The 2020 American Black Film Festival has brought some incredible talent this year and we’re excited to see some of the compelling films coming out of the festival. Today, press and distributors were invited to meet the filmmakers in the U.S. Narratives category to give a quick pitch about their film. Streamed online with participants in over 40 countries around the world this is certainly a grand opportunity for these emerging filmmakers. Select films are available to the public for free on ABFF’s website, Click here to register.
The following quotes were edited and condensed for clarity.
A New York Christmas Wedding
Director: Otoja Abit
“My film stars Chris Noth and Tyra Ferrell. I met Tyra at the 2019 ABFF Film Festival, and our film is about love lost, love gained, and also it’s a fresh opportunity to find out more diversity, sexuality, and race in the Christmas genre.”
Asunder, One Flesh Divided
Director: Alana Barrett-Adkins
“I’m the writer, director, and producer of my debut feature film Asunder, One Flesh Divided — so what’s it about? Okay, after five years of marriage, Brandon and Ruth, two very successful attorneys in their field, they’re experiencing some issues after Ruth has a entanglement with a coworker, and instead of going to a red table and discussing and hashing it out, they find themselves on a red sofa in a counselor’s office, and more importantly, they find themselves reckoning with a red cross as Christians and as believers. And one of the things that this film really reckons with is the idea of what does it really mean to truly love someone, not only sacrificially, but love someone truly for who they are, where they are and how do you love somebody the way God loves somebody? It obviously uses humor, suspense, thrills, and you start to see a lot of secrets and addictions. A lot of things hidden below the surface in their marriage start to grow up. On top of that, their family is crazy. So Asunder is definitely not something that you want to miss.”
Director: Chris Bailey
“What’s up everybody, I’m Chris Bailey the writer, director of my debut feature Curtis. The story follows a former basketball star suffering from mental illness, who finds himself stuck in a time warp after he loses his high school championship ring. Curtis is about regret, mental illness, and ultimately believing in yourself. My whole mantra for the film is that everybody has a story. And I think that saying is more important than ever today that mental health and illness are at the top of a lot of conversations. I think that we all have our own traumas in our life that we’re healing from and sometimes the only difference between us and people like Curtis is just that their traumas are a lot more apparent. I hope people take away from the film is just to be more patient and gentle with people. Because ultimately, everybody has a story.”
Death of a Telemarketer
Producer: Datari Turner
“My film Death of a Telemarketer I’m Datari Turner I’m the producer. The film is a thriller comedy. Think Phone Booth meets Office Space, and is basically about a smooth talking telemarketer who because of his talent and because of his charisma has been able to cheat his way through life until he tries to cheat the wrong person.
The cast is an all-star cast: Lamorne Morris, who has a new series on Hulu called Woke, Academy Award nominees Jackie Earle Haley, and Haley Joel Osment, Alisha Wainwright from Raising Dion, Sujata Day from Insecure. David So, who was one of the leads in the Sundance 20 film Goop, Matt McGorry from Uncorked and How to Get Away with Murder, Woody McClain who’s in the new Power spin-off Starletta DuPois from The Notebook, Gil Ozeri from Black AF and Ian Verdun. And the writer, director is a super talented young filmmaker named Khaled Ridgeway, who I’m really excited about.”
Director: Chris Chalk
“Hello, my name is Chris Chalk, our film Farewell finds Grace Charles who dreams of being a world famous author but her reality finds her struggling to balance her needs with her newlywed husband and are well meaning, often smothering friends. Grace is again putting herself last taking a job overseas and tonight, her friends are throwing a farewell party. Immediately devoured in an emotional tug of war that threatens to rip her beyond her limits, Grace stands tattered then the murder begins. Inspired by ensemble narratives, such as The Big Chill, The Invitation inspired by stories like The Strangers, it’s a love letter to Black and brown Americans, and those who feel unseen. It’s inspired by my own diverse group of friends who just like me seek more representation. I personally have been lucky enough to have the awesome opportunity in my career to work with incredible artists: Aaron Sorkin, Kathryn Bigelow, Steve McQueen, and Ava DuVernay. And while I’m literally nothing like them in personality — I do share the same dedication to storytelling with a purpose.”
