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By Film Threat Staff | May 31, 2001

The fifth Annual Acapulco Black Film Festival to be held June 4 – 9 in the resort district of Acapulco, Mexico will showcase 18 new films in the categories of U.S. and international feature films, works-in-progress, HBO Short Film award finalists and out of competition screenings. Filmmakers compete for a variety of awards including the Lincoln Filmmakers Trophy, Best USA Film, Best International Film, DEJ Production’s Best Work in Progress Award and the HBO Short Film Award.
“Our sponsors have raised the competitive stakes to offer winning filmmakers more financial support than we have ever had in the history of the Acapulco Black Film Festival,” says festival producer Jeff Friday. “We are providing filmmakers with an invaluable forum that offers both critical feedback and financial backing.” In an effort to merge music composing and filmmaking, Coca-Cola partners with the ABFF to present a $10,000 prize in the first annual Film Score Award competition. DEJ Productions, a subsidiary of Blockbuster Inc., will present a $15,000 award toward the completion of this year’s winning work-in-progress film.
During the opening night’s HBO Short Film Award competition, five finalists will vie for a $20,000 grand prize, with four runners-up receiving $5,000 each. “The HBO Short Film Award and the ABFF have proven to be great venues for showcasing the works of new talent,” says Olivia Smashum, senior vice president, subscriber marketing and business development at HBO. “We again look forward to bringing up-and-coming filmmakers to the attention of the film industry and the general public.”
The four competing feature films from the U.S. are: A Huey P. Newton Story a world premiere film directed by Spike Lee and based on the critically acclaimed play by actor Roger Guenveur Smith; Blue Hill Avenue a world premiere directed by Craig Ross Jr.; LIFT winner of the 1998 Sundance NHK International Filmmaker Award from directors Demane Davis and Khari Streeter; and LOCKDOWN the feature debut of director John Luessenhop and executive produced by/starring Master P.
In the international competition, Larenz Tate (Love Jones; Why Do Fools Fall in Love) stars and R&B songstress Deborah Cox makes her screen debut in director Clement Virgo’s Love Come Down; Raoul Peck directs LUMUMBA, the story of the brutal murder of legendary African Leader and Congo Prime Minister, Patrice Lumumba; and Cuban Salsa sensation Los Van Van is chronicled in Van Van Empezo La Fiesta, a documentary directed by Aaron Vega.
The festival’s most unique feature is the work-in-progress section which allows directors to receive feedback from the audience before making the final editorial decisions. Directors offering sneak previews of their work-in-progress are David Velo Stewart with the digital film Hip Hop for Life; Timothy Folsome with the world premiere of Jacked (His film, An Invited Guest, won the 1999 ABFF audience award); and Tania Cuevas-Martinez who tells the controversial story of imprisoned journalist Mumia Abu Jamal in Voice of the Voiceless.
Out of competition screenings include the world premiere of HBO’s Stranger Inside which will air on the network this summer. Comedian Eddie Griffin (“Malcolm & Eddie”) narrates the documentary Parliament Funkadelic: One Nation Under A Groove featuring interviews with George Clinton, Bootsy Collins, Rick James, Ice Cube, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Reginald Hudlin. Working with the latest digital filmmaking technology, a cadre of socially concerned filmmakers will present a promo reel of their work, Welcome to the DV Republic, developed in the DV Lab of the Black Filmmaker Foundation.
Warrington Hudlin, President of the Black Filmmaker Foundation and producer of the hit movies Boomerang and House Party is the festival curator. “The festival has grown in importance every year and is now widely considered the premiere black festival because of the intense competition for limited slots, the sizable cash prizes, and its popularity with industry insiders,” says Hudlin.
Last year’s festival produced several break-out films. One Week, was picked up by ABFF parent company Film Life and will open in 100 theaters nationwide October 5th. Dancing in September from veteran writer turned director Reggie Bythewood (NY Undercover, Get on the Bus) debuted on HBO in fall 2001.
The festival will offer panels on independent film distribution, pitching to Capital Cities/ABC, screenwriting and the progress of Black Hollywood in the year 2000. Microsoft will provide a three-day training program aimed at helping filmmakers design websites for their movies, and Bill Duke will return to host his renowned actor’s bootcamp. A writers workshop will help aspiring screenwriters sharpen their skills and develop scripts for independent films.
Among celebrities who will attend this year’s festival are Isaac Hayes, LisaRaye, Larenz Tate, Mekhi Phifer, Bill Duke, Hill Harper, John Singleton, Salli Richardson, Tyrese, Elise Neal, Bootsy Collins and Snoop Dogg. Sanaa Lathan, Suzanne De Passe and John Singleton will be honored during the festival’s Film Life Black Movie Awards. Major film industry guilds also participate including the Director’s Guild of America and the Screen Actor’s Guild.
To learn more, visit the official web site for the Acapulco Black Film Festival.

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