Melvin Van Peebles Trailblazer Award To Be Presented At 9th Annual American Black Film Festival

Producer and Director Warrington Hudlin to Receive Honor

New York, NY, March 22, 2005 – Award-winning film producer and Black Filmmaker Foundation (BFF) founder Warrington Hudlin will receive the Melvin Van Peebles Trailblazer Award at the 9th Annual American Black Film Festival (ABFF), Jeff Friday, cofounder and producer of the ABFF, announced today . The ABFF is a five-day retreat and international film market held annually in Miami’s South Beach. This year’s festival will take place July 13-17.

“For the better part of 30 years, Warrington has built a distinguished career as a pioneering Black filmmaker, activist and curator. It is for that reason we are pleased to honor him with the ABFF’s Melvin Van Peebles Trailblazer Award,” Friday said.

Hudlin, who began his career making documentary films, cofounded the BFF in 1978 to foster audience development and provide financial assistance to independent Black filmmakers. More recently, Hudlin founded and is the executive producer of the BFF DV Lab, a multicultural, socially concerned digital film company.

Born and raised in East St. Louis, Illinois, Hudlin graduated from Yale University in 1974. His work as a film producer includes the teenage hit House Party, the animated feature, Bebe’s Kids, and his first major Hollywood picture, Boomerang. He also won a Cable ACE award for the HBO Special Cosmic Slop. In addition, Hudlin is a cofounder and was also the curator of the Acapulco Black Film Festival.

“Our continued success demonstrates the unparalleled status of ABFF as the premiere international film festival for filmmakers of color,” said Friday. “It is through the continued support of HBO and Time Warner that we are able to give Black artists across the world a platform to express their voices. My sincere thanks to Olivia Smashum of HBO for her vision and help in forging the expanding relationship between Time Warner and Film Life.”

Novelist, playwright, musician, composer, actor, editor, director, producer and cultural icon, Melvin Van Peebles has been credited with paving the way for modern African-American filmmakers. “Melvin Van Peebles is the godfather of modern Black cinema, and his groundbreaking film, Sweet Sweetback’s Baadassss Song, was one of the first truly Black independent film projects,” Friday said. “He is a legend in the history of African-American cinema and his remarkable career and achievements have influenced events in American film history,” Friday added.

Van Peebles made his feature film debut in 1967 as the director, writer and composer of The Story of a Three Day Pass. In 1971, he starred in, wrote, produced directed, financed and distributed the groundbreaking, Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song, one of the highest-grossing independent films at the time. The film ushered in a new era of Black independent filmmaking. His other directing credits include “The Watermelon Man (1970) and Don’t Play Us Cheap (1973). In addition, he wrote the Tony Award nominated Broadway musical Ain’t Supposed to Die a Natural Death, and Classified X. In 1995, his son, actor/director Mario Van Peebles, directed his screenplay Panther.

Dedicated to strengthening the independent film community, the ABFF attracts more than 2,500 attendees and is recognized as the premiere Black film festival. The ABFF is a property of Film Life, Inc., a New York-based film marketing and distribution company. Its mission is to spearhead the global distribution of quality Black films and become the leading American brand producing Black movies and related entertainment content.

Time Warner Inc. is the festival’s presenting sponsor and Home Box Office is the founding sponsor. Other festival sponsors include: Lincoln Mercury (Platinum), Blockbuster and UrbanWorks Entertainment (Gold), as well as American Airlines, Fox Searchlight Pictures, Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau, Kodak, Nickelodeon, Nielsen Media Research, Starbucks, Turner Classic Movies, and VURV, Inc. (Silver).