‘Cinnamon’ and ‘A Song From The Dark’ Win Big at the 2023 ABFF Awards

2023 abff awards

The 27th Annual American Black Film Festival (ABFF) celebrated the best of the best as Dondré Whitfield took center stage to host the festival’s highly anticipated ABFF Awards. Held on the third day of the five-day film festival, the awards ceremony served as a poignant reminder of the festival’s commitment to fostering and celebrating Black excellence and the exceptional talent of creatives in the industry.

Whitfield’s magnetic presence and remarkable ability to elicit both laughter and introspection added an extra layer of brilliance to the event. Seamlessly blending humor, spiritual insights, and invaluable life lessons, he left an indelible impact on everyone fortunate enough to be in attendance. Whitfield’s powerful words resonated deeply, urging individuals to embrace their emotions, find solace in victories and setbacks, support their communities, and craft meaningful characters in their own lives.

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Amongst the fierce competition in all categories, the ABFF Awards honored and recognized outstanding talent and projects, with two remarkable films emerging as the big winners of the day: “Cinnamon” and “A Song From the Dark,” both receiving two prestigious awards.

Directed by the talented Bryian Keith Montgomery Jr., “Cinnamon” claimed the titles of Best Narrative Feature, presented by Andscape, and Best Director, presented by Cadillac. Starring Tony-nominee Hailey Kilgore, Damon Wayans, Pam Grier, David Iacono, and Jeremie Harris, “Cinnamon” tells the story of Jodi, a small-town gas station attendant with remarkable singing talent and ambitious dreams. However, things become complicated when a robbery occurs at her workplace.

“A Song From the Dark” earned well-deserved recognition, with writer, director, and producer Ogo Okpue receiving the Cadillac-presented Best Director award, while Vanessa Vanderpuye’s exceptional portrayal earned her the title of Best Actor, presented by Ally. This supernatural horror drama revolves around a woman harboring a dark family secret who hires a spirit-hunter to eliminate a tormenting presence. The film showcases the talents of Nse Ikpe Etim, Wale Ojo, Garcia Brown, and Paul Coster, delivering a haunting and captivating experience.

The ABFF Awards also honored other notable projects. Timiza Sanyika’s “I Was a Soul Train Dancer” secured the Best Series award, presented by Comcast NBCU Universal’s Black Experience on XFINITY. This enthralling mini-documentary series takes viewers on a journey through the lives of iconic and memorable dancers from the legendary show “Soul Train,” spanning the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s. Additionally, the Best Documentary Feature award went to “Locked Out,” directed by Kate Davis and Luchina Fisher. Set in Detroit, the film sheds light on racial disparities in homeownership and showcases a group of Black female grassroots activists fighting for justice and equal access.

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The prestigious HBO Short Film Award, presented by Warner Bros. Discovery and HBO, held its rightful place as the highlight of the event. Serving as a qualifying festival for the Academy Awards’ short film categories, this award propels winners into the ranks of esteemed past recipients like Ryan Coogler, Steven Caple Jr., Nikyatu Jusu, Rashaad Ernesto Green, and many more.

The winner of the HBO Short Film Award was the remarkable talent of writer-director Anndi Jinelle Liggett for her work on “Jelly.” The short film, narrated by André Holland, tells the story of a young Black girl named Jelly in Bed-Stuy who becomes entangled in a mysterious case while grappling with her own personal journey.

The ABFF Awards concluded with recognition of exceptional talent in the podcasting arena. Archie Jay’s “Archie: The Podcast,” Ken Lewis’s “Gangsta Island,” and Sophia Stephens’s “The Maiden Myth” emerged as the top contenders in the ABFF podcast competition, captivating listeners with their unique storytelling and engaging narratives.

The American Black Film Festival once again proved itself as an essential platform for celebrating, uplifting, and inspiring the present and next generation of Black creatives. Showcasing their remarkable talent and diverse storytelling, the festival left an indelible mark on the hearts and minds of all attendees. With Whitfield’s unforgettable hosting performance and the stellar winners and nominees, the event served as a testament to the enduring power of Black voices in the film industry. As the ABFF continues to thrive, it remains a beacon of recognition and promotion for excellence within the Black filmmaking community.

Heartfelt congratulations go out to all the deserving winners and nominees who graced the ABFF Awards stage. Their remarkable achievements serve as a source of inspiration and pave the way for a future where Black stories and voices are celebrated and uplifted to even greater heights.


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