The 2023 American Black Film Festival has announced its lineup of feature films for this year, including projects starring Pam Grier, Omari Hardwick, Mike Colter, and more.
The festival, taking place every year in Miami Beach, FL, will begin June 14 and last through June 18.
The 2023 festival has cited “record-breaking submissions- doubled from last year,” including films hailing from America, the UK and Mexico. The Best of ABFF Awards event will honor many of these films June 17, hosted by actor and author Dondré Whitfield.
This year’s lineup of films includes two films by the producing team of Oz Scott and NBA star Kevin Garnett–Murder City starring Michael Colter and Cinnamon, starring Pam Grier and Damon Wayans. Other notable films screening this year include Phels High starring Omari Hardwick, Alden Maldonado and Elise Neal, and Jagged Mind, directed by Kelley Kali.
As previously announced, the anticipated Netflix film They Cloned Tyrone, starring John Boyega, Jamie Foxx and Teyonah Parris, will headline the festival as its opening film. The festival has Lena Waithe as its 2023 Festival Ambassador.
“The American Black Film Festival is akin to a reunion that celebrates, discovers, and uplifts artists and our attendees, and this year is no exception with an exciting lineup of diverse filmmaking that showcases Black culture. Over the course of five days in Miami, followed by seven days of virtual programming, we invite audiences to explore the art of storytelling through their own lens,” said Nicole Friday, president and COO, ABFF Ventures in a statement. “We’re proud to highlight emerging filmmakers and bring a wide-range of empowering stories to our community.”
Below is the complete list of films, an announcement exclusive to Shadow and Act:
NARRATIVE FEATURES (U.S. & International)
A competitive section for U.S. and international feature-length films directed by or written and produced by persons of African descent. Films in this category are eligible to be nominated to compete for the following Jury Awards – Best Actor (presented by Ally Financial, $2,500 cash prize), Best Director (presented by Cadillac, $5,000 cash prize), and Best Narrative Feature (presented by Andscape, $2,500 cash prize). The following films represent the 2023 official selections in the Narrative Features category:
A Song from the Dark
After the mysterious death of her husband, a woman with a dark family secret hires a spirit-hunter to expel a spirit tormenting her family.
UK | 103 min
Director: Ogo Okpue
Writer: Ogo Okpue
Producer: Ogo Okpue
Cast: Vanessa Vanderpuye, Nse Ikpe Etim, Wale Ojo, Garcia Brown, Paul Coster
Jodi, a gas station attendant with killer pipes and big dreams (Hailey Kilgore), falls hopelessly in love with a hustler (David Iacono), only to fall foul of a local crime lord (Pam Grier) and her murderous family.
USA | 91 min
Director: Bryian Keith Montgomery Jr.
Writer: Bryian Keith Montgomery Jr.
Producers: Oz Scott, Kevin Garnett
Cast: Damon Wayans, Pam Grier, Hailey Kilgore, David Iacono
Jagged Mind *World Premiere
When Billie starts dating a mysterious new girlfriend, she is plagued by blackouts and strange visions that lead her to discover she’s stuck in a series of time loops.
USA | 88 min
Director: Kelley Kali
Writer: Allyson Morgan
Producers: David Worthen Brooks, Arbi Pedrossian, Jenna Cavelle, Daniela Ruiz, Kelley Kali, Congyu E
Cast: Maisie Richardson-Sellers, Shannon Woodward
Million to One *World Premiere
Dre Shaw reluctantly puts his life as a social media rising star on hold to return home for his brother’s wedding, only to go from family liability to savior.
USA | 73 min
Director: Harold Jackson
Writer: Harold Jackson
Producers: Harold Jackson, Elena Lake, Laketa Bailey, Tsedey Aragie
Cast: Rob Gordon, Ashley Rios, Michael J Patterson, Briana Cortesiano
Murder City *World Premiere
After losing his job on the police force, Neil (Mike Colter) is forced to work with the city’s most ruthless kingpin, Ash (Stephanie Sigman), to settle the debts of his estranged father, Graham (Antonio Fargas).
Mexico| 85 min
Director: Michael D Olmos
Writer: Michael D Olmos
Producers: Oz Scott, Kevin Garnett
Cast: Mike Colter, Stephanie Sigman, Antonio Fargas, Medina Senghore
Phels High *World Premiere
Loyalty amongst friends isn’t always the case, when your life is on the line.
USA | 85 min
Director: Kevin J. Nelson
Writer: Kevin J. Nelson
Producers: Kevin J. Nelson, Michael Arcell, Rovelt Laforet
Cast: Omari Hardwick, Elise Neal, Michael Hyatt, TJ Atoms, Allen Maldonado
Playing Sam *World Premiere
When a Latina actress struggles to stand out from the stereotypical role, she channels her turbulent love life to book the character of her dreams.
USA | 89 min
Director: Ramon Pesante
Writers: Ramon Pesante, Jenni Ruiza
Producers: Jessica Hernandez, Jenni Ruiza, Elaine del Valle, Michelle Johnson, Marc Reign, Burton Lewis
Cast: Alana Johnson, Jenni Ruiza, Marc Reign, William DeMeritt, Phyllis Salaberrios
Summer of Violence *World Premiere
Refusing law school to pursue poetry, a sheltered college grad, cut off from her father’s money, struggles to survive while living in Denver during the Summer of Violence in 1993.
