Monday, September 30, 2013

'Winnie Mandela' Set To Open HBFF 2013

(September 30, 2013 – Hollywood, CA) – The Hollywood Black Film Festival (HBFF) is proud to announce its 2013 Opening Night Film is Winnie Mandela.

Starring Academy Award winner Jennifer Hudson (Dreamgirls) and Academy Award nominee Terrence Howard (Hustle & Flow), Winnie Mandela is an epic story of love, sacrifice and courage.

Moving from a remote tribal village to the sprawling metropolis of Johannesburg, South Africa, a proud young Winnie (Jennifer Hudson) soon found love with a rising political star, Nelson Mandela (Terrence Howard).  When Nelson was imprisoned for protesting the brutal Apartheid government, Winnie worked tirelessly to win his freedom and to carry on his message of peace and equality.  Her struggle to keep the Mandela dream alive was rewarded by years of persecution and imprisonment, including 18 months of solitary confinement.  Throughout, her resolve to fight for her freedom, her family and her country never wavered.  Her leadership and unconquerable spirit caught the attention of the world and earned her the name “the mother of the nation.”

Winnie Mandela opens HBFF on Wednesday, October 2 at 7 p.m.  at the Ricardo Montalban Theatre, 1615 Vine St., Hollywood, CA. 

After-party follows across the street at Station Hollywood, The W Hotel Hollywood, 6250 Hollywood Blvd, Hollywood, CA.

About the Hollywood Black Film Festival
Founded in 1998, the Hollywood Black Film Festival (HBFF) aims to enhance the careers of emerging and established Black filmmakers through a public exhibition, competition program and industry panels.  Known amongst the entertainment industry’s powerbrokers as, “The Black Sundance,” the festival brings independent works of accomplished and aspiring black filmmakers to an environment encompassing the mainstream Hollywood community and Southern California film-going audiences. The festival’s goal is to play an integral role in discovering and launching independent films and filmmakers by bringing them to the attention of the industry, press and public. 
Since its inception, HBFF Has screened nearly 100 films from the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, France, Japan, the Bahamas, Central African Republic, Ghana, Burundi, Nigeria, Australia, South Africa, Kenya, Haiti, Burkina Faso, Niger, Russia, Brazil, Jordan, Jamaica, Spain, Cuba, Trinidad and Tobago, Singapore and the Philippines.

For more information about the Hollywood Black Film Festival, visit

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Kiki Shepard's K.I.S. Foundation Hosts 10th Annual Celebrity Bowling Challenge At PINZ

KIKI SHEPARD (center) is surrounded by celebrity friends
Kiki Shepard’s K.I.S. Foundation hosted its 10th Annual Celebrity Bowling Challenge last night with a fun-filled, star-packed night of fun that included bowling, food, drinks and good-hearted competition.

Saturday night was chock full of stars as a number of celebrities took to the PINZ Entertainment Center bowling lanes in Studio City to take part in a bowling challenge with a mandate to raise Sickle Cell Awareness.

The Celebrity Bowling Challenge is held annually during Sickle Cell Awareness month to bring attention to the disease.


“We in the entertainment industry can do this for sickle cell,” said Kiki Shepard (It’s Showtime At The Apollo/A Rage in Harlem). “Together we can break the cycle of sickle cell. It’s a disease that can be eradicated if we lift our voices. I am dedicated to raising awareness. Compassion has no limits.”


“I’m here primarily because of Kiki,” said Salli RichardsonWhitfield (Eureka), who is married to Dondre Whitfield and whose godchild has sickle cell. “I come because we have an opportunity to give back to our own. I’ve been to the hospital many a night for my godchild. So we know about this disease. We always do what we can.”


“I’m here to support sickle cell research,” said Art Evans (A Soldier’s Story). “This is important. This kind of thing creates an awareness. Hopefully we’ll get enough publicity that it will give this disease some attention, the kind of attention that some of these other diseases get.”


The Celebrity Bowling Challenge included 32 teams headed by celebrity captains in a two-game bowling tournament, followed by a celebrity challenge lightning round. Players competed for bragging rights, with winners of the tournament being honored in a light-hearted awards ceremony.

Discovered in the United States over 100 years ago, sickle-cell disease (SCD) statistics show that originally an African-American disease, there are approximately 80,000 Americans living with sickle-cell disease and 3.5 million with sickle cell trait and related disorders. Today the disease has crossed into all races making SCD a multi-cultural disease. There is no general applicable cure for SCD.

