American Black Film Festival Kicks Off June 11

Announced via press release earlier today, the American Black Film Festival (ABFF) has released their highly anticipated roster of films and it was well worth the wait. With more than 30 documentaries, web originals, short films and narrative features, there’s something for everyone and no shortage of quality films for attendees.

[Related: 2015 Sundance Film Festival: The Year of Dope]

The ABFF is a four-day-long event that begins on June 11 and ends June 14. The festival and its creators are dedicated to showcasing quality film and television content by and about people of African descent, and are committed to the belief that black artists and content creators deserve the same opportunities as their mainstream counterparts. Taking place at AMC Empire 25 movie theater in Times Square, audiences will be treated to a selection of competing films that showcase an impressively expansive scope and diversity, and explore such topics as love, race, politics, relationships, crime and fame. In a statement about the festival, ABFF CEO and founder Jeff Friday said, “This year’s films highlight the importance of giving a voice to diverse storytellers. From a documentary on American mountaineers to a narrative about black models, our roster of films reflects the breadth of the black experience. It is also always wonderful to see ABFF alum return to showcase their latest projects. We encourage everyone to come out and support the work of these talented filmmakers”.

The festival kicks off with one of the most anticipated films of the year, the comedy-drama Dope,  which features names like Zoë Kravitz, A$AP Rocky, and Chanel Iman on screen, as well as big names like Sean “P. Diddy” Combs, Forest Whitaker, and Pharrell Williams behind the scenes.

As the festival rolls on, attendees are encouraged to check out the Season 4 premiere of ABFF Independent, a showcase of popular and award-winning films from the American Black Film Festival. Hosted by Hip-Hop artist, record producer and actor David Banner, this year will feature a showing of the 1991 cult classic Boyz N The Hood, with a Q&A session with  the director of the film, John Singleton.

For a complete schedule of all the fun events and fresh films, check out http://www.abff.com/event-schedule/.

For film screening tickets, purchase here: https://www.amctheatres.com/movietheatres/new-york-city/amc-empire-25

ABFF Founder Jeff Friday conceived the idea for the festival in 1997 as a vehicle to promote diversity in the motion picture industry. Produced by Film Life Inc. and BLACK ENTERPRISE, today the festival is widely recognized for showcasing established and new black talent, both in front of and behind the camera, and is regarded as one of the leading film festivals in the world.

Don’t miss any last-minute updates or surprises.  Be sure to follow ABFF on social media:

Twitter: http://twitter.com/abff

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/American-Black-FilmFestival/47321635722

Instagram: www.Instagram.com/AmericanBlackFilmFestival

Forest Whitaker to Produce Scripted Drama on HBCU Hazing

In light of the history of extreme hazing that takes place on HBCU campuses and the headlining 2011 death of Florida A&M band member, Robert Champion, actor Forest Whitaker is using his talents to bring the controversial issue to the big screen.

Teaming up with Reginald Hudlin to help produce writer/director Gerald McMurray’s feature film titled Underground, the Academy Award-winning actor seems to be getting more involved behind the camera for this new project. The drama, which has no reported release date, will center around a student enduring harsh hazing conditions while trying to pledge a fraternity at an HBCU.

No word on who will be casted in the project, but with the history of hazing in the black community igniting lots of controversy, we’re sure the film will spark a good debate.

 

Forest Whitaker as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.?

He once played a role of an evil man in the film, The Last King of Scotland, while portraying Ugandan dictator Idi Amin. This was an Oscar-winning role for Forest Whitaker. Now, he may be set to portray another world-known figure, but this time, a man of peace in Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

According to a report in The Guardian, actor Forest Whitaker is currently in talks to play the iconic civil rights leader in a film, titled Memphis. It will focus on the final days of King’s life.

British director, Paul Greengras, who shot United 93, which focused on the 9/11 tragedy, will purportedly film Memphis in a similar docu-drama style. This movie project is different from the one the King family have in the works.

Greengrass’s film will also shadow the FBI agents who wiretapped King over suspected communist sympathies at the time of his death.

Another film, which will try to tackle the King assassination, Orders to Kill, is also reported to be in the works and is a conspiracy theory drama with Hugh Jackman as lawyer Barry Pepper and Lee Daniels is directing that project.

Actor Forest Whitaker Frisked in NYC

Academy-Award winning actor Forest Whitaker says he was wrongly accused of shoplifting on Friday in an Upper East Side Manhattan deli and even frisked in public, TMZ reports.

