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American Black Film Festival

Day 1 (October 26) | Day 2 (October 27) | Day 3 (October 28) | Day 4 (October 29)

Checking In | Opening Press Conference | Screenings
Opening Night Film | Opening Night Party

Checking In

Compared to just about any festival or event I've been to, I must say that the registration area at the 2007 American Black Film Festival was one of the more polished and hospitable, if not the most. Located on the second floor of the Hotel Sofitel, a short flight of stairs led immediately to a manned info table, which leads to a hallway in which various sponsor tables: Allstate, Codeblack Entertainment, IntaJuice (who apprently will be serving smoothies during the festival duration--or at least I hope they do), GS Entertainment and The Word Network, Kodak, and BET J. At every turn various fest employees clad in ABFF T-shirts were quick to offer hellos, and when they could not find my check-in packet labeled for me at press check-in, the reps did not make a stink and were instead courteous and accommodating. I'm guessing that this rather startling air of personability hasdto do with this fest originating outside of Los Angeles and therefore isn't a product of this crazy town.

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Opening Press Conference

The festival got underway--for media, that is--with the opening day press conference at the Hotel Sofitel's Beverly Ballroom. Festival founder and Film Life CEO Jeff Friday did not waste any time in answering what was the most pressing question--why the relocation to Los Angeles after a successful run in Miami. Despite being a top destination film festival for the "urban" entertainment community, the festival's activities and wild success was completely off of the Hollywood establishment's radar, and so the need was felt to move it to their backyard, so to speak, so they cannot help but take notice. The mission statement effectively delivered, it was down to basic festival business, such as introducing representatives from sponsors Allstate and HBO; and a few words from this year's festival grand jury president, Antoine Fuqua.

Film Life president Jeff Friday
(photo by Michael Dequina)

Antoine Fuqua
(photo by Michael Dequina)

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Screenings: Deadmeat; The Mannsfield 12

Deadmeat poster The primary screening venue for the festival was the Mann Beverly Center Cinemas, where three of the multiplex's 13 screens were devoted to festival films. While the theatre was remarkably convenient for both geographic (directly across the street from the home base of Hotel Sofitel) and practical (in a mall situated in a busy shopping district with more than ample parking) purposes, it's hardly the most ideal venue in terms of exhibition. The Beverly Center Cinemas are widely regarded as one of the worst theatres in Los Angeles, and with good reason--aging and in desperate need of renovation, and many of its auditoriums are smaller than many people's home theatre set-ups. Despite taking over the two largest auditoriums and hence screens at the theatre, I'm sure the venue was not exactly what filmmakers had in mind upon learning their works were accepted into the festival.

The Mannsfield 12 poster Given the non-holiday, weekday afternoon time frame, the first screenings were sparsely attended, but these early selections got the festival off to a strong start: the UK crime drama Deadmeat, written and directed by Q; and Craig Ross Jr.'s ensemble prison drama The Mannsfield 12--two gritty works that hopefully will find life outside of the festival.

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Opening Night Film: This Christmas

This Christmas poster Film Life showed just how on the ball they are with the festival with their extremely efficient shuttle service from the Sofitel to the primary event venue of the Writers Guild Theatre, which is not exactly far away, but not within walking distance. Most shuttles at conventions and such are buses or other large vehicles whose departure times were determined by how quickly they filled up. In a canny bit of sponsor partnering, Lincoln provided the festival with a fleet of SUVs that would accommodate only up to four passengers--thus ensuring quick departures and swift vehicle turnaround.

And so festival patrons made their way to the opening night gala of This Christmas at the WGA Theatre with a minimum of fuss. Although it was still the thick of autumn, the festival got into the holiday spirit with nearly all of the film's principals in attendance: stars Idris Elba, Regina King, Columbus Short, Sharon Leal, Lauren London, and David Banner; producer Will Packer; and writer-director Preston Whitmore. Friday and Packer gave spirited pre-film remarks, but their energy was dwarfed by that of ever-ebullient Screen Gems president Clint Culpepper, whose live-wire off-the-cuff musings got the festival off to a rollicking official start.

This Christmas producer Will Packer with Screen Gems president Clint Culpepper
(photo by Michael Dequina)

Culpepper speaks as Packer and cast members look on
(photo by Michael Dequina)

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Opening Night Party

While most of the festival activities took place within the Beverly Hills city limits, the big opening night afterparty was in the heart of Hollywood at the Boulevard 3 night club on Sunset Boulevard. The crowd was large and the atmosphere electric, showing that the festival has lost none of the Miami party spirit in making the move out west.

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Next Day: Friday, October 27

ABFF 2007 Home
Inside ABFF 2007
ABFF 2007 Awards

ABFF Official Site
Film Life Official Site


Inside American Black Film Festival 2007/© Michael Dequina
All images and multimedia files are copyright their respective copyright holders and no rights are given or implied

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