The K.I.S. Foundation, Inc., is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization committed to improving the social health and quality of life for children, adults, and families living with Sickle Cell Disease, because “sickness has no boundaries and compassion has no limits.”  For information:

Friday, September 27, 2013

2013 Academy Nicholl Fellowships In Screenwrting Finalists Announced

BEVERLY HILLS, CA – Nine individual screenwriters and one writing team have been selected as finalists for the 2013 Academy Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting competition.  Their scripts will now be read and judged by the Academy Nicholl Fellowships Committee, which may award as many as five of the prestigious $35,000 fellowships.

This year’s finalists are (listed alphabetically by author):
     Scott Adams, Menlo Park, CA, “Slingshot”
     William Casey, Los Angeles, CA, “Smut”
     Frank DeJohn & David Alton Hedges, Santa Ynez, CA, “Legion”
     Brian Forrester, Studio City, CA, “Heart of the Monstyr”
     Noah Thomas Grossman, Los Angeles, CA, “The Cupid Code”
     Patty Jones, Vancouver, BC, Canada, “Joe Banks”
     Erin KLG, New York, NY, “Lost Children”
     Alan Roth, Suffern, NY, “Jersey City Story”
     Stephanie Shannon, Los Angeles, CA, “Queen of Hearts”
     Barbara Stepansky, Burbank, CA, “Sugar in My Veins” 

The finalists were selected from a record 7,251 scripts submitted for this year’s competition. 
The 2013 Academy Nicholl Fellowships will be presented on Thursday, November 7, at a ceremony in Beverly Hills.

The Nicholl competition is open to any individual who has not earned more than $25,000 writing for film or television or received a fellowship prize that includes a “first look” clause, an option, or any other quid pro quo involving the writer’s work.  Entry scripts must be feature length and the original work of a sole author or of exactly two collaborative authors.  The scripts must have been written originally in English.  Adaptations and translated scripts are not eligible.  The earnings limit for 2013 is an increase from the $5,000 limit in previous years.

Fellowships are awarded with the understanding that the recipients will each complete a feature-length screenplay during their fellowship year.  The Academy acquires no rights to the works of Nicholl fellows and does not involve itself commercially in any way with their completed scripts.
The Academy Nicholl Fellowships Committee, chaired by producer Gale Anne Hurd, is composed of writers Naomi Foner, Daniel Petrie Jr., Tom Rickman, Eric Roth, Dana Stevens and Robin Swicord; actor Eva Marie Saint; cinematographer John Bailey; costume designer Vicki Sanchez; producers Peter Samuelson and Robert W. Shapiro; marketing executive Buffy Shutt; and agent Ronald R. Mardigian.

Since the program's inception in 1985, 128 fellowships have been awarded.  Several past Nicholl fellows have recently added to their achievements.  Destin Daniel Cretton wrote and directed “Short Term 12” from his Nicholl Fellowship-winning script; the feature has received tremendous critical acclaim this year at screenings at international festivals and in theatrical release.  Creighton Rothenberger co-wrote “Olympus Has Fallen,” which opened in theaters this past March.  Several fellows currently have projects in post-production: Cecilia Contreras and Amy Garcia wrote “Dear Eleanor”; Anthony Jaswinski wrote “Random”; Karen Moncrieff wrote and directed “The Trials of Cate McCall”; and James Mottern directed “God Only Knows.”  Rebecca Sonnenshine is a writer and executive story editor on “The Vampire Diaries” on The CW.  Andrew Marlowe is a writer and executive producer, and Terri Edda Miller is a writer and consulting producer, on “Castle” on ABC. 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Finalists Announced For The 2013 HBFF Free Storyteller Live Showcase

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(September 25, 2013 – Hollywood, CA) – The 2013 Hollywood Black Film Festival (HBFF) will host a FREE live Storyteller Showcase that will take place Friday, October 4th at The W Hotel, 6250 Hollywood Blvd, Hollywood, CA 90028 in Great Rooms 1 & 2. The Showcase is open to the public.
Since its inception in 1998, the Hollywood Black Film Festival has honored and encouraged scribes for their excellence in and dedication to the art of storytelling. HBFF celebrates how important the written word is to the mediums of film and television and gives recognition to those who put those words on the page. 