Whitaker says he leaving the Milano Market on the Upper East Side when he was stopped by a deli employee and accused of stealing.

An eyewitness told TMZ that the accusing employee frisked Whitaker in view of everyone and treated him like a “common criminal” .The employee didn’t find anything. Whitaker’s representative told TMZ :”This was an upsetting incident given the fact that Forest did nothing more than walk into the deli. What is most unfortunate about this situation is the inappropriate way store employees are treating patrons of their establishment.”

The Oscars Decoded: 12 Black Actors Who Won & Their Career Impact

This Sunday, February 26, 2012, the 84th annual Academy Awards will be held in Hollywood, gathering together all of the film industry’s biggest names. While Eddie Murphy, who backed out on hosting duties, might be absent, there will be a plethora of African American actors and actresses both as attendees and nominees. Namely, Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer, who both earned nods for their exceptional work in The Help. Given that both women are favored to take home a golden statuette (only time will tell), BlackEnterprise.com Decodes the financial impact of an Oscar win by looking back at the select few African Americans performers who have struck gold on Hollywood’s biggest night. —Darralynn Hutson
SIDNEY L. POITIER

In 1963, Poitier became the first Black person to win an Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of Homer Smith in Lilies of the Field. He was 37 at the time. Acting professional from 1943 to 2001, Poitier already had memorable performances in American classics like The Defiant Ones, A Raisin in the Sun and Porgy and Bess at the time of his win. Post-Oscar he went on to star in To Sir, With Love, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner and They Call Me Mister Tibbs!, as well as directing Uptown Saturday Night, Let’s Do it Again, A Piece of the Action and Stir Crazy. Now 84, Poitier is an activist and diplomat for human rights who has an estimated net worth of $65 million dollars.
HATTIE MCDANIEL

At the age of 47, Hattie McDaniel became the first African American to win the coveted Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of Mammy in Gone with the Wind (1939). It was a role that she was paid just $1,000 a week during the film’s six-month production. Born to perform, McDaniel went on to have a successful career as an actress that was financially stable. In 1942, she purchased an impressive two-story, 17-room mansion in Hollywood. She was known for her yearly Hollywood parties where Tinsel Town royalty would be faithfully present. In her lifetime, McDaniel was cast in over 300 films but given screen credit in about 80, most of which were roles as domestics. When criticized by the NAACP for playing such roles she told them, "I could either get paid $100 a month as a real maid or $750 a week playing one in the movies!" Despite evidence that McDaniel had made a good living as a performer, her final estate was estimated at only $10,000.
DENZEL WASHINGTON

The only thespian on the list with two Academy Awards, Washington took home his first golden statue for Best Supporting Actor in 1989 for his portrayal as a rambunctious solider in Glory. For his second Oscar, he won for Best Leading Actor, over ten years later for his role as Alonzo Harris in director Antoine Fuqua’s Training Day. It’s reported that the Academy Award Winner made a cool $12 million for his turn as a rogue cop. Today, Washington is estimated to be worth $120 million, most of which comes from salaries from studio film budgets.
JAMIE FOXX

Born Eric Marlon Bishop, Jamie Foxx had positioned himself as a TV star with his time spent on In Living Color and the success if his own sitcom, The Jamie Foxx Show. While he had memorable films on his acting resume, Foxx blew audiences away with his portrayal of singer Ray Charles in the 2004 biopic Ray, which earned him the Academy Award for Best Actor. Foxx is the second male in history to receive two acting Oscar nominations in the same year for two different movies, Collateral and the aforementioned Ray. The only other male actor to achieve this feat was Al Pacino. Foxx is now a Hollywood contender, pulling sizeable salaries like the $10 million payout he snagged for 2006′s Miami Vice. More recently he beat out actors Will Smith, Idris Elba, and Chris Tucker to win the coveted lead role of “Django” in director Quentin Tarantino’s upcoming Western flick.
FOREST WHITAKER

Known for his portrayals in Platoon, Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai and The Crying Game, Whitaker won the Oscar for Best Actor for his portrayal of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in 2006’s The Last King of Scotland at the age of 45. After toiling for years in lesser roles on TV and film, Whitaker earned his spot as a powerful performer with an estimated net worth between $15 and $20 million. According to The Hollywood Reporter, TNT has put in script orders for five new dramas, including H.I.K.E., a police procedural being co-written by Whitaker and Law & Order: SVU scribe Amanda Green. The project will center on a female cop who runs the Home Invasion Kidnapping Enforcement (H.I.K.E.) team in Phoenix, AZ, which is the "kidnapping capital" of the U.S.
HALLE BERRY

After Berry earned $2.5 million to join the cast of the sexy crime drama Swordfish, some wondered why the Hollywood leading lady would agree to a $600,000 paycheck to play a struggling wife and mother in the indie Monster’s Ball. The questions stopped once the Oscar buzz began and culminated with Berry taking home a gold statue in the Best Actress category. In the wake of the win, she’s continued to be a box office draw, produce projects and endorse products—including Revlon Cosmetics, which pays her $16 million a year—that bring her estimated work to about $70 million.
LOUIS GOSSETT, JR. 

