchman,” an investigative documentary that explores the efforts to reform the Mississippi correctional system led by a team of attorneys on behalf of the inmates of Parchman Prison. The film tells the inside stories of the families, the legal team, and Roc Nation across three years of legal battles to end the deadly conditions for those incarcerated at Parchman.
Director: Rahman Ali Bugg
Writer and Producer: Jeanmarie Condon
Executive Producers: Rahman Ali Bugg (also director), Jordana Hochman, Jeanmarie Condon, Desiree Perez, Lori York, Elaine Frontain Bryant, Shelly Tatro, Brad Abramson. Alison Dammann serves as co-executive producer
Produced by: ITV America’s Good Caper Content, Roc Nation, and Red Summer TV for A&E Network. A+E Networks holds worldwide distribution rights for “Exposing Parchman.”
Courtesy of: A&E Network
This twisty and timely drama follows PR specialist Gabi Mosely (Shanola Hampton) and her crisis management team as they search for missing people from marginalized groups who do not typically receive widespread media attention, as she was once one of the forgotten ones. But unbeknownst to anyone, this everyday hero is hiding a chilling secret of her own.
Cast: Shanola Hampton, Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Kelli Williams, Brett Dalton, Gabrielle Walsh, Arlen Escarpeta and Karan Oberoi
Creator: Nkechi Okoro Carroll
Showrunners: Nkechi Okoro Carroll and Sonay Hoffman
Courtesy of: Comcast NBCUniversal and NBC
I’m a Virgo
From visionary filmmaker Boots Riley, “I’m a Virgo” is a fantastical coming-of-age joyride about Cootie (Jharrel Jerome), a 13-foot-tall young Black man who lives in Oakland, California.
Creator, Writer, Director: Boots Riley
Cast: Jharrel Jerome, Allius Barnes, Brett Gray, Kara Young, Olivia Washington, Walton Goggins, Carmen Ejogo, and Mike Epps
Executive Producers: Boots Riley, Tze Chun, Michael Ellenberg, Lindsey Springer, Rebecca Rivo. and Jharrel Jerome
Showrunners: Boots Riley, Tze Chun
Courtesy of: Prime Video
“The Blackening” centers around a group of Black friends who reunite for a Juneteenth weekend getaway only to find themselves trapped in a remote cabin with a twisted killer. Forced to play by his rules, the friends soon realize this ain’t no motherf****** game. “The Blackening” skewers genre tropes and poses the sardonic question: if the entire cast of a horror movie is Black, who dies first?
Cast: Grace Byers, Jermaine Fowler, Melvin Gregg, X Mayo, Dewayne Perkins, Antoinette Robertson, Sinqua Walls, with Jay Pharoah, and Yvonne Orji
Director: Tim Story
Screenplay and screen story by: Tracy Oliver and Dewayne Perkins
Producers: Jason Clark, Marcei A. Brown, E. Brian Dobbins, Tracy Oliver, Tim Story, and Sharla Sumpter Bridgett Lionsgate and MRC present, a Story Company / Tracy Yvonne / Artists First / CatchLight Studios
Courtesy of: LIONSGATE
The Perfect Find
After a high-profile firing, Jenna’s (Gabrielle Union) fashion career comeback hits a snag when she falls for a charming, much younger coworker (Keith Powers) who happens to be her boss’ son. As sparks fly, Jenna must decide if she’ll risk it all on a secret romance.
Cast: Gabrielle Union, Keith Powers, Aisha Hinds, DB Woodside, Janet Hubert, Alani “La La” Anthony, Gina Torres
Director: Numa Perrier from a screenplay by Leigh Davenport
Producers: Glendon Palmer, Gabrielle Union, Jeff Morrone, Codie Elaine Oliver, Tommy Oliver
Based on the book of the same title, by Tia Williams
Courtesy of: Netflix
A sex comedy told in “Three Ways” … Sexually awkward Stacey Johnson decides to take control of her life, cancel her ex, and conquer her fears by having a threesome with her new beau and a mysterious woman she’s never met. What could possibly go wrong? Previously titled “Threesome,” “Three Ways” was an ABFF 2022 official film selection.
Cast: Andrea Lewis, Brittany S. Hall, Jerrel O’Neal
Writer & Director: Jamal Dedeaux
Producers: Jaleel Ghafur, Rebecca Haze, Jamal Dedeaux
Courtesy of: Andscape
Time of Essence
“Time Of Essence” is a five-part documentary series highlighting how ESSENCE Magazine has informed and reflected Black culture in America over the past 50 years. Each episode covers a different decade – from the ’70s to today – and features first-hand commentary on that era’s biggest moments from the icons, trailblazers, staffers, and leaders who lived and defined them. This candid commentary is coupled with never-before-seen footage and exclusive behind-the-scenes moments from the worlds of entertainment, sports, politics, fashion, and beauty.