G.O.D. – Givers of Death
Director: Addison Henderson
I am the Writer Director Producer star of Givers of Death. Obviously I’m a masochist but that’s neither here nor there. Let me tell you a little bit about what Givers of Death is about. It’s an apocalyptic Sci-Fi urban tale of redemption and incurable virus has wiped out one third of the world’s population, and so many infected with this virus commit suicide to enter agony, but those that can’t bring themselves to end their own lives — hire professionals. Now this movie is the journey of a hitman, that professional, on his quest for peace, as he navigates through the city on the brink of collapse. While all the while being on a run from a detective seeking revenge. So this movie really is about what is peace to you? What is redemption? How can a bad guy considerably find peace? And how does the city navigate when dealing with a virus?
I wrote this movie a year ago, not knowing that we would be living through a pandemic and to see it play out now. It’s crazy. It’s like a full-circle thing. I have some amazing young talent, like, Jonathan Steyr who’s on this call as well, Louis Lombardi from The Sopranos myself up and coming, J.J. Alfieri, a lot of great talented people from the city of Buffalo came out and put some great stellar performances together, and I’m looking forward to everybody watching this timely film. Thank you.”
Intolerance No More
Director: Sergio Guerrero Grazafox
“I’m the film producer, director and writer of the film, Intolerance No More. Intolerance No More is about an encounter between an African American woman and a police officer that leaves him dead, four cameras captured the event, each camera tells a different story. Intolerance No More is not only about police brutality against the Black and brown communities but also talks about the social media and the resistance we’re living in.
It was shot in a unique cinematic language, never seen before. Trust me, so we will keep you at the edge of your seat. So on behalf of the cast and crew and myself, we would like to finally call, and Jeff for opening their arms, and the festival floors, to Intolerance No More, please check it out and let us know what you think. Thanks.”
Director: Antoine Allen
“How you doing guys is Antoine Allen the writer and director of Lola. Lola is about an African American female that goes through some trauma and turns her pain into passion. She winds up getting sexually assaulted and becoming this boxer. So this is the first-ever African American female boxer that we have in the market is my female version of Rocky. It stars Taja V. Simpson, she’s on Tyler Perry’s hit show The Oval. So people out there watching this film, if you have a daughter, mother or wife — this is an underdog story. Sometimes females, especially Black females at the doorstep, they are the reason why we’re here today and this is my love letter to all my beautiful queens out there in this film market. We never had an African American female boxing film ever. So guys, if you want to see something original, unique, check out Lola. It’s my female version of Rocky, like I said, and hope you enjoy it. Thank you.”
No Ordinary Love
Director: Chyna Robinson
“Hi, my name is China Robinson I’m the writer and director of the cerebral thriller No Ordinary Love. It’s a highly impactful female-centric story written, produced, directed and edited by women shown through the lenses of our leading ladies Elizabeth and Tanya. This film is my feature debut, is about the women’s husband’s dirty little secrets, they present their lives one way to the world that is extremely different from their lives behind closed doors, even people they’re closest to don’t suspect what’s going on in their homes. Elizabeth comes to the realization that our situation is closer to Tanya’s than she’d ever thought the deeper she gets with Tanya the more she realizes what’s real in her own life.
Both women plot their increasingly dangerous situations but the escape may turn deadly. This film has done well in film festival circuits winning audience Choice Awards at several festivals including Bronze Lens in Atlanta last week, the audience’s usually talk back to the screen they laugh, curse, hold their breath at our surprise ending, and it resonates in a really big way. We’ve also won best film, screenplay and several awards for editing and acting.”
Director: Tyler Moore
“Hello everyone I am the writer, director, producer and leading actress behind the feature film Normal. In a matter of 10 days and with a budget of $6,000 we were able to create something truly magical and different. This story is about Roman and Alexis. They are newlyweds and they find out that their first child together will be born with Down Syndrome. It’s in the 90s just because we’re talking about the uncomfortable issues and the newness of Down syndrome. It brings a lot more truth to that story set in the 90s but also, everyone has been looking for those 90 spiels, those good love movies like Soul Food and The Best Man, so those are some guiding lights for this film.”
Producer: Dave Ragsdale
“My name is Dave Ragsdale the producer of the award-winning film Pink Opaque, I want to thank Nicole, Jeff and all of you here today for this opportunity to present our little film that we made with love. Pink Opaque is the creation of a diverse team of Los Angeles based filmmakers focused on creating inclusive content for the worldwide marketplace, starring Elijah Boothe from Netflix’s Luke Cage Pink Opaque is truly an ensemble film that follows the struggles of Travis Wolf, a film student fighting to finish his thesis film. While nurturing a budding romance with Kristin Lee, a streetwise fashion designer on the rise, Travis also reconnects with his estranged uncle. This leads to an unfamiliar look at his family history, a renewed uncertainty of his future, a diverse cast of strong relatable characters that audiences will see in themselves, make this an authentic look at life here in Los Angeles. We believe the themes of love, family and redemption, make this a story that speaks to viewers. We strive for authenticity of character in time, while examining social issues like homelessness, sexuality, and prejudice. We hope you all enjoy Pink Opaque thank you very much for your time letting us present today.”