Gossett is best known for his role as Fiddler in the 1977 TV mini-series version of Alex Haley’s Roots; but it was his portrayal of Sergeant Emil Foley in the 1982 film, An Officer and a Gentleman, that won him the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. Over the course of the next 30 years, he’s continued to deliver powerful performances in films ranging from Jaws 3, Enemy Mine and Iron Eagle to Tyler Perry’s Daddy’s Little Girls and Why Did I Get Married Too? In 2010, Gossett expanded his career as an accomplished actor to include best-selling author with the release of his autobiography, An Actor and a Gentleman.
MORGAN FREEMAN

Although Freeman was nominated for the Academy Award three times prior for his work in 1987’s Street Smart, 1989’s Driving Miss Daisy and 1994’s Shawshank Redemption, it wasn’t until 2004 that he actually walked away with the gold. At age 67, Freeman became the oldest African American to win the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his work in Million Dollar Baby. Over the course of his near 50-year career, he’s appeared in critically acclaimed films like Glory, Lean on Me and both Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, the latter of which grossed over $1 billion worldwide. Freeman has also carved out a profitable niche as a voiceover actor, lending his recognizable voice to the 2005 War of the Worlds remake, 2011’s Conan the Barbarian and several documentaries.
CUBA GOODING, JR

After a few TV appearances and a non-speaking role in Coming to America, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qWvDao-MpOk Gooding made his mainstream debut in director John Singleton’s Boyz N the Hood. While the film made him a household name, it would his 1996 project, Jerry Maguire that would earn him a Best Supporting Actor win. Only 29 years old at the time, Gooding was the youngest Black actor to achieve that honor. Thirty-nine films later, Gooding has made a lucrative career in front of the camera with stellar performances in films like Men of Honor, Shadowboxer, American Gangster, Radio and most recently Red Tails.
WHOOPI GOLDBERG

Goldberg is the only member of this Oscar winners  list to have also won an Emmy, Grammy and Tony. She’s also the first African American to have received Academy Award nominations for both Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress. In 1991, she won Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of Oda Mae Brown in Ghost. In the 90s she was reported to be one of the highest paid actresses in Hollywood, demanding between $10 and $12 million per film. Her filmography is as diverse as her award wins with over 100 films in her portfolio, including documentaries, voiceover animations, theater performances and most recently co-hosting The View, where she  receives a cool $2 million per year.
JENNIFER HUDSON

She’s obviously the most successful American Idol contestant who didn’t win the talent show competition, having garnered an Academy Award for her first feature film debut as Effie in the 2006 film remake of Dreamgirls. She reportedly was paid $15,000,000 to play alongside Beyoncé in the film and has continued to make similar seven-figure+ deals. Her acting career continued to flourish, playing opposite Hollywood heavyweights Sarah Jessica Parker in Sex in the City 2 and Queen Latifah in The Secret Life of Bees. Her next roles include playing Winnie Mandela in Winnie and “Sister Rosemary” in this summer’s The Three Stooges, in addition to maintaining her lucrative deal as a spokesperson for Weight Watchers and authoring a book on her life and weight loss journey I Got This. Hudson is said to be worth over $18 million only six years after taking home the gold.
MO’NIQUE

When director Lee Daniels phoned Mo’Nique and told her he had a part for her that was “going to mess up your career,” he couldn’t have been more wrong. Following a acting resume that included mostly comedic roles, the comedienne/actress flipped the script in 2009 with a dramatic role in Lee’s Precious. Playing an abusive mother living off government support, Mo’Nique walked away with the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. It’s reported that she was paid just $200,000. The following year, she signed two lucrative media deals, one with Radio One for the “Monique in the Afternoon” radio show and a multi-million dollar deal with BET Networks for  The Monique Show—it’s reported to be the highest deal the network has ever made. Mo'Nique is rumored to appear next in the big screen adaptation of J. Eric's novel, A Place In Heaven, alongside Leonardo DiCaprio.