American Black Film Festival: Movie Magic In Miami Heat

Film Life’s 17th Annual American Black Film Festival (ABFF) concluded on Sunday, June 23 after five days of film screenings, insightful panels, celebrity one-on-ones, master classes, talent showcases, symposiums, entertainment and corporate soirees. This year the festival, founded by Jeff Friday, had actor Omari Hardwick as its ABFF Celebrity Ambassador. traveled with ABFF premier sponsor Cadillac to Miami for the festival, which attracts more than 5,000 participants each year. Cadillac presented several functions during ABFF including the Opening Night Party, the “Meet the Filmmakers” series, a VIP Influencer Event, Cadillac Conversations, and a Black Movie Trivia Challenge. Cadillac also showcased their latest luxury models and festival attendees could sign up to receive shuttle services courtesy of Cadillac.

“We’re extremely selective about who we partner with,” said Don Butler, Vice President for Strategic Development for Cadillac. “We want to be connected to opportunities that move the conversation and are connecting with people’s passions. We want to make sure they are authentic and genuine in expanding and elevating.”

Nicole Friday, Jeff Friday & Jawn Murray

Friday – who was nursing a serious back injury during the festival – shared his appreciation for having Cadillac on for a third year and said he looked forward to a long-term relationship with them. “Other auto companies starting calling as soon as I partnered with you, but I’m glad to have you here,” he expressed.

During their Cadillac Conversations dinner at Barton G – moderated by Jocelyn Allen who oversees General Motors Regional Grassroots and Diversity Communications – Butler also shared with guests that Cadillac was preparing for their “global expansion” and aimed to make strides in countries where they have not had the greatest impact.

Acclaimed filmmaker Spike Lee was apart of Cadillac Conversations as well. Cadillac has tapped his advertising agency, Spike DDB to create commercial campaigns for their vehicles. Lee’s agency has already shot a commercial for the Spanish market that is receiving great feedback.

Butler also indicated that Cadillac needed to become “more inclusive” and that the company just shot their first ad campaign starring a woman. (Typically Cadillac is a vehicle marketed towards men.)

As part of Cadillac’s “Meet the Filmmakers” series, I had the opportunity to moderate a panel for Fox Searchlight’s film “Baggage Claim.” The movie’s executive producer and screenwriter David E. Talbert was on hand, as were the film’s stars Derek Luke, Boris Kodjoe and Terrence Jenkins.

Shaun Robinson of “Access Hollywood” hosted a panel with the cast of “The Best Man Holiday;” and Bevy Smith of Bravo’s “Fashion Queens” and AJ Calloway of “Extra” hosted the HBO Short Film Competition. Smith also hosted a reception at ABFF’s host hotel The Ritz Carlton for wine company Rosa Regale with singer Estelle.

Jawn Murray, Terrence J, David Talbert, Boris Kodjoe & Derek Luke

Throughout the five-day festival, Hollywood stars like Anthony Anderson, Regina King, Morris Chestnutt, Dondre Whitfield, Salli Richardson, Darrin Dewitt Henson, Nia Long, Michael K. Williams, Wesley JonathanBrian Hooks, Sanaa Lathan, Jesse Williams, Kali Hawk, Chris Spencer, Jamie Hector, Claudia Jordan, Nelsan Ellis, Keith David and Fredro Starr were among those spotted by

In addition to Lee and Talbert, filmmakers like Robert Townsend, Bill Duke, Roger M. Bobb, Datari Turner and Malcolm D. Lee were also in attendance. There was also a who’s who of film enthusiasts and industry influencers like TV and radio personality Flo Anthony,’s Wilson Morales, Jet magazine editor Mitzi Miller, promoter Chuck West and others on hand throughout the festival.

Kevin Hart presented his film, “Let Me Explain” for the closing night film presentation at The Gusman Theater of the Performing Arts. Hart and Codeblack Films CEO Jeff Clanagan participated in a Q&A following the film where they discussed how the comedian financed the film himself and the struggles of breaking into the international market with it. Miami Heat stars Lebron James, Dwyane Wade and Norris Cole, and Chicago Bulls player Richard Hamilton were all in attendance for Hart’s premiere.

To learn about the films and actors who won awards at ABFF, go to Special thanks to Cadillac for including in your ABFF experience.

PHOTOS: Check out photos from various ABFF events and festivities below. (All photos are courtesy of Cadillac, except two images provided by’s Wilson Morales.)

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