Miami agency to fund American Black Film Festival
By Catherine Lackner
Hoping to further boost the city's burgeoning film and entertainment industry, Miami's Community Redevelopment Agency has agreed to contribute about $65,000 to this year's American Black Film Festival, set for June 20-24 on Miami Beach.
The festival is a four-day retreat and international film show dedicated to strengthening the black filmmaking community and creating new opportunities. Formerly known as the Acapulco Black Film Festival, it was founded in 1997 but moved to Miami Beach in 2002. The HBO cable channel is the festival's founding sponsor.
Film Life Inc., the entity that owns the festival, will receive a $50,000 sponsorship, while the balance of the money will go for direct expenditures, like a trolley to take festival-goers from Miami Beach to the Southeast Overtown/Park West redevelopment area and back.
During the festival, the redevelopment agency, along with the Greater Miami Convention Visitors Bureau, will hold a community showcase — including screening of movies by local filmmakers and a shopping and dining campaign — to promote the area and drive traffic to local businesses.
The film festival is expected to draw more than 5,000 visitors, 90% coming from outside South Florida, about half of whom work in the entertainment industry. In past years, Spike Lee, Laurence Fishburne, Keenen Ivory Wayans, Robert Townsend and other luminaries have participated.
The agency's goals are multi-dimensional, said Clarence Woods, assistant director of the Southeast Overtown/Park West redevelopment agency.
"We're primed for having feature films and television series come here, and we know the film and entertainment industry is a great economic generator," he said. "We have been working continuously to attract the industry into the area. Our collaboration with the American Black Film Festival has been an ongoing thing, and from that collaboration we've gotten a lot of interest."
Though he declined to name names, "We have a lot of Hollywood types who are interested in doing things here, including films and TV series," he continued. "We are looking to incentivize them."
But the community has a more personal stake in seeing the industry gain a foothold, he said.
"When you look at the talent pool here, we do have some talented folks who are really interested in film and entertainment," Mr. Woods said. "Having actors and directors come here, and put on some sort of showcase here, gives the local youngsters exposure to other career paths.
"It isn't that kids don't have dreams," he explained. "And certainly they won't all become actors. But when they can see an acclaimed big screen director, and other people who work in the entertainment industry, it makes them think that this is attainable work."
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