This year’s American Black Film Festival (ABFF), with founding sponsor HBO®, was filled with informative and insightful programming that included film screenings, panels, workshops and master classes, led by renowned experts in Hollywood. Thursday, the Hollywood Creative Forum EAST, presented by the Walter Kaitz Foundation, brought together diverse talent with executives from cable’s creative and business community to meet, greet and exchange ideas.

Attendees then headed over to the SVA Theatre, located at 333 West 23rd Street for the
opening night film and NY premiere of DOPE. Director Rick Famuyiwa and the Motion
Picture Association of America, brought ‘Dope’ to the ABFF along with cast members
Shameik Moore, Tony Revolori, Kiersey Clemons, Chanel Iman, Blake Anderson,
A$AP Rocky and Quincy Brown.

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A dope after party followed with performances by hip-hop legends Doug E. FreshGrand Poobah, Vinnie Brown of Naughty by Nature and sounds by DJ D-Nice at Stage 48. Roxanne Shante, on behalf of the Hip Hop Hall of Fame, presented and Outstanding Achievement in Entertainment Award to ABFF founder Jeff Friday for contributions and achievements in the entertainment and creative industries.

ABFF’s master classes, presented by the Time Warner Foundation, are always a highlightto those interested in film and television. Class schedule included: Writing for Television, instructed by NBCUniversal’s Karen Horne, an Actor’s Workshop instructed by actress Tasha Smith and Fundamentals of Independent Film Production instructed by RogerBob.

The NY Hilton Midtown was abuzz when festival attendees found out ‘Empire’s’ Cookie was in the building. ABFF Celebrity Ambassador, Taraji P. Henson, shared an intimate conversation with ‘CBS This Morning’ Host Gayle King, during an empowering “A Conversation With” discussion about her career, trials and tribulations in Hollywood and staying grounded in Hollywood, presented by American Airlines.

Many studios and partners bought along their casts for our Spotlight Screenings at the AMC Empire 25. Critics Choice Award Winner Lorraine Toussaint joined her cast members Aisha Hinds, A. Russell Andrews, Thomas Q. Jones and Erica Tazel for the screening of TV One’s “Runaway Island.” Director Datari Turner shared the screening of his film, “Supermodel” with cast Tyson Beckford, Angela Simmons, and Jennifer Williams. Walmart and the Bentonville Film Festival showcased the New York Premiere of “In My Father’s House,” followed by a Q&A with star/rapper Rhymefest. Hennessy held the world premiere of “An Unexpected History: The Story of Hennessy and African Americans”, a documentary highlighting the companies hundred-year relationship with African Americans, while Turner Movie Classics’ presented the screening of Boyz in the Hood, and a Q&A with film director John Singleton. The premiere of ABFF Independent, a showcase of festival films on the ASPiRE network, gave the audience a sneak peek of the fourth season, with a Q&A with hip hop artist and host David Banner.

The four day festival continued with a lineup of panels including The Men Of TNT, with actors Joe Morton (“Proof”) and Charles Purnell and Jocko Sims (“The Last Ship”) and Ruben Santiago-Hudson (“Public Morals”), Inside BLACK-ISH panel, presented by Macy’s, with writer/creator Kenya Barris and star Tracee Ellis Ross, moderated by Larry Wilmore, TV One’s Celebrity Scene Stealers panel with Lorraine Toussaint, the Hot in Hollywood panel, presented by Cadillac, with Hollywood’s hottest actors including Lance Gross (“Temptation”), Naturi Naughton (“Power”) and YaYa DaCosta (“Whitney”), Comcast Xfinity’s How to Create and Monetize a Successful Web Series with creators of popular web shows Numa Perrier & Dennis Dortch (“”), Andrea Lewis (“Black Actress”), Life of a Showrunner panel, presented by Prudential, Inc., with Chris Spencer (“Real Husbands of Hollywood”), Janine Sherman Barrois (“Criminal Minds”), Mara Brock Akil and Salim Akil (“Being Mary Jane”) and an Empire Talk Back: Inside the Writers Room, presented by FOX HBCU Media Alliance, a discussion with the hit show’s writing team.

Festival passholders relaxed and enjoyed the refreshments in the American Airlines Lounge in between sessions, while other attendees enjoyed coffee and tea service in the Cadillac main lobby area throughout the day. HBO, UPtv, ASPiRE, and VH1 each held invitation-only events to give filmmakers the opportunity to connect with network executives and build relationships.

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