Helmed by HBFF staff member and blossoming actress Alexia Peebles, each year of the festival, writers from all over the globe submit their work to be considered for one of the 10 slots given to the Storyteller Semi-Finalists. Whether a feature, short, documentary, or written for television, countless scripts are read, critiqued, and scored by a jury panel comprised of working industry professionals to determine the best works to advance into the next phase of the competition. Next, the top 10 scripts are read and critiqued again to find out which three will become Storyteller Finalists. The ranking of those top three are announced at the Filmmakers and Storyteller Awards Presentation at the close of the festival.  

The writers of the 10 semi-finalist scripts are given a personal invitation to the festival, where they receive exclusive, personalized attention from Storyteller's mentor of 11 years, Harrison Reiner. He is an award-winning script-writer and valued staff member at CBS Television Studio's Scripted Cable Series Division. 

“I have been working with Harrison for the past six years,” Alexia says, “and what I know for certain is that he is completely invested and dedicated. Harrison loves nothing more than mentoring. It's such a big part of who he is. The Storyteller Semi-Finalists have always found their time with him invaluable.”

The prize package for the three Storyteller Finalists includes the writer choosing a scene from their script to be performed by working LA actors before an audience in the new Storyteller Live Showcase. Formerly called the Storyteller Live Staged Reading, participants have included Obba Babbatunde, Loretta Devine, Jackee' Harry, Tatiana Ali, and Kenny Lattimore in the night dedicated to HBFF Storytellers. 

This year's performances are being cast and directed by noted director/ playwright, Patricia Cuffie-Jones, protégé of David E. Talbert. Patricia has made quite a name for herself with projects such as Love the One You're With and Love's Holiday. This will be her first collaboration with HBFF and she is excited about the new endeavor.  

“I want to make the writers proud, give the audience an appetite for more, and give platform to some extraordinary talent,” she shares. 

“I look forward to staging these phenomenal stories, keeping true to the honesty and integrity in which it was written, and revealing to the audience the genuine heart and raw soul that lies within it”.

About Harrison Reiner
Harrison Reiner works on staff in the Scripted Cable Series Division of CBS Television Studios. He was Production Executive on the Academy Award-winning motion picture, Cinema Paradiso, Story Editor at RKO Pictures for the filming of Eight Men Out (directed by iconic indie filmmaker John Sayles) and Story Analyst for Universal Pictures, Warner Brothers Animation, Turner Network Television (TNT), the Zanuck Company (producers of the Academy Award-wining motion picture, Driving Miss Daisy), The Samuel Goldwyn Company, and Sherry Lansing Productions in association with Paramount Pictures. 

 He also developed the selling draft of Cliffhanger, starring Sylvester Stallone, with screenwriter Michael France. Mr. Reiner has been a screenwriting mentor for the Hollywood Black Film Festival and the National Association of Latino Independent Producers for the last decade.  

His teaching credits include UCLA’s School of Film and Television, University of California Santa Barbara, and The Scottish Film Academy in Edinburgh, Scotland.  He co-founded The Writers Institute for Diversity in Los Angeles (where emerging writers and writer-directors from every walk of life are mentored to a first or second feature film) with award-winning screenwriter Josefina Lopez, who penned HBO’s critically acclaimed film, Real Women Have Curves. 

He holds a B.F.A. from New York University Tisch School of the Arts, a certificate from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London, and an Interdisciplinary Master’s in Film, Business, and Law from Columbia University in the city of New York.

About the Hollywood Black Film Festival
Founded in 1998, the Hollywood Black Film Festival (HBFF) aims to enhance the careers of emerging and established Black filmmakers through a public exhibition, competition program and industry panels.  Known amongst the entertainment industry’s powerbrokers as, “The Black Sundance,” the festival brings independent works of accomplished and aspiring black filmmakers to an environment encompassing the mainstream Hollywood community and Southern California film-going audiences. The festival’s goal is to play an integral role in discovering and launching independent films and filmmakers by bringing them to the attention of the industry, press and public. 
Since its inception, HBFF Has screened nearly 100 films from the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, France, Japan, the Bahamas, Central African Republic, Ghana, Burundi, Nigeria, Australia, South Africa, Kenya, Haiti, Burkina Faso, Niger, Russia, Brazil, Jordan, Jamaica, Spain, Cuba, Trinidad and Tobago, Singapore and the Philippines.