Take Out Girl
Director: Hissoni Johnson
“I am the co-writer, director and producer of Take Out Girl. Take Out Girl is the story of Tara Wong a 20 year old desperate Asian American girl who parlays her food delivery expertise into a profitable drug hustle in order to give her family, a better life and to save their failing restaurant, the things I’m most proud of, with this film is our lead actress who is a new talent infusing some freshness into the acting scene. The best way to describe her is a mix of Kimora Lee Simmons mixed with Suge Knight. Our antagonist, Ski Carr, is on Carl Weber’s Family Business which is doing really well on BET. The film pushes themes of criminality and the motivation behind that criminality.”
Producer: Tricia Woodgett
“My name is Tricia Woodgett I’m the producer of Tasmanian Devil. Executive produced by Benny Boom and Birdman from Cash Money. It’s a story about a 19 year old immigrant who moves to the US to go to college and he moves in with his estranged father, who left him and him and his mother in Nigeria when he was just a child.”[Tricia’s Zoom froze and Solomon completed the pitch]
Solomon Onita Jr: “The boy ends up joining a fraternity, and it’s kind of assimilation how a foreigner will assimilate into American culture, and how he finds his own place through joining this fraternity. It’s a coming of age story.”
The Available Wife
Director: Jamal Hill
“I’m Jamal Hill the writer and director of The Available Wife. My executive producer is Tressa Smallwood, and the movie The Available Wife is the story of Nicole Wright, an overambitious housewife who turns her back on her blue collar husband to see what the grass is like on the other side of fame and fortune, she ultimately finds out the hard way that the burden of ham beats two in the bush. This film is starring Kj Smith from Tyler Perry’s Sisters.”
The Killing of Kenneth Chamberlain
Director: David Midell
“Hi everyone, my name is David Midell and I’m the writer and director of the film The Killing of Kenneth Chamberlain. I want to start off by just thanking a ABFF for having us. It’s been an incredible experience so far. The Killing of Kenneth Chamberlain tells the true story of the events that led to the death of Kenneth Chamberlain, a senior who was an elderly African American Veteran suffering from bipolar disorder, who was killed by police when they were called to his home to check on his medical well being.
The film addresses the intersection between race and class and mental health, and how all of those issues affect someone’s treatment by law enforcement and in the criminal justice system. The film stars Frankie Faison from Luke Cage, and Tony-winner Anika Noni Rose. Thank you very much.”
Director: Chris Larceny
“The Lick project is a five episodic TV series that we actually filmed out here in Miami. The Lick is basically a quick come up on how you could get money you could basically gamble get a lick. Get a lottery ticket, get a lick as a quick come up on how to get money. We start with Clifton Powell who plays the character Rich. Rich comes home after 20 years doing a fresh sentence, and he’s trying to get a lick between street connections that he knows. And of course, he has to get through his rival, he has to get through the FBI and get through a plethora of gangs and rivals. Miami is a whole kaleidoscope of different cultures and ethnicities. So in this project, we turned it into an international TV series. So you have the Russians you have the Colombians you have the Haitians, you have the Mexicans. You have all types of different demographics that represent Miami.”
Young & Reckless
Producer: Stewart Spraggins
Hello, my name is Stewart Spraggins, producer of Young & Reckless. This film is written and directed by Timothy Barker. What we want to do with this film is basically simple: we wanted to create or speak to the youth in a language they can understand. As long as that is telling certain issues that are deep as far as in the Black community. Again we understand that the youth may not have their voice have things broken down to them. This film, again, should be a platform to the culture.
And thank you again for taking time to view it took us a lot of time to put it in. We filmed this in 15 days, it was 7K as far as the budget. So again, thank you American Black Film Festival 2020, and we hope you love this film.
Films not present on the call:
The American Black Film Festival is running from Aug 21-Aug 30 check their website for details on more panels and film information.
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Jamie Broadnax is the creator of the online community for Black women called Black Girl Nerds. Jamie has appeared on MSNBC's The Melissa Harris-Perry Show and The Grio's Top 100. Her Twitter personality has been recognized by Shonda Rhimes as one of her favorites to follow. She's the primary film critic for BGN and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critic Association