Executive Producers: Christian Sarabia, Nicole Elliott, Raymond Garcia, Emmet Dennis, Sidra Smith, Barkue Tubman-Zawolo, and Stephanie Hodges-Dunivan
Produced by: 51 Minds and ESSENCE Studios, LLC
Courtesy of: OWN
The YouTube Black Voices Festival Showcase
“The YouTube Black Voices Festival Showcase” features highlights of original short films from Black Voices creators. In Black Girl Day Off, Baby Tate wants Black women to take a day off and imagines how the world would crumble if they all did simultaneously. Armani White revisits his home and past mistakes in Proud of You. Conscious Lee explores the world of Black fine art through the lens of Afrofuturism. June’s Crown, a short film by Glen’ Beleaf’ Henry, follows a young girl’s journey to loving her hair.
Courtesy of: YouTube Black Voices
Spotlight Screenings That Will Appear Virtually on ABFF PLAY Are:
Exposing Parchman (see description above)
Courtesy of: A&E Network
Judge Me Not
Loosely based on the life of the famed Judge Lynn Toler, “Judge Me Not” is the story of Zelma Jay Johnson (Chyna Lane), an exceptionally bright, young Black woman who struggles with mental health issues, a ludicrous family, and volatile love life. We join her as she takes on her new role as a judge in a court full of outrageous characters both in front of and behind the bench. As her passionate relationship with her live-in lover takes them both on a ride, she finds herself caught in the crosshairs a psychological thriller that puts her life at risk.
Cast: Chyna Lane, Javon Terrell, Terrence Green, Jonathan Chase, Gena Shaw and Bonita Brisker.
Executive Producer: Judge Lynn Toler
Courtesy of: ALLBLK
Makeup x Breakup Season Two
This season on “Makeup x Breakup,” both Brooke (Nicolette Ellis) and Spencer (Kamel Goffin) work to adapt to their new environment. However, in a matter of months there’s a shift with impulsive decisions causing turmoil in their personal and professional lives. Blake (Omar Salmon) tries love again with Shannon (Olivia Grey) and the two work to build a stronger foundation of trust. Meanwhile, Laura (Karmia Berry) works to rebuild her self-confidence exploring a new relationship. In the end, will happiness work out in everyone’s favor?
Courtesy of: ALLBLK
Ready to Love
Record-breaking Hollywood producer Will Packer’s popular dating series hosted by Thomas “Nephew Tommy” Miles explores the real-life dating interactions of sexy, successful, and grown Black men and Black women in their 30s and 40s who are each looking for lasting love and an authentic relationship.
Producers: Will Packer Media and Lighthearted Entertainment produce the Ready to Love series “Ready to Love” 100th Episode Special Producers: Tara Montgomery and Brian Piotrowicz
Courtesy of: OWN
The Conversations Project
Thirty-minute episodes of prominent cultural figures, from athletes and entertainers to astronauts, Michelin-starred chefs and philosophers, engaging in candid conversations over some of the best food and wine this country has to offer. Topics tap into the vastness of the culture and the people within it through funny, fearless and far-ranging anecdotes.
Cast: Hosts Elaine Welteroth, David Lawrence and Marc Spears joined by numerous credentialed guests
Executive Producers; Raina Kelley, Tracey Baker-Simmons, AC Roe
Courtesy of: Andscape
Since its inception, the highly regarded American Black Film Festival has become a cornerstone for diversity in Hollywood. It has premiered the work and supported the careers of many of today’s most successful filmmakers, actors, writers and stand-up comedians, and is recognized as a standard-bearer of excellence for Black creativity. Continuing its legacy to empower Black artists and showcase a wide range of entertainment content, the ABFF features studio premieres, independent films, master classes, panels, talent showcases, networking and hospitality events.
ABFF sponsors and partners to date are Warner Bros. Discovery and HBO® (Founding), Andscape, Ally, Comcast NBCUniversal, Walmart, Cadillac (Presenting), City of Miami Beach, Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau (GMCVB), UPS, TV One Networks, Netflix, Meta, Prime Video (Major), American Airlines, IMDb, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Variety, YouTube Black Voices, Prudential Financial, ALLBLK, Bounce TV, OWN, Warner Bros. Television (Official), A&E Network, BET Media Group, Motion Picture Association (MPA), Confluential Films, Miami Beach Visitor and Convention Authority, Pfizer, Procter & Gamble, Fulton Films GA, ESPN Films, Lionsgate (Supporting).
The American Black Film Festival (ABFF) is a property of ABFF Ventures LLC, an entertainment company specializing in the production of live events and platforms that celebrate Black culture and achievement. The ABFF, the company’s flagship event, is dedicated to recognizing Black talent and showcasing quality film and television content by and about people of African descent. ABFF founder Jeff Friday conceived the festival in 1997 as a vehicle to strengthen the Black entertainment community by fostering resource sharing, education and artistic collaboration. Now in its 27th year, the festival has become a key proponent of diversity in Hollywood, providing a platform for emerging Black artists.
Chelsye J. Burrows
ABFF Ventures LLC