For more information about the Hollywood Black Film Festival, visit, email:

Chaka Khan Celebrates Birthday at Upper Crust

Los Angeles, CA – On this Saturday’s episode of “Welcome to Sweetie Pie’s,” Miss Robbie Montgomery welcomes the legendary Chaka Khan to the Upper Crust Restaurant to celebrate the singer’s 60th birthday. Khan stops by the St. Louis-based eatery for some cake and friendly fellowship, as the Upper Crust staff welcomes her with a soulful “Happy Birthday” song.

“It’s wonderful to be able to host special occasions like this,” said Miss Robbie, who will be celebrating a birthday of her own on an upcoming episode. “This is exactly what I was thinking about when I opened up the Upper Crust a year ago.”

“Welcome to Sweetie Pie’s” airs Saturdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network.

About Welcome to Sweetie Pie’s
When Robbie Montgomery, a 1960s backup singer and former Ikette, suffered a collapsed lung and had to stop singing, she decided to pour her talents into another creative venture: a soul food restaurant called Sweetie Pie’s.  At her family-centered eateries, which include Sweetie Pie’s at the Mangrove, Sweetie Pie’s Upper Crust and the original Sweetie Pie’s established in 1996, which Miss Robbie runs with her son, Tim, both hilarity and drama are offered in equal measure.  This docu-series follows the loud, loving and often singing Montgomery family as they work to expand their empire, one soulful dish at a time.  The series is produced by Pilgrim Studios and is executive produced by Craig Piligian, Melodie Calvert, Jeff Keane, Tim Breitbach and Steve Luebbert. Twitter: #SweetiePies

About OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network
OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network is the first and only network named for, and inspired by, a single iconic leader. Oprah Winfrey's heart and creative instincts inform the brand - and the magnetism of the channel.  Winfrey provides leadership in programming and attracts superstar talent to join her in primetime, building a global community of like-minded viewers and leading that community to connect on social media and beyond. OWN is a singular destination on cable.  Depth with edge.  Heart. Star power. Connection.  And endless possibilities.  OWN is a joint venture between Harpo, Inc. and Discovery Communications.  The network debuted on January 1, 2011 and is available in 85 million homes.  The venture also includes the award-winning digital platform

Credit: OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Van Jones To Co-Host CNN's 'CROSSFIRE'


CROSSFIRE was previously the longest running political debate program on television.  On the show Mr. Jones, an outspoken political commentator who has a long track record of activism and deep community involvement, will continue to break down his views on the current political climate while highlighting his unique perspective.

CROSSFIRE airs weekdays at  6:30pm Eastern on CNN.  Last week Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann and New York Rep. Charlie  Rangel joined CNN’s S.E. Cupp and Van Jones.  They debated the  Congressional showdown over the budget and the potential federal  government shutdown over the House GOP plans to defund Obamacare through  the budget process. 

CROSSFIRE reignites its historical significance. Here is a 1984 vintage clip which shows a classic moment of Angela Davis,  activist and Communist party candidate for Vice President, discussing  communism in the United States:  

Van Jones is the founding president of Rebuild the Dream, an  organization that promotes innovative policy solutions for the U.S.  economy. He is a Yale-educated attorney and author of two The New York Times best-selling books, “The Green Collar Economy” and “Rebuild  the Dream.” He is the founder of four thriving not-for-profit  organizations. Jones is also the recipient of numerous awards,  including: the World Economic Forum’s “Young Global Leader” designation;  one of Rolling Stone magazine’s “12 Leaders Who Get Things Done” in  2012; one of Time Magazine’s 2009 “100 Most Influential People in The  World.” In 2009, Jones worked as the green jobs advisor for the Obama  administration. 

CROSSFIRE, which aired weeknights from 1982 to 2005, examined political  and social issues in a televised debate. Conservative Pat Buchanan and  liberal Tom Braden were the original hosts of the program, but over the  years CROSSFIRE featured various hosts from the right and from the left,  including Robert Novak, Tucker Carlson, James Carville and Paul Begala.  Guests on the program were frequently top lawmakers from across the  political spectrum, but also included an eclectic mix of other  personalities: Bob Hope, Rupert Murdoch, Charlton Heston, Kareem Abdul  Jabbar, Dr. Jack Kevorkian, Rush Limbaugh, Christopher Reeves, Arianna  Huffington and Howard Cosell.”

