Thursday, February 5, 2015

Annual AAFCA Awards Celebrates Diversity

 Gil Robertson (4th from left) and the cast of Selma

FEBRUARY 5, 2015 - LOS ANGELES - Celebrities and executives across the entertainment industry spectrum of film, television and new media converged at the Taglyan Complex in Hollywood Wednesday night for the 6th Annual African American Critics Association (AAFCA) Awards Ceremony.  Celebrating the best in directing, screenwriting, acting and producing; AAFCA Awards attendees included Ava DuVernay (Director, Selma), Oprah Winfrey, Alfre Woodard, Tyler Perry, Kathryn Bigelow and Amy Pascal (Co-Chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment).

AAFCA presenters and honorees in attendance included producer Stephanie Allain, receiving the Legacy Award; producer Debra Martin Chase, accepting the Ashley Boone Award; Chadwick Boseman, accepted the Best Ensemble award on behalf of the cast of Get On UpJ.K. Simmons, who accepted the award for Best Supporting Actor in Whiplash;  presenter Khandi Alexander of Scandal; presenter Mike Epps of Survivor's Remorse. David Oyelowo winner of Best Actor for his critically-acclaimed performance in Selma; Tessa Thompson winning the Best Breakout Star in Dear White People and Effie Brown who was honored with the Best Independence Award for Producing Dear White People.  Additional honorees and attendees included Roger Ebert award recipient Susan King (LA Times), Best Screenplay winner Gina Prince-Bythewood (Beyond the Lights), and husband writer Reggie Rock Bythewood; honoree and presenter Chaz Ebert; producer/director Will Packer; actor Dondre Whitfield; presenter Edwina Findley; actor Andre Royo; Disney Channel's Gary Marsh; actor/comedian Bill Bellamy; presenter Wendy Raquel Robinson; and directors Julie Dash and Neema Barnette among others.

"We are so pleased that people have come away from watching Selma in tears,"said Oprah Winfrey in her triumphant acceptance speech for the film's best film win. "We're honored to receive this award from AAFCA. We won best picture!"

The awards ceremony, produced by Gil Robertson, AAFCA co-founder, was expertly guided by host Nischelle Turner of Entertainment Tonight, and opened up with a rousing musical performance from Salli Richardson Whitfield from her upcoming project on screen and stage legend Lena Horne.  The night was the culmination of the Association's weekend of events including a private invitation-only dinner and a business panel that stands as the premiere acknowledgement of the African-Americans contribution to this year's American cinema.
Ava DuVernay
"I have to thank my African-American sister, (Ava DuVernay) who told me that I could play the role of Martin Luther King Jr. when I didn't believe I could do it," said David Oyelowo in his acceptance speech as Best Actor in Selma. "And my African-American mother (Oprah Winfrey).....who after a day of shooting told me get off the phone and go to bed. There is so much LOVE here."

(l-r) Tyler Perry and J.K. Simmons 

The energy of family and love was contagious in the standing-room-only kudos-fest, as attendees hugged and reconnected. J.K. Simmons noted how much he looked forward to meeting Tyler Perry and joked in his acceptance speech for Best Supporting actor, "Are you sure this wasn't a clerical error?"

"I couldn't be more thrilled by the opportunity to honor some of the years best performances, some of which have not been recognized by other major award shows," said Robertson. "The prevailing feeling in the room of gratitude, celebration and kinship of all in attendance will be looked at as a significant high point of this year's award season."


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