A year ago, when Jeff Friday, founder of the American Black Film Fest (ABFF), was locking in the dates to return to Miami’s South Beach, he didn’t realize history would be made on two fronts.
For the first time, in the sixteenth year history of the ABFF, the festival’s opening night film was not written or directed by a person of African or African American descent. Never before had this happened.
After many years of holding the fest, it finally dawned on Friday that he could no longer ask the mainstream fests such as Sundance to open with films written and directed by his community - if he wasn’t willing to do the same at his venue. Although the opening night film, Beast of the Southern Wild, may not have been written by a person of African descent, it did include a cast and a theme which connected with many of the ABFF participants.
Now besides Friday making history with the opening film, the ABFF continued this year’s fest by providing a platform for aspiring film makers, writers, producers and actors to network, to attend educational workshops, and to hone their skills. Added to this, the ABFF included a lively, interactive black trivia film game which was hosted by both Robert Townsend and Cadillac.
Townsend, who is a historian of black films (or just films in general), noted that while serving as game show host, at times, he was even stumped by some of the questions that were prepared by the folks from Cadillac.
And, as Don Butler, Cadillac’s vice president of marketing, reminded the plethora of participants who were all vying to win an iPad, the community has had a long history with the luxury brand. In fact, in the thirties, black men (since they were the breadwinners at the time) played a pivotal role in keeping the brand afloat during World War II. Although black men weren’t allowed to walk into a showroom to purchase a vehicle, white men were used to broker the deal, as oral history has documented. Oral documented stories like this is why Cadillac feels indebted to helping aspiring black film makers and writers to both document and share the stories that reflect their community so that they don’t get lost in history.
With that said, take a moment to thumb through this year’s ABFF gallery to check out the celebs, the winners and the fashion statements that were made. You may be surprised at what you see.
Jeff Fortson is an auto analyst and editor of a car-buying website for women and minorities. To learn more about his popular car-buying workshop and/or to price a new-vehicle, drive on over to www.JeffCars.com. Follow him @ twitter/JeffCars