Signature To Take The Stage At Jazz & Jokes

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Gospel artist trio Signature is excited to hit the stage Saturday September 28 at Jazz & Jokes, a premier music and comedy venue. They are one of the featured acts performing live during the New Artist Showcase starting at 5pm. Jazz & Jokes is located at 174 3rd Avenue North Nashville, TN.
Signature was recently featured on the renowned Bobby Jones Showcase. The group possesses a natural gift for music and is poised to standout with their new label, Birmingham Entertainment/ Epic Entity Music Group. Kristie; 25, Michelle; 23, and Bonnie; 26 are a multi-talented trio from Birmingham, AL, touching a broad spectrum of musical styles ranging from traditional to contemporary gospel. Other musical influences include Kim Burrell, The Clark Sisters and Beyoncé.
Signature’s sophomore project, “A Perfect Signature” is currently being produced by Grammy Award Winner, Fred “Uncle Freddie” Jerkins III (Kirk Franklin, Kierra Sheard, Brandy, Monica, Destiny’s Child Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson), Grammy Nominated songwriter/producer, Alvin Garrett (Veshawn Mitchell, Trin-i-tee 5:7, Ruben Studdard, Deitrick Haddon), and Johnny Wilson, manager. Their new single release is entitled “Bigger Than All.” All three ladies write and sing lead in their songs.
They are the daughters of Pastor Charlie and First Lady Bernette Lett of Greater Grace Community Church in Hueytown, AL. Signature began their musical journey at ages five, six, and seven and credit their mother as the motivation behind their talented ability.
Like many church singers, these three decided to test the waters in the R&B industry; however, their strong faith and Christian foundation led them back to gospel music.
“It didn’t feel right for us,” Bonnie shares. So we decided to go back to what we know.”
Michelle adds, “Since then, we’ve had a lot of change and a lot of growth. We also tried several different group names before deciding on Signature.” This name was given to them by a friend and holds quite a significant meaning.
“God has three parts, in which He plays the signature roles of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit”, Kristie explains. “We’re the same in how we’re coming together as one with the signature sounds that God gave us. We share three roles but we have one purpose.”
In 1999, the sisters were finalists in “McDonalds Presents: It’s ShowTime at the Apollo.” Years passed before they were discovered by their current manager, Johnny Wilson, in 2008. He saw them on a TV program and encouraged them to continuing pursuing their talents. Their first album, Sunshine, was produced by Erick Matthews and received continual play on local radio stations.
This talented group of young ladies have a sincere desire to be a positive influence as they minister to the lives of today’s youth, and they are indeed, ready for the spotlight.

Director David Talbert Puts In A 'Baggage Claim'

By Darlene Donloe

Montana Moore is not only a beautiful, successful flight attendant.  She’s a great sister and daughter and a supportive friend. Oh, and one more thing – she’s single. 

There’s nothing really wrong with that. However, if you have a mother who is constantly reminding you of the fact that you’re not married and a younger sister who is about to walk down the aisle – it might just play with your head.


So, what does Montana (Paula Patton) do?  She allows two of her friends Gail (Jill Scott) and Sam (Adam Brody) to devise a plan to find Montana the perfect guy to bring to her sister’s wedding.

It’s a crazy adventure that has Montana “running into” some of ex-boyfriends on a quest to see if there is still a spark.

The plan keeps her up in the air (in more ways than one) as she places herself on planes that some of exes are also booked on.


In the meantime, her best friend, William Wright, (Derek Luke), with whom she pours out her heart about her failed relationships, tries his best to keep her focused on what really matters.

Why would a successful, beautiful, professional woman goes to those lengths to find a man?

This is a wacky comedy that has a message about true love, expectations and settling.

Baggage Claim, (Fox Searchlight) directed, produced and written by David E. Talbert (DT), stars Paula Patton (PP), Derek Luke (DL), Taye Diggs (TD), Boris Kodjoe (BK), Jill Scott (JS), Adam Brody, Jenifer Lewis (JL), Djimon Hounsou (DH), Lauren London, Christina Milian, Tia Mowry, La La Anthony, Rickey Smiley, Ned Beatty, Terrence J and Affion Crockett. It opens nationwide Friday, Sept. 27.

This is Talbert’s second feature. First Sunday, released in 2008, was his first. Baggage Claim is based on his 2003 novel of the same name.

I recently caught up with the cast of Baggage Claim to talk about the message of the movie.

DD:  Mr. Talbert, do you believe men and women can just be friends?