USA | 104 min
Director: Nicki Micheaux
Writer: Nicki Micheaux
Producers: Efuru Flowers, Nicki Micheaux, Sean Riggs
Cast: Kasey Inez, Damon Gupton, Jahking Guillory
A competitive section for nonfiction feature films directed by persons of African descent or centered on the culture and experiences of persons of African descent. Films in this
category are eligible to be nominated to compete for the Jury Award for Best Documentary ($2,500 cash prize). The following films represent the 2023 official selections in the Documentary Features category:
Bad Things Happen in Philadelphia *World Premiere
Bad Things Happen in Philadelphia is a full-length documentary focusing on the effects of gun violence on young men, women & mothers living in Philadelphia.
USA | 69 min
Director: Kyra Knox
Producer: Kyra Knox
Executive Producers: Allen Iverson, Mark Mims
Cast: Garry Mills, Wynter Bess, Kalil Camara, David King
Betye Saar: Ready to be a Warrior
Filmed over the course of 8 years, this documentary is a love letter to famed LA artist Betye Saar as she navigates life as a Black Woman artist.
USA | 77 min
Director: Angela Robinson Witherspoon
Producers: Angela Robinson Witherspoon, Abdul Malik Abbott
Cast: Betye Saar, John Legend, CCH Pounder, Alison Saar, Lezley Saar
America’s medical establishment has turned giving birth into a battleground for Black women and their babies
USA | 86 min
Director: Monique N. Matthews
Writers: Jacoba Atlas, Monique N. Matthews
Producer: Sasheen Artis
Cast: Allyson Felix
Black Barbie: A Documentary
Through intimate access to a charismatic Mattel Insider, Beulah Mae Mitchell, Black Barbie delves into the cross-section of merchandise and representation as Black Women strive to elevate their own voices and stories, refusing to be invisible.
USA | 100 min
Director: Lagueria Davis
Writer: Lagueria Davis
Producers: Aaliyah Williams, Lagueria Davis
Cast: Beulah Mae Mitchell, Kitty Black Perkins, Stacey McBride-Irby, Ashley Blaine Featherson-Jenkins, Gabourey Sidibe, Julissa Calderon
Gaining Ground: The Fight for Black Land *World Premiere
From Executive Producer Al Roker, Gaining Ground: The Fight for Black Land answers the question; why has black ownership of farmland dwindled to alarmingly low numbers, and examines the causes, effects, and solutions to the issue of Heirs’ Property.
USA | 96 min
Director: Eternal Polk
Writer: Eternal Polk
Producers: Chimene Williams, Denise Hurst Green, Francisco Newman
Executive Producers: Al Roker & Eternal Polk
Higher Power *World Premiere
Higher Power uses the stories of Black Washingtonians fighting to enter the legal cannabis industry to reveal the stark reality of 700,000 disenfranchised Americans living in Washington, D.C. and the urgent need for D.C. Statehood.
USA | 64 min
Director: Dewey Ortiz Jr.
Writers: Rafi Aliya Crockett, Dewey Ortiz Jr.
Producer: Rafi Aliya Crockett
Cast: Eleanor Holmes Norton, Queen Adesuyi, David Gross, Jason Alrich, JohnChe Larracuente
Owning a home—the cornerstone of generational wealth—is increasingly out of reach for people of color. In Detroit, a group of Black women fight against scammers, evictions, and traditional banks to help make The American Dream a reality for all.
USA | 87 min
Directors: Kate Davis, Luchina Fisher
Producer: Rupert Maconick
Cast: Soummer Crawford, Geraldine Smith-Bey, Niaja Rutledge
National Battle of the Bands, Salute To HBCU Marching Bands *Festival Premiere
History, Culture, Pomp, and Circumstance. From football halftimes to battles in the stands. So, you think you know all there is to know about HBCU Marching Bands… Well think again!
USA | 42 min
Director: Reggie Scott
Writer: Reggie Scott
Producers: Reggie Scott, Derek Webber
Cast: Derek Webber, Dr. Charles McClelland, Chauncey Hamlett, Dr. Julian White, Dr. Michael Magruder, Donovan Wells, Warren Duncan, Kedrick Taylor, Jared White
Riding Legacy (An Oklahoma Black Cowboy Story)
Cowboy culture as the past, present, and future of black Oklahomans.
USA | 60 min
Directors: Kian Taylor, James “Videohero” Ridley
Writer: Nicole Jocleen
Producer: Nicole Jocleen
Cast: Danell Tipton, Tory Johnson, Kandra Demery, Ronnie Davis, Da’Mon Hopkins
The Five Demands
“The Five Demands” tells the dramatic but little known story of the 1969 student strike that changed the face of higher education.
USA | 74 min
Directors: Greta Schiller, Andrea Weiss
Producers: Greta Schiller, Andrea Weiss
Executive Producer: Stanley Nelson
Cast: Henry Arce, Francee Covington, Dorothy Randall Gray, Charles Powell