HBO Short Film Competition Finalists Share Insights
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HBO Short Film Competition Finalists Share Insights

(Image: ABFF)

On Saturday night, ABFF attendees gathered for one of the hottest tickets in town: the 18th annual HBO Short Film Competition. Five filmmakers showcased their work to compete for the coveted $10,000 cash prize and the opportunity to broadcast their work with HBO programming. Television personality and businesswoman, Bevy Smith, hosted the competition, and HBO’s Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility, Dennis Williams, made remarks.

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The showcase kicked off with “Chaining Day,” written and produced by Chris Bailey, starring Dusan Brown and Shawn Kenneth. Inspired by the true story of Robert “Yummy” Sandifer, the film depicts a young boy who commits an accidental murder that forces him to choose between loyalty to the gang or self-preservation. Bailey discovered the story of Yummy Sandifer by way of 2Pac song dedication, and understood that the story is still relevant based on the current state of violence in Chicago. “So often, so many of our young black kids don’t get the chance to just be a kid.” He also found inspiration in both the J. Cole song, “Chaining Day,” and the whole ‘chaining day’ concept started by Roc-A-Fella Records. In hip-hop, chains have become a powerful symbol for success. Bailey says, “It’s validation that you’ve made it.”

In “Black Card,” directed by Pete Chatmon, written by Tony Patrick, starring Dorian Missick, Simone Missick, Hisham Tawfiq, and Stephen Hill, an African American couple pushes the boundaries in a culture requiring an ID card and commitment to the code. Patrick wanted to delve into a deeper analysis of what constitutes blackness? He states, “There isn’t a definitive answer to the question. I wanted to play around with the physical manifestation of blackness as a card.” The “Black Card” team also found a unique way to raise money for film. “I started making videos with companies about 5 years ago,” says Chatmon. We partly funded [Black Card] through creating Instagram videos for our clients.”

“Joy,” written and directed by Solomon Onita, Jr., starring Sope Aluko, Bayo Akinfemi, and Hannah Tarver, tells the story of a Nigerian woman living in America, who struggles to convince her traditionalist husband not to circumcise their ten year old daughter. Onita, who is Nigerian, learned about summer or “vacation cutting” where families use the summer to travel home and perform the procedure. He felt the issue needed more attention and decided to make a film, and filmed it while still in school at Loyola Marymount. He offered the audience of filmmakers a piece of advice: Look outside the United States for opportunities to showcase content. “There’s a big market in Nollywood and it’s wide open.”

In “First Date, Last Date, written by E.V. Anderson, directed by Derege Harding and starring Andrea Bordeaux and Daniel Gall, soul mates Sara and Michael carry on their first date during the apocalypse. Harding said he saw the script and immediately loved it. Heavy on special effects, he decided to learn how to create the special effects himself. “I learned how to create all of the special effects on YouTube. I wasn’t sure I could pull it off.”

“Stanhope,” starring Malik Lockett, Johnnie Mae, Rob Morgan, Nedra McClyde, and Simeon Buresch, is a drama about a teenage inner-city kid from Brooklyn who gets caught up in a web of violence as a paid assassin. ABFF alum and writer/director, Solvan Naim, examined the violence happening in Chicago and his own neighborhood in Brooklyn. “I thought it would be interesting to look at what’s happening to child soldiers in America.” While making “Stanhope,” Lockett says, “I never felt like this before. I was a little scared, but I had to stay in the game.”

For more information on the competitions, films, schedules, and activities for the 2015 American Black Film Festival, visit For updates via Twitter and other social media sites, check the hashtag #ABFF2015.