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Jeff Friday Jeff Friday, founder of the American Black Film Festival

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Jeff Friday Takes the American Black Film Festival Global

We spoke to ABFF founder Jeff Friday as the festival goes international with its first Global Series event in London, September 27-29.

Published on September 10, 2019

Thank you so much for your time Jeff. Our traditional opening question, where in the States are you from?

I’m from Newark, New Jersey.

How did you first become involved in the world of cinema?

I first became involved in the world of cinema when I launched the Festival in 1997.

The American Black Film Festival is coming to London later this month - how was the Festival first conceived?

The Festival was first conceived twenty-three years ago, following my first trip to Sundance Film Festival, I was extremely inspired. I took a blind leap of faith and left my job as president of UniWorld, a prominent multicultural advertising agency, and devoted my professional life to the American Black Film Festival (ABFF). Today, ABFF is recognized as the leading film festival of its kind and remains the premiere platform that introduces filmmakers of color to the industry at large and has created opportunities for people of color outside of Hollywood’s doors by helping them find their inroad.

ABFF London will be part of the new ABFF Global Film Series - why is now the right time to take the Festival to the world stage?

Now is the right time because the demand for multi-cultural content has never been as high as it is today, especially with respect to Black culture. We’ve seen an unprecedented number of films, TV shows, and new media platforms flourish by showcasing persons of diverse backgrounds. Our goal is to debunk the myth that African American content doesn’t have global appeal.

What makes London a good place for the first Global Film Series event?

London is a good place for the first Global Film Series event because London is a hotbed for Black culture and there are so many amazing British artists both in front of and behind the camera.

What events and screenings taking place in London do you think will be particular highlights?

I’m most excited for the screening of Black & Blue, courtesy of Sony Pictures and starring Naomi Harris and Tyrese Gibson. We also have an incredible line up of shorts and narrative features that experienced great success at the festival.

ABFF London will also be working with UK Organization Screen Nation - can you tell us about your work/partnership with them?

ABFF London was programmed in association with Screen Nation which provides a space to screen both US and UK independent films. Charles Thompson, founder of Screen Nation, has been entrenched in a similar mission to ABFF, tirelessly promoting film and television talent of African descent. Working together on this initiative seemed like the perfect fit.

What message do you hope visitors to the ABFF Global Film Series in London will take away from their experience?

I hope visitors take away that the Black experience is global. We are a diaspora with unique perspectives and complex backgrounds. I hope visitors are able to connect with our filmmakers and films and create a network of creatives that reaches beyond borders.

What's next on the horizon for the ABFF and the Global Film Series?

Our next major event is ABFF Honors, an annual awards gala celebrating excellence in Hollywood. The show celebrates Black culture by recognizing individuals for their contributions to American entertainment through their work as well as those who champion diversity and inclusion in Hollywood. We’re also hard at work planning exciting and innovative programs for ABFF 2020, June 17-21! For the Global Film Series, next up – Madrid!

Whilst you're in the UK, what else do you hope to do over here?

Honestly, on this particular trip, I am strictly in London to bring attention to the work of new Black artists from the US and the UK. We’re hoping that this will result in future collaborations between American and British creatives. We hope that this trip will be the first of many and will have lots of opportunities to explore inner and greater London.

Finally, what's the best thing about being Jeff Friday?

The best thing about being me is that I have the opportunity to do something for a living that I would do for free – support and nurture talented artists in the entertainment industry.

The American Black Film Festival's first Global Film Series event takes place at Picturehouse Central in London from September 27 to 29. Go to the ABFF Website for details on screenings, talks and tickets.

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