Black Festivals: The HBCUs of Film?

American Black Film Festival founder Jeff Friday weighs in on the relevance of the events and the success stories they've produced. 

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Jeff Friday, Regina King, Cedric the Entertainer and Vivica A. Fox (Michael Caulfield Archive/WireImage/Getty Images)

American Black Film Festival founder Jeff Friday says that festivals like his work year-round to find new ways to help promote the black stories and storytellers who are too often remain marginalized. Yet, he says, their very relevance is still regularly challenged. Sound familiar?

He writes in a piece for Ebony that the festivals' efforts to justify their existence by pointing to "success stories" has much in common with the narrative surrounding HBCUs.

We rally to build a strong network within the industry, to grow the power base and the opportunities. Yet, our efficacy is often challenged: "What's the relevance of Black film festivals?"

Black film festivals work year-round to find new ways to help promote our stories and storytellers who too often remain marginalized. We rally to build a strong network within the industry, to grow the power base and the opportunities. Yet, our efficacy is often challenged: "What's the relevance of Black film festivals?"

 The same question is often asked of Black colleges. And across the board, it's a level response: Underlying their respective missions is the goal of creating a supportive community. And let's not fool ourselves – we can use all the support we can get! So, the next time those questions arise, let's remind ourselves of some of the success stories that have come from Black colleges (I'm focused on the Arts): Phylicia Rashad, Samuel L. Jackson, Debbie Allen,Spike Lee, Taraji P. Henson; and Black film festivals: Will Packer (named by Variety as one of their "10 Producers to Watch"), Rob Hardy, Roger Bobb, Sylvain White and Emayatzy Corinealdi, to name a few.

I prefer to reflect on the positive and then ask, "What have I done to contribute to our legacy in this country and what more can I do?" Not to toot our own horn, but in that traditional American way, I shall. Here's a quote, verbatim, from award-winning filmmaker Lee Daniels regarding the ABFF (17 years and counting), "I've been to film festivals all over the world and I can say, that this is the best." 

Read more at Ebony.

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