In January 1997 after an inspiring and eye opening trip to a leading film festival, Jeff Friday asked himself three transformative questions:
Not knowing the answers, Friday took a blind leap of faith, departing from his job as film division president of the largest multicultural advertising agency, to devote his professional life to building the American Black Film Festival (ABFF), recognized today as the leading film festival of its kind in the world.
The American Black Film Festival is an annual event dedicated to recognizing Black talent and showcasing quality film and television content by and about people of African descent. Dedicated to the belief that diverse artists deserve the same opportunities as their mainstream counterparts, 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.
As “the world’s largest community of Black film and TV enthusiasts,” the ABFF attracts a broad audience of celebrity talent, emerging artists, upscale consumers and industry stakeholders. The festival opens with the debut of an upcoming Hollywood release followed by a robust lineup of studio and network previews, independent films, master classes, panels, celebrity talks, live entertainment, and a variety of networking and hospitality events.
Now in its 26th year, the festival has become a cornerstone of diversity in Hollywood, providing a platform for emerging Black artists – many of whom have become today’s most successful actors, producers, writers, directors and comedians – including Ryan Coogler (Black Panther), Will Packer (Girls Trip), Issa Rae (Insecure), Kevin Hart (Night School), Halle Berry (Bruised), Omari Hardwick (Power), Steven Caple Jr. (Creed II), Kerry Washington (Little Fires Everywhere), Anthony Anderson (Black*ish), Saladin K. Patterson (The Big Bang Theory), Ben Watkins (Truth Be Told), Shaka King (Judas and the Black Messiah), Pete Chatmon (Grey’s Anatomy), and Numa Perrier (The Wonder Years).
The ABFF brand’s momentum continues to build. In 2019, its international footprint expanded with the highly successful launch of ABFF London, a European spinoff of the domestic film festival. In addition, the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) in Washington, D.C. acquired photographs and other archival materials from the film festival to be included in its permanent collection.
In 2020, in response to the global Covid-19 crisis, the festival was hosted on ABFF Play, a customized online platform built to provide a virtual alternative to the live event. The virtual festival attracted attendees from more than 90 countries around the world.
Today, the ABFF is widely considered the preeminent pipeline for Black artists in front of and behind the camera and has significantly expanded the range of talent working in the entertainment Industry. Through the support of a global network of major entertainment, media and consumer product companies, the festival continues to lead the way promoting diversity in the motion picture and television industries.
The ABFF program is designed to incorporate the following initiatives:
Programs designed to encourage and assist with career development.
Exhibition platform where a cross section of content creators can share their work.
Numerous networking opportunities to connect and share resources.
Up-and-coming creative and industry professionals meet and stay connected, building strong ties within and beyond the Hollywood community.
Acknowledging outstanding work and rewarding creatives, inspiring them to continue their road to success.