- Faith & Family
There was plenty of rain in the forecast last week and Miami got soaked but it still did not put a damper on the various activities that were part of the 16th Annual American Black Film Festival [ABFF]. One new addition to the myriad of events was a community showcase film screening that featured the works of local filmmakers — both adults and students who are under 18-years-old and still learning the art of writing, directing and/or producing their own movies.
City of Miami Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones and The Overtown Community Redevelopment Agency partnered with the ABFF this year — shuttling visitors back and forth between activities on South Beach, downtown Miami, Overtown, Little Havana and Little Haiti Cultural Center. Sunday’s showcase was the result, she said, of several Miami-based filmmakers who felt that their works were not being given their just due during ABFF programs in year’s past.
“ABFF has always brought outstanding films, actors and directors to Miami each year but sometimes those Blacks who makeup our local film industry have felt like they haven’t had the chance to participate fully,” she said. “That’s why we decided to put on this community showcase. And given the number of entries and the response from the audience [the Arsht Center’s Carnival Studio Theater was packed] we’re going to make our Sunday tradition to end the Film Festival.”
Seven filmmakers make their premiers
After the CRA issued a call for film entries, they selected seven to be screened at the Showcase. The films were a combination of documentaries, short films and dramas and included: Runway Afrique, Cathleen Deen and Chetaci Egwu; Rastafari — The Movement, Joseph Dunn; The Black Miami, Michael Williams; and The Gift, Elijah Wells, student filmmaker. The three films chosen as winners of the showcase that will be featured on the ABFF website were Marvin Dunn’s documentary, “Murder on the Suwanee River: The Willie James Howard Story”; Darren Saunders’ drama, “Make-Up”; and student filmmaker Xavier Dowuonah-Thompson’s short film, “Insomnia.”
Saunders has had his share of success here in South Florida and said he was proud of his film and the collective efforts of his team.
“It took a lot of people to put this project together and so to win is a real treat,” he said. “But most important for me and the rest of my fellow filmmakers is to have the opportunity to show our work in this kind of venue. It gives the kind of exposure we need. The next step is to make longer films, bigger films and take my work to the next level.”
At the conclusion of the Showcase, the final film from Saturday evening, “Raising Izzie,” was re-shown. The film will make its gmc Television Network debut in July. The film, the winner of the 2011 gmc Faith and Family screenplay competition, tackles the topics of love, family and flips the script on cross-racial adoption. Roger M. Bobb directed and produced the film. It stars Rockmond Dunbar and Vanessa Williams. Williams was on hand for a Q&A after the screening. Look for our complete interview with her in upcoming editions.
By D. Kevin McNeir