DT:  I’ve been in love with a beautiful woman for 15 years.  I like to write from reality.

DD: You write like you really like Montana Moore.

DT:  Montana Moore is my favorite character.

DD: Talk about your cast.

DT:  The cast is amazing. Paula was the magnet that attracted everyone else.


DD: Paula why did you want to do this film?

PP: I read the script out loud. I knew I wanted this for a black woman to be the lead of a romantic comedy. This has been a dream come true. It’s a passion project.  I just love the script.

DD: Paula, you have Jenifer Lewis as your mother in the film.

PP: Yeah it can’t get any better than that.  Jenifer is an amazing actress. She is so full of life. She’s willing to be vulnerable.

JL: I had great chemistry with Paula and loved having her as my daughter.

DD: Mr. Talbert, you have Jenifer Lewis in your film.

DT: The best part with me was having Jenifer cuss me out after every take.

DD:  Ms. Lewis, you’re in a David Talbert movie.

JL: What David gave me was a true arch to my character. That doesn’t happen with every role. If the script has been shit, I would have done this film. I don’t give a f*ck. This son of a bitch is funny as hell.

DD: Jenifer, talk about working with Derek Luke.

JL: This son of a bitch is so damn pretty that I have a headache.  I’m feeling bipolar, bicoastal and bisexual.  We have a great movie. It’s fun. I’m proud of the entire team. I was also proud of my performance. This is my 63rd movie. David gave me one of my best performances.

DD: Derek, could you relate to your character?

DL: I think I related to my character, William, because everyday you get to meet people.  He’s a good guy. My mother groomed me as a William, so I had to play him.  

DD: Jill Scott, why did you want to play your character, Gail?

JS:  Seemed like it would be a lot of fun. I’ve played a number of characters in fat suits. Gail is about fun. I wanted to have fun. I like her. I’ll have to watch it two or three times to actually know if I liked her. It was something new to do. I need to be a Renaissance woman. The more I can do – the more I will.


DD: Mr. Kodjoe, why did you want to be in this movie?

BK: I took the movie because I wanted to be in a movie with all of these people. I really wanted to get back at my wife. She’s made out with all of these people. People like Djimon and Taye.  What I really liked was there were give good guys who could have ended up with the prize.

DD: Do you think men and women can be friends?

BK: Absolutely. We (Nicole Ari Parker) started off as friends. We were good friends for two years. We actually like each other

DD: Taye, what did you think of the script?

TD:  I was laughing out low when I read the script.

DD: Djimon, do you like your character?

DH: The thing I like about my character, Quinton, is that there is an opportunity to say something. I think the western countries think we’re (Africans) in loin cloths chasing gazelles. We’re also elegant human beings. That was important to me. I wanted to open the eyes about who the African is.  What I have noticed is that we spend too much time focusing on what we don’t want instead of what we want.

Baggage Claim, a David E. Talbert Film, is Rated PG-13; Running time: 97 minutes.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

'The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete' Set To Close Hollywood Black Film Festival


Tanya Kersey, Founder and Executive Director of the Hollywood Black Film Festival (HBFF), is excited to announce the feature, The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete, has been selected as the 2013 closing night film.  Codeblack Films, a Lionsgate (NYSE: LGF) company, will release the film in select theaters on October 11. The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete will close out the 13th annual edition of HBFF on Sunday, October 6, 7pm at the Montalban Theater, 1615 Vine Street, Hollywood, CA. HBFF 2013 runs October 2 -6, and features an inspiring line up of films, panels, panelists, and special events.

Directed by George Tillman, Jr. and written by Michael Starrbury, The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete stars Academy Award® and Golden Globe® winner Jennifer Hudson (Dreamgirls), Golden Globe and EMMY® Award winner Jeffrey Wright (Boardwalk Empire, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Quantum of Solace), Skylan Brooks, Ethan Dizon, American Idol winner Jordin Sparks (Sparkle), Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Thor: The Dark World) and Anthony Mackie (Runner Runner, Pain & Gain). Jana Edelbaum, Rachel Cohen and Bob Teitel produced the film with Alicia Keys, Susan Lewis, Clay Floren, Aimee Shieh, Julio Depietro, Keith Kjarval, Mary Vernieu, and Amy Nauiokas executive producing. The film also features new music by Grammy® Award-winning multiplatinum recording artist Alicia Keys.

