Recently relocated to New York City from its former base in Miami, the American Black Film Festival celebrates its 18th edition beginning tomorrow, Thursday, June 19, and running through Sunday, June 22. This makes Manhattan the home to two higher-profile African American festivals, with mainstay Urbanworld also heading into year 18 this coming September. ABFF makes a notable splash, closing out this year’s event with the world premiere of Spike Lee’s latest film, the Kickstarter-funded DA SWEET BLOOD OF JESUS.
In total, more then two dozen films, masterclasses, and special events make up the event’s lineup, with five doc features included. Two appear in the Spotlight Screenings section: Muta’Ali Muhammad’s sadly timely tribute to his grandparents, LIFE’S ESSENTIALS WITH RUBY DEE (pictured), given the actress’ recent passing; and Barion Grant’s profile of a hip-hop mogul, A GENIUS LEAVES THE HOOD: THE UNAUTHORIZED STORY OF JAY-Z. The remaining nonfiction titles vie for the CNN sponsored Best Documentary Award, including two world premieres: Mike L Brown’s 25 TO LIFE, about an HIV-positive man reckoning with his promiscuous past; and Sam Hampton’s TRANSCENDING SURGEON, a consideration of African Americans in medicine through a portrait of an acclaimed surgeon; as well as the North American premiere of Khalo Matabane’s NELSON MANDELA: THE MYTH & ME, an exploration of freedom and reconciliation set against the continuing inequality faced by South Africans.