#BlackInTheaters: Movies To See At The 2021 American Black Film Festival

Going To The Movies

Photo: Getty Images

The American Black Film Festival is well underway for its 25th annual celebration of emerging Black talent in TV and film.

Your faves and future faves come to ABFF with riveting work to move us, teach us, and more. What started as a gathering of Black filmmakers and industry professionals grew into a critically acclaimed festival where budding talent gets recognized and amplified on this historic platform.

This year's virtual experience comes with a sneak peek into riveting films and series we all need to know about. From horror, documentaries, feel-good narratives, and stories that tap into the deep parts of Black culture, ABFF has it all.

Check out the films and series to catch below.

When The Tar Leaks Red

Director: Dominic Stewart

Where To Watch: ABFF Play

Description: A woman who suffers from sleep paralysis through which her guilt of past actions manifests via a haunting demon. As she fights back, her world is rocked when she realizes that all isn't as it seems. This film was loosely inspired by the mythological tale of Lamia, Hera and Zeus.

Subjects Of Desire

Director: Jennifer Holness

Where To Watch: ABFF Play

Description: Subjects of Desire is a timely documentary film that examines the cultural shift in North American beauty standards towards embracing Black female aesthetics and features. From society’s new fixation on the ‘booty,’ fuller lips, the dramatic rise of spray-tanned skin, ethnic hairstyles, and athletic bodies, some argue that Black women are having a Beauty moment. But others, primarily Black women, argue that traditional Black features and attributes are seen as more desirable when they are on White women. Subjects of Desire is a culturally significant, provocative documentary film that challenges and ultimately deconstructs what we understand about race and the power behind Beauty.


Director: Moreau Frantzy

Where To Watch: ABFF Play

Description: Piece is a short, one-take film developed as a proof of concept Moreau hopes to turn into a feature-length film. The movie presents the story of two young men coerced into completing a dangerous task in a Miami community steeped in racial tension. Cousins Cootie and Pinch are recruited to recover (Malloy) a notorious criminal’s gun from a local diner. Once the two cousins arrive at the restaurant, they find that the gun is missing as the diner is full of patrons. Now they must figure out where the gun is or who took the gun and return it to Malloy or face deadly consequences.

Big Chief, Black Hawk

Director: Jonathan Isaac Jackson

Where To Watch: ABFF Play

Description: A short and intimate look into the life of the youngest Mardi Gras Indian Big Chief in New Orleans and his "tribe" as they navigate the social and environmental issues facing "the culture."

Raise Your Hand

Director: Jessica Rae

Where To Watch: ABFF Play

Description: Raise Your Hand follows best friends Gia (Jearnest Corchado, Sneakerheads, Little America, The Fosters, The Blacklist) and Lila (Hanani Taylor, Criminal Minds, Punky Brewster) as they balance school and personal connections with their family, friends, boys and neighborhood, including the corrupt local police. Gia struggles to maintain her grades and sort through a tumultuous relationship with her mother and stepfather. She attempts to find solace in a relationship with a new boyfriend, Wish, and invest in her writing. Very quickly, however, all of Gia’s relationships go through dramatic, sometimes traumatic, changes, and Gia and Lila find themselves in their own separate fights for both meaning and survival.

Photo: Asha Flowers

Looking For Me

Director: Asha Flowers

Where To Watch: ABFF Play

Description: This short comedy series stars Dayna Dooley (Insecure, The Upshaws) as Lisa, a life coach who after hitting rock bottom, is determined to grow her business from the ground up. In the seven minute pilot, Lisa, despite having a bad day herself, helps a young client, played by Kristina Bustamante (Family Guy), to find her voice.

Photo: Christine Rodriguez


Director: Christine Rodriguez

Where To Watch: ABFF Play

Description: Lonely, isolated and disconnected from his roots, Manolo is an Afro-Cuban man who has reached a low point in his life. But he'll find new hope after a chance meeting in the community center where he works. A short film set in Montreal, Canada, in English, French and Spanish. Fuego was born out of Black Wealth Media's Black Ink Mentorship program which was designed to give voice to Afro-descended creators. Christine Rodriguez, who wrote, directed and produced the short film, explains, “I wanted to bring attention to the crossroads between blackness and latinidad, something sorely missing on our screens.” Fuego stars the versatile Danny Blanco-Hall (Dark Phoenix, Riddick), a veteran of TV and film, and features local Cuban expats, with the theme song written by Cuban-Canadian virtuoso Giovany Arteaga Valdes. The film shines a light on immigration and rebirth. Christine is currently working on a feature version of Fuego as part of the WarnerMedia Access x Canadian Academy Writers Program.

Wouldn't Mean Nuthin'

Director: Mack Wilds

Where To Watch: ABFF Play

Synopsis: Writer’s block is a bitch! Being haunted by thoughts of an old muse? Even worse. Enter Les, a poet who barely cares about anything besides writing. After falling victim to a blockage (in love & creativity), his best friend coerces him into a double date. As the date begins to lift his spirits (amongst other things) to their surprise his ex, Nicole, walks in. Inspiration is like a wave, and if you aren't on your board when it hits, you just might miss it. Surf's up.

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