Hollywood Black Film Festival

By Teryl Warren and Drew Dorsey 

This year’s ground-breaking Hollywood Black Film Festival brought thousands of actors, auteurs and film enthusiasts to the heart of Hollywood, CA from October 2 through October 6. The 13th installment of one of the most prestigious film festivals in town was once again housed at the W Hotel in Hollywood and the fabled Montalban Theater.

In addition to the typical screening and workshop fare, the festival ushered in a bevy of new programs for attendees to enjoy, including the Inaugural Film Diaspora – which showcased 11 films from 8 countries, as well as the Hollywood Black Film Festival Beauty Lounge which offered a menu of wonderful, complimentary pampering options from facials to pedicures.

This year’s festival also marked the beginning of a new partnership between The Hollywood Black Film Festival (HBFF) and NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and the spawning of its first initiative, PROJECT STARGAZER: Developing Diverse Sci-Fi Movies for the 21st Century. With a mission to encourage and support creative, multicultural works in the science fiction genre, PROJECT STARGAZER is a competition for screenwriters and filmmakers to create a sci-fi filmed entertainment project featuring NASA technology. It will provide writers and filmmakers from diverse communities with new resources to tell science fiction stories that capture science facts resulting from NASA science missions. “We’re looking for ideas and stories that can be developed into scripts, and ultimately films that captivate broad audiences as well as inspire future generations of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics) enthusiasts,” says Ms. Kersey. “We want to nurture and celebrate the next generation of diverse sci-fi storytellers.”


Project Stargazer Finalists


Additional signature programming included noted Casting Director Twinkie Byrd’s Monologue Slam for aspiring actors and the free live Storyteller Showcase celebrating the art of the written word.

Founded in 1998, the Hollywood Black Film Festival (HBFF) aims to enhance the careers of emerging and established Black filmmakers through a public exhibition, competition program and industry panels. Known amongst the entertainment industry’s powerbrokers as, “The Black Sundance,” the festival brings independent works of accomplished and aspiring black filmmakers to an environment encompassing the mainstream Hollywood community and Southern California film-going audiences. The festival’s goal is to play an integral role in discovering and launching independent films and filmmakers by bringing them to the attention of the industry, press and public. Since its inception, the Hollywood Black Film Festival has screened nearly 100 films from the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, France, Japan, the Bahamas, Central African Republic, Ghana, Burundi, Nigeria, Australia, South Africa, Kenya, Haiti, Burkina Faso, Niger, Russia, Brazil, Jordan, Jamaica, Spain, Cuba, Trinidad and Tobago, Singapore and the Philippines.

Powerful women took center stage in both of the biggest screenings of the festival – beginning with an Opening Night screening of the highly anticipated film, Winnie Mandela starring Academy Award winner Jennifer Hudson (Dreamgirls) and Academy Award nominee Terrence Howard (Hustle & Flow). The biopic film depicts the beleaguered relationship between the beloved Mandelas as well as their tireless efforts to end social injustice in South Africa.

Moving from a remote tribal village to the sprawling metropolis of Johannesburg, South Africa, a proud young Winnie (Jennifer Hudson) soon found love with a rising political star, Nelson Mandela (Terrence Howard). When Nelson was imprisoned for protesting the brutal Apartheid government, Winnie worked tirelessly to win his freedom and to carry on his message of peace and equality. Her struggle to keep the Mandela dream alive was rewarded by years of persecution and imprisonment, including 18 months of solitary confinement. Throughout, her resolve to fight for her freedom, her family and her country never wavered. Her leadership and unconquerable spirit caught the attention of the world and earned her the name “the mother of the nation.”

Hudson deftly portrays the complicated Mrs. Mandela as a woman who endures multiple trials with unconquerable strength. The film offers a sweeping look at Winnie Mandela’s life from her evolution as a young girl who refuses to be limited by gender into a devoted wife, spokeswoman and fighter who is ultimately held in solitary confinement for over eight months by the South African government.