The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete is a beautifully observed and tremendously moving film about salvation through friendship and the way transformation sometimes can happen just by holding on long enough. During a sweltering summer in New York City, 13-year-old Mister’s (Skylan Brooks) hard-living mother (Jennifer Hudson) is apprehended by the police, leaving the boy and nine-year-old Pete (Ethan Dizon) alone to forage for food while dodging child protective services and the destructive scenarios of the Brooklyn projects. Faced with more than any child can be expected to bear, the resourceful Mister nevertheless feels he is an unstoppable force against seemingly unmovable obstacles. But what really keeps the pair in the survival game is much more Mister’s vulnerability than his larger-than-life attitude. Visit for film information & updates. Follow the social conversation at #MisterAndPete

The festival after-party will be held immediately following the screening at Station Hollywood, The W Hotel, 6250 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, CA.

Recognized as the premiere Black film festival in Hollywood showcasing the best independent films from Black filmmakers, HBFF leads with innovation by delivering top-shelf panels designed to empower filmmakers and expose Black film to diverse audiences right in the heart of the movie capital.

For more information on the 2013 Hollywood Black Film Festival and to see a full line up of events, visit

About the HBFF
Founded in 1999, The Hollywood Black Film Festival aims to enhance the careers of emerging and established North American filmmakers through a public exhibition, competition program and industry panels. Known amongst the entertainment industry’s powerbrokers as, “The Black Sundance,” the festival brings independent works of accomplished and aspiring black filmmakers to an environment encompassing the mainstream Hollywood community and Southern California film-going audiences. The festival’s goal is to play an integral role in discovering and launching independent films and filmmakers by bringing them to the attention of the industry, press and public.

2013 HBFF Presents Inaugural Film Diaspora

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Hollywood, CA (September 23, 2013) This year the Hollywood Black Film Festival (HBFF) has integrated a new sidebar, Film Diaspora, into its programming slate. Film Diaspora will showcase independent films and filmmakers from the African Diaspora. The sidebar will screen Thursday, October 3 from 11am-9pm at the Ricardo Montalban Theatre, 1618 Vine Street, Hollywood, CA. The Hollywood Black Film Festival runs October 2-6 in Hollywood, CA. 

Andrea Meshel, the programmer for this year’s Film Diaspora, is hoping to create an awareness of stories being told by filmmakers outside of the United States. “Film Diaspora is proud to present a vast array of cinematic voices from the African Diaspora.” says Meshel. 

The Film Diaspora lineup will showcase 11 films -- three features, six shorts, and two documentaries from 8 countries -- Nigeria, Haiti, Cameroon, United Kingdom, New Zealand, Madagascar, Burkina Faso and South Africa 

Flower Girl (Nigeria)
Writer: Jigi Bello, Director: Michelle Bello
Malagasy Mankany (Legends of Madagascar) (Madagascar)
Writer/Director: Haminiaina Ratovarivony
Ninah’s Dowry (Cameroon)
Writer/Director: Victor Viyuoh 
Midnight Scorpian (Burkina Faso)

Writer/Director: Tony Amara
NHAMO (South Africa)
Writer/Director: Eunice Chiwesha Goldstein
Ogondah (Nigeria)
Writer/Director: Willis Ikedum Sunni Man (New Zealand) Writer/Director: Hamish Mortland
Touch (London)
Writer/Director: Shola Amoo
Unspoken (Nigeria)
Writers: Edith Nwekenta and Ola Laniyan 

Adopted ID (Haiti)
Writer: Andrew Togobo Director: Sonia GoddingTogobo Sodiq (London)
Writer/Director: Adeyemi Michael 
About Andrea Meshal
Andrea Meshel, a native of Kingston Jamaica, started her career as a film maker in 2008 with a documentary entitled "I Wanna Be President." Prior to working in the film industry, Meshel received a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Adelphi University, and a Juris Doctorate
from Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. Meshel recently produced a short film entitled
"Descent," she’s currently co-producing a web series entitled "Real Life," and she is in preproduction on two short films -- “Alone” and “Necrophilia.” Meshel has written, directed, produced, as well as acted in numerous film and theatrical productions throughout the country. She is committed to portraying positive images of African people. As an African Caribbean artist Meshel believes it is important to provide exposure to filmmakers from the Diaspora, and she is passionate about and committed to giving these filmmakers a platform through which to showcase their talents and work. 

