Black Hollywood’s Power Movers Speak and Inspire at ABFF

This weekend’s American Black Film Festival (ABFF) took over New York City with sights and sounds that thrilled everyone from green filmmaking novices to the biggest names in the motion picture industry.

This weekend’s American Black Film Festival (ABFF) took over New York City with sights and sounds that thrilled everyone from green filmmaking novices to the biggest names in the motion picture industry. During four powerful days filled with messages of inspiration and motivation, one of the standout panels was Saturday’s “Spike…Ya Dig!” A retrospective of the works of the independent film rebel turned American icon, Spike Lee’s introduction began with a speech from ABFF founder Jeff Friday, followed by an inspiring tap dance routine from Savion Glover and introduction by actor Charles S. Dutton. The conversation, moderated by journalist Roland Martin, covered many of Lee’s more controversial films as well as tongue-in-cheek interaction between Spike and Martin.

“We shot She’s Gotta Have It in 16 days,” said Lee. “We planned it out in phases.  The first phase was to raise the money, second phase was getting the film out of the way, the third phase was to have enough money to eat and to cut the film so it could be in decent shape for the investors to see it.  So, a film that cost $175,000 went on to make $8,500,000.”

Across town at Metropolitan College – another venue hosting the ABFF – filmmaker Rob Hardy hosted the master class “Rob Hardy’s Amazing Stories.” Just as the name alludes, the conversational lecture in lower Manhattan featured comedic anecdotes and real life struggles that Hardy faced on his climb as a filmmaker and producer.

“I had a project for Dominque Wilkins. He did not buy the projects. I had another project for Larenz Tate. He would not star in the project.  Some of us get caught up in the “one” project.  People be like ‘Man, I have an amazing project.' I see them five years later and they’re like ‘I’m still on that same project,’” Hardy said. “You have a lot of ideas, a big brain and a big heart for your work.  Do something with it.”

Back at the Metropolitan Pavilion, Star Jones hosted and moderated “Because of You: A Conversation with Phylicia and Condola Rashad.” The queen of television and her daughter, a princess of theater, sat down to discuss everything from the role of Black women in television and film to what it’s like to be around Bill Cosby. “It was so important to me that my children felt included in what I do,” said Phylicia. While Condola pointed out, “My mother was always there, cooking too, so I remember that …. My mother taught me what’s mine is mine so I don’t need to be intimidated by anybody.”

While on Sunday, the final day of ABFF, Aspire TV gave a sneak peek from Season 3 of the series ABFF Independent. Hosted by actor Omari Hardwick, the leading man was in attendance to speak at the event.

“When Jeff [Friday] told me that he saw me being in a particular place and then Whitney [Houston] before she passed on, I had to think quietly about the fact that her and Magic Johnson said it before anybody. Magic said it years ago when I was living at the YMCA,” said Hardwick, before introducing short films like the clever black and white 1920’s-like, The Silent Treatment by Martine Jean; Positive by Helen Banks, a short film about a black woman who is living with HIV; and Mathew Cherry’s This Time, which stars Reagan Gomez and Terry Vaughn in a tale about the military breaking up a relationship based on true love. “[To be on] Aspire, Magic’s incredible groundbreaking pioneering network, but also specifically ABFF Independent I said, ‘I’m all in.’ And I’m happy to bring you this season…we’re doing movies outside the box, love lessons, history and strength, family affair we’re doing a bunch of different types of movies which we think more than anything movies and art the aesthetic, if I can say, anything to Maya Angelou and Ruby Dee’s to their legacy to pay homage to their thought process is that we don’t do this unless we’re teaching. I think ABFF Independent has become one of the leading ways for me to teach and to be a part of the teaching diaspora and involved with a lot of other people that are just as interested in teaching.”