The festival’s Closing Night film, Codeblack Films emotionally stirring The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete, was released to select theatres on October 11th. The LA Times has described it as “a moving bit of mischief and mayhem that will break your heart, give you hope, make you laugh, possibly cry.” Directed by George Tillman, Jr. and written by Michael Starrbury, The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete stars Academy Award® and Golden Globe® winner Jennifer Hudson (Dreamgirls), Golden Globe and EMMY® Award winner Jeffrey Wright (Boardwalk Empire, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Quantum of Solace), Skylan Brooks, Ethan Dizon, American Idol winner Jordin Sparks (Sparkle), Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Thor: The Dark World) and Anthony Mackie (Runner Runner, Pain & Gain). Jana Edelbaum, Rachel Cohen and Bob Teitel produced the film with Alicia Keys, Susan Lewis, Clay Floren, Aimee Shieh, Julio Depietro, Keith Kjarval, Mary Vernieu, and Amy Nauiokas executive producing. The film also features new music by Grammy® Award-winning multiplatinum recording artist Alicia Keys.

The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete is a beautifully observed and tremendously moving film about salvation through friendship and the way transformation sometimes can happen just by holding on long enough. During a sweltering summer in New York City, 13-year-old Mister’s (Skylan Brooks) hard-living mother (Jennifer Hudson) is apprehended by the police, leaving the boy and nine-year-old Pete (Ethan Dizon) alone to forage for food while dodging child protective services and the destructive scenarios of the Brooklyn projects.

George Tillman, Jordin Sparks & Intevitable Defeat cast

Faced with more than any child can be expected to bear, the resourceful Mister nevertheless feels he is an unstoppable force against seemingly unmovable obstacles. But what really keeps the pair in the survival game is much more Mister’s vulnerability than his larger-than-life attitude.

Fresh off the heels of her triumphant turn in the feature film Sparkle, Jordin Sparks delivers another impressive performance as “Alice” – a beautiful young woman faced with lifestyle changing moral decisions. On one end of the spectrum, Alice desires to be financially stable to rid her of the struggles she witnesses in inner city ghettos. In order to ensure that financial stability, she questions whether having an affair with a married man is the right way to go about obtaining this goal. In keeping with the emerging trend of strong women choosing and executing their own destinies, Sparks’ heroic character takes on the role of a nurturing friend to two children struggling to survive on their own.

Winners of the Hollywood Black Film Festival competitions receive exclusive prize packages from Final Draft, Quick Film Budget, Lightspeed EPS, Entertainment Partners makers of Movie Magic, Writers Boot Camp, Act One, and Sony Creative Studio. The recipients are listed as follows:

 Hard Time Bus
 Written by: Owen Mowatt
 Directed by: Dean Charles

If I Were a Bell
 Written/Directed by: Sherese Robinson Lee 

 Sunday’s At Noon 
Written by: Lyric Anderson & Tami Roman 
Directed by: Ka’ramuu Kush

 Written by: Anthony Harper
 Directed by: Not Provided

 Beyond the Echo of the Drum Written by: Not Provided Directed by: Lori Webster

 Take Us Home
 Written by: Aileen LeBlanc
 Directed by: Aileen LeBlanc & Orly Malessa

 In Search of the Black Knight
 Written/Directed by: Tamarat Makonnen 

 Mommy Uncensored: Confessions
Of a Real Mom
 Written by: 
Shannon Byrd, 
Adrian Dukes, 
Kellana Franklin, 
Charity Jordan
, Nell Maxwell, 
Zoie Sykes, 
Sonya Tate-Smith Directed by: 
Christine Horn, 
Justin Jordan, 
David Kote, 
Sharell Luckett, 
Nik Mynyan

***FILM DIASPORA*** Malagasy Mankany (Legends of Madagascar)
 Writer-director: Haminiaina Ratovarivony

***PROJECT STARGAZER*** The finalists will begin Project Stargazer Lab in January 2014, where they will be paired with mentors from the entertainment industry and NASA while they further develop their Sci-Fi ideas into a feature length screenplay at Writers Boot Camp over the course of nine months.

Beyond Heaven by: Ronald Taylor, Los Angeles, CA

Brought Up by: Rashim Cannad and Tarina Pouncy, Los Angeles, CA

Mira Bane by: Arvel Chappell III and Michael J. Martinez, Los Angeles, CA


1st place Winner: Esteem Ladies of Hope – Shington Lamy, Tallahassee, FL 

2nd place: The Pack – Bond of Blood, Devvin Mattison, Arlington, TX

3rd place: Madame Charlie – Nadria Tucker, Los Angeles, CA

***TWINKIE BYRD’S MONOLOGUE SLAM *** Kyla Garcia, Los Angeles, CA

For more information about the Hollywood Black Film Festival, please visit: www.hbff.org or email: info@hbff.org.

Film trailers:

Winnie Mandela Trailer: http://youtu.be/W_-khKN0cC4

The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yUBnTs3z5jI


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