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By Film Threat Staff | June 11, 2003

Filmmakers were honored for their achievements in filmmaking and screenwriting during the Hollywood Black Film Festival closing night awards presentation held on Sunday, June 8, 2003.
This year, HBFF screened 86 films in the annual competitive, the fifth year in a row that the festival has seen a increase in the number of both submissions and actual films screened during the six-day event, which took place at the Harmony Gold Preview House in Los Angeles.
Competing filmmakers and storytellers received prizes valued at more than $50,000 from premier sponsors.
The HBFF Jury Award for Best Feature Film went to “NEVER GET OUTTA THE BOAT,” produced by actor John Cusack and Grace Loh; this film was directed by Paul Quinn and written by Nick Gillie. In “NEVER GET OUTTA THE BOAT,” we meet Joe, Cesar and Franky, roommates in a drug rehabilitation facility actually determined to recover. As the trio’s own destructive tendencies and sexual issues begin to surface, combined with the arrival of a popular rock star and several less committed alcoholics, the sense of community begins to unravel.
“BIG AIN’T BAD,” directed and produced by Ray Culpepper and written by Drayton X. Jamison, garnered the Audience Choice Award. In “BIG AIN’T BAD” after a meaningless one-night stand, a young working man learns the true meaning of love when he scuffles to win back his fiancée from the grasps of a wealthier and more mature man.
“JESSE’S CLOSET” received the Featured Film Honorable Mention. Written and directed by Kenneth O. Johnson and produced by Marc Pouhe, “JESSE’S CLOSET” is the story of a young doctor who discovers that his terminally ill patient is his father. When he digs up painful family secrets, this further inflames and clouds the strained relationship between his biological father and his adoptive parents.
Best Short Film was awarded to writer/director Antonia F. March and Jacqueline R. McKinley for “MOVE.” “MOVE” is a racial drama that takes place during 1938, 1968 and 2002. Two cars meet on a narrow road. Someone has to move; or do they?
“MAN MADE” received the award for Short Honorable Mention. Directed by Erma Elzy-Jones and produced by Deborah E. Ward, “MAN MADE” looks at a young woman who, after setting a tasty trap for her unfaithful boyfriend, takes a very enterprising approach to finding a new man.
The Student Film Winner Award was awarded to writer/director Devon Gregory for “DESTINY’S CHILD.” This film was produced by Earvin “Magic” Johnson and Lawrence G. Watkins, Jr. “DESTINY’S CHILD” is a film about fate, family and making choices. It will move and shock you, but mostly make you think as you follow Jay, Danielle, and Detective Rick on a wild ride that forces them to choose between life and death.
The Student Film Honorary Mention was presented to producer/director Leigh Dana Jackson for “IN THE GAME.” “IN THE GAME” offers a peak behind the scenes of high school b-ball. Over a half a million boys play high school basketball in the United States. Each year, less than one percent of those players get the chance to compete at the next level: Division 1 in the NCAA. Jeff Jackson, a middle-class Black teenager and high school basketball star, is being heavily recruited to play for a top college program. But in the last days of his senior season, he faces tough decisions about the role that basketball will play in his future and comes to discover that not all hoop dreams are the same.
“THE MURDER OF EMMETT TILL” won Best Documentary Film. Directed and produced by Stanley Nelson and written by Marcia A. Smith, “THE MURDER OF EMMETT TILL” recounts the story of Emmett Till, a 14 year-old African American youth who was killed in Mississippi in 1955 for whistling at a white woman.
“NAT TURNER: A TROUBLESOME PROPERTY” received the Documentary Film Honorary Mention. Directed and written by veteran filmmaker Charles Burnett (“To Sleep With Anger”) and produced by written by Frank Christopher and Kenneth S. Greenberg, this rousing piece chronicles the life and times of Nat Turner, a slave who lead a slave revolt in Virginia in 1831.
The Animation Film Winner was John Sirabella for “CHRISTOPHER, PLEASE CLEAN YOUR ROOM.” Christopher is a terrific kid. He’s cool, he’s nice and he’s smart. But he has one big problem… he’s messy!
The Storyteller Competition Winner was Zelie Dember-Slack for “DEXTER’S DESTINY,” a family comedy about a young man struggling to succeed in the corporate world of real estate. After a major setback caused by his overbearing in-laws, Dexter must fight for his dream.
“THE BRIDGE CAFÉ,” written by Tifa Boss, won 1st Runner Up honors in the Storyteller Competition. “THE BRIDGE CAFÉ” is the story of Teresa Springwell, a bright, together young black woman who just finished graduate school in Chicago. Instead of going to her graduation, she hops on a plane to San Francisco in search of her mentally ill brother, Mason, who’s missing from school. She suspects he’s living on the streets and enlists the help of the neighborhood saint, Big Bill to help her find Mason. Bill runs The Bridge Cafe – where the homeless get meals and hope in spades. Teresa’s cousin, the current Mayor of San Francisco, and his aide Todd, lead the current charge to purge homelessness from the city. A mysterious rise in the deaths among people on the streets makes Teresa realize she needs to find Mason before it’s too late.
Writer Yaba Baker received the Storyteller Competition 2nd Runner Up award for “PRINCESS BRIANA.” Done in classic animation, this story combines the wealthy abundance of Black Royalty captured in the movie “Coming To America” with the female action scenes of “Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon”. A beautiful African princess who loses her parents, her kingdom and her belief in herself must find renewed confidence, lead a new army to regain her kingdom, as well as face her worst fear and overcome it.
Congratulations to the winners! For more info, check out the Hollywood Black Film Festival website.

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