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Black film stars, producers bring Hollywood to the Beach

admin | 6/21/2012, 5:30 a.m.

When Jeff Friday first founded the American Black Film Festival [ABFF] in 1997, his purpose was to give Blacks in the entertainment industry greater exposure, recognition and opportunities in one of this countrys most lucrative businesses filmmaking. Its core mission is to promote cultural diversity within the motion picture industry. The Festival marks its 16th year this Wednesday, June 20 in Miami Beach with one of the most talked about films coming out of both Sundance and the Cannes Film Festival, Beasts of the Southern Wild" and closes on Saturday, June 23 with Raising Izzie," winner of the 2011 Faith and Family screenplay competition. In between, there will be a Black Hollywood party, workshops on the future of Black entertainment and the barriers and biases that Black women continue to face in the industry, master classes, special contests, the always-anticipated HBO Short Film Competition and plenty of red carpet affairs. Speaking of the red carpet, those who have checked out the Festival in recent years may remember seeing some of their favorite actors and directors, including: Robert Townsend, Keenan Ivory Wayans, Lans Alonzo, Spike Lee, Vanessa Williams, Taraji Henson and Regina Hall. Many of them will be back this year, along with an ever-growing cast of talented Black actors, producers, directors and cinematographers. Tracee Ellis Ross will serve as this years festival ambassador. Special tribute to Think Like a Man One of the highlights during the four-day event will be an evening conversation [on Friday] with Will Packer, director of Think Like a Man. The movie raked in $33.6 million during its April premier and is now close to eclipsing a record-breaking $100 million domestically. Packer will be joined by his business partner, Rob Hardy, and director Tim Story, along with several members from the films stellar cast that will share behind-the-scenes stories about how the film came together from marketing and production to casting and the use of social media. Will Packer and Rob Hardy are very talented filmmakers, Friday said. They have a long history with the Festival and are the perfect example of how effective ABFFs platform can be. NOTE: The Miami Times sends its encouragement to 14-year-old Elijah Wells, who is a finalist in the Short Film Competition. Hell find out if his film was selected on Sunday, June 24th at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts beginning at 2 p.m. Break a leg Elijah.By D. Kevin McNeirkmcneir@miamitimesonline.com