About the Hollywood Black Film Festival
Founded in 1998, the Hollywood Black Film Festival (HBFF) aims to enhance the careers of emerging and established Black filmmakers through a public exhibition, competition program and industry panels. Known amongst the entertainment industry’s powerbrokers as, “The Black Sundance,” the festival brings independent works of accomplished and aspiring black filmmakers to an environment encompassing the mainstream Hollywood community and Southern California film-going audiences. The festival’s goal is to play an integral role in discovering and launching independent films and filmmakers by bringing them to the attention of the industry, press and public. 

Since its inception, HBFF Has screened nearly 100 films from the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, France, Japan, the Bahamas, Central African Republic, Ghana, Burundi, Nigeria, Australia, South Africa, Kenya, Haiti, Burkina Faso, Niger, Russia, Brazil, Jordan, Jamaica, Spain, Cuba, Trinidad and Tobago, Singapore and the Philippines. 

For more information about the Hollywood Black Film Festival, visit, email:

Monday, September 23, 2013

CTG Announces 2013-2014 August Wilson Program

Applications for Both Programs are Due October 1, 2013

CenterTheatre Group is now accepting applications for the 2013-2014 August Wilson programs – the August Wilson Monologue Competition (AWMC) and the CTG AugustWilson In-School Residency Program.
Student applications for the AWMC and applications from educators to participate in the in-school residency program are due on October 1, 2013. Applications for both programs are available at
Center Theatre Group will be the Southern California host of the AWMC for the third year in a row. The national competition, presented by Kenny Leon’s True Colors Theatre Company and Jujamcyn Theaters, is now in its sixth year and also includes students from Atlanta, New York, Chicago, Boston, Portland, Seattle and Pittsburgh. The goal of the program is to introduce high school students to August Wilson’s works and help the students to find their own creative voices. 
Southern California students from all backgrounds and experience levels are encouraged to apply. Applicants must be in grades 10, 11 or 12 and reside in Los Angeles, Ventura, Orange, Riverside or San Bernardino Counties.
Pablo Lopez, 2013 Los Angeles Regional Finalist and winner of second place nationally said, “Do not cheat yourself of this opportunity because of fear or insecurities. Wilson wrote these characters about everyday people, so anyone can do it! As long as you have a heart that beats, you are fully capable of bringing a character to life.”
Each student will select a monologue to perform from August Wilson’s 10-play Century Cycle, an epic dramatization of the African-American experience in the 20th century. A compendium of available monologues for students to select from is located at
The preliminary auditions will take place at Center Theatre Group on November 9, 2013.  The semi-final competition will take place on January 18, 2014, at Servite High School in Anaheim as a part of the California Educational Theatre Association High School Theatre Festival. In the 2012-2013 AWMC, 84 Southern California students participated, with 31 schools and 29 different cities represented.
Twelve regional finalists will be chosen to participate in master classes at CTG and compete in the March 11, 2014, Los Angeles regional finals on the Mark Taper Forum stage. All regional finalists will receive a $250 CTG gift card as a part of their participation. The top three finalists will win cash prizes and a trip to New York City, where the top two students will compete in the national finals with the third student serving as alternate and participant in a performance montage. The national finals will take place on May 5, 2014, at the August Wilson Theatre on Broadway.  
The CTG August Wilson in-school residency program is a 15-week residency that offers an opportunity for students from four different schools to learn about Wilson, his work and inspirations, and to discover their own creative voices. Participating classroom teachers will have the unique opportunity to partner with CTG Teaching Artists to present a curriculum covering all 10 August Wilson plays. Students from participating residency classrooms will attend the AWMC regional finals at the Mark Taper Forum.
High school educators from all subject areas from Title 1 schools located within Los Angeles County are eligible to apply for the August Wilson In-School Residency Program.  There is no cost to participate, however, each school is responsible for providing teacher release time for two team building meetings and transportation for students and chaperones to attend the AWMC regional finals on the evening of March 11.
 “I felt that the students were really able to connect with so much of the material. I saw a lot of cross-curricular connections — from visual art to theatre to history to literature,” said Fabiola Lopez, a 2013 residency teacher.
Major regional funding for the AWMC is provided by The Dream Fund at UCLA Donor Advised Fund, Center Theatre Group Affiliates, the William Randolph Hearst Foundation and Wells Fargo.
CTG’s AWMC participation and its Wilson in-school residencies are programs of CTG