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American Black Film Festival Founder Jeff Friday, Black Storytellers Secret Weapon

Photo Credit: ABFF Ventures LLC

"Everybody loves Love Jones, if you don't love Love Jones, something is wrong with you," Jeff Friday, founder of the American Black Film Festival (ABFF), proclaims in our sit down.

For Friday, watching the iconic film play at Sundance over two decades ago was the start of what is now one of the most career-launching film festivals around, for Black storytellers. It was that encounter and noticing how well Love Jones did at the festival, yet not seeing many people who looked like him attending Sundance is when Jeff found his purpose and knew what he was suppose to do. Now, celebrating its milestone 25th year, the American Black Film Festival is more than another annual festival, but it serves as a vessel for Black filmmakers to feel embraced for their work and validate that they too belong in Hollywood. "Mainstream festivals doesn't work hard to invite people of color in, so we created our own," Friday explains as one of the reasons he founded the festival.

This year, ABFF kicks off on November 3rd with the premiere of the Will Smith helmed King Richard, and is completely free through Friday's innovative streaming service “ABFF 25 will not disappoint on our promise to deliver inspiring and dynamic programs,” Nicole Friday, president of ABFF Ventures LLC, said in a statement.

“With our unique global broadcast platform, we celebrate our 25-year journey of uplifting voices, sharing the talent of hundreds of artists and fostering a stronger Black entertainment community. We are grateful to our outstanding corporate sponsors and partners for their unwavering support of ABFF and its important mission over the years,” she continues.

The festival previously announced its 2021 official selections, an impressive collection of films and web series by emerging and established artists from countries including Brazil, South Africa, Canada, Namibia, the United Kingdom and the USA. Film producer and ABFF alumnus Will Packer (Girls Trip, Ride Along) will serve as the festival’s 2021 Jury President and will oversee the voting process. "I am hoping this year to inspire emerging filmmakers and reenergize established filmmakers," Packer, who has had an unbreakable relationship with ABFF since premiering his film Trios during the 1999 festival, said in a press conference.

ABFF attracts an increasingly broad audience, which has grown with virtual access and wants to continue the momentum. In 2020, over 54,000 people, representing over 90 countries, attended the festival via ABFF PLAY. In previous years, the festival has attracted approximately 10,000 celebrity talent, emerging artists, upscale consumers and industry stakeholders to travel to Miami Beach for the annual live event.

We caught up with Jeff Friday to talk about the upcoming festival, Jeff Friday Media's growth, Hollywood's progression, and more.

Celebrating 25 years, how excited are you in this moment?

I am very excited. When we first started, there was a lot of cynicism. People did not think we needed another film festival or a Black film festival. It was clear that Hollywood is not a fair place to operate, primarily with Black and Brown people that are not a part of the decision-making. My goal was simple; create a place that Black people can show their talents in front of Black people and be embraced.

In those moments of uncertainty what kept you going?

Faith that we were doing the right thing, and people who trusted me on the team. We have a lot of people who have been working on this for the last 25 years. When people trust you, they trust your leadership, you cant fail anybody. I have this burning desire to not let anybody down. From the people who work on this to the young filmmakers.

Check out the full interview.


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