Cadillac Shows Support For Young Black Filmmakers At ABFF

HBO Short winner Kiel Scott discusses his journey and relationship with Spike Lee

(Image: File)
(Image: File)

Young filmmaker Kiel Adrian Scott made his mark when he became the 2009 HBO Short Film Competition at the American Black Film Festival for The Roe Affect (as in Roe v Wade), which deals with a teenage girl and women reproductive rights. Since then his films have played on HBO, PBS, CineMAX, Shorts TV, Creative Control, Centric and BET, airing around the world.

[Related: Star Students: 5 Actors Taught by ABFF Teacher Tasha Smith]

Scott chronicled his experience as a HBO short film winner during an intimate conversation brunch hosted by Cadillac, at title sponsor of ABFF. Last September, Cadillac announced it was relocating its home base from Detroit to New York. The automaker is looking to resurrect the iconic brand where passion has been at the ethos and many people associate the brand “having made it;”  New York is a place that is arguably deemed the epicenter of luxury, Eneuri Acosta, communications manager at General Motors/Cadillac said during the brunch. He also noted the company has reinvented itself with its latest “striving to dare greatly” campaign.

Over the past five years, Cadillac has been a partner of ABFF.  “We are speaking to a culture and not a demographic,” added Acosta, referencing the company’s support of black artists like Scott who need a platform to pursue their passion and tell their stories.

For Scott, ABFF was his first festival. “For young artists, ABFF signifies your arrival on the landscape, letting established artists know that this filmmaker is someone you need to pay attention to,” said Scott.

Scott also discussed his relationship with filmmaker Spike Lee, which significantly changed after winning at ABFF. The New Orleans native attended New York University’s Graduate Film Program, where he was awarded the full tuition Dean’s Fellowship and where Professor “Spike” Lee served Artistic Director of the program.

“I won at ABFF with my student film, which is not unheard of. Spike received a call that one of the students in his program won at the festival. That year there were three people in the festival that were students of his; the other two were doing thesis films.” That’s when Lee offered Scott a position as his Graduate Teaching Assistant. After completing his academic coursework Scott stayed on with Lee, serving as directing assistant. More recently, he co-wrote a screenplay with Lee.

The biggest hurdle Scott said he had to get over was learning how to be a professional filmmaker, dealing with issues like clearances. Of course, the biggest challenge with every filmmaker—new and established—is financing, he quipped.

His endgame is to make feature length movies that are impactful and commercially viable. “Most of my films surround social justice issues. They are narrative dramas. My priority is the personal and the political,”  explained Scott, who became a filmmaker to make a difference in his community; using film as a tool to galvanize and gain support around an issue. In fact, he is working on a feature film adaptation of The Roe Affect centered in South Africa around the topic of corrective rape, whereby men rape (in some cases stone to death) lesbians in an attempt to correct their “sexual orientation.”

Scott’s latest short film project Samaria, starring Katie Wren Whitty, Demetrius Grosse and Tatyana Ali wrapped principle photography in New York and New Orleans in September of last year. The film, which is currently in post-production, is a recipient of the Spike Lee Production Award and is a short film adaptation of what will be Scott’s feature length motion picture debut Epilogue.

A writer-director and fine artist, Scott also is the identical twin brother of Edison Award winning, Grammy nominated, international recording artist Christian Scott (Also known as Christian aTunde Adjuah). Christian appeared in the documentary An Unexpected History: The Story of Hennessy And African Americans, which was screened at ABFF by the spirits company, also a festival sponsor.

“(My brother) does all of my scores and I’ve done all of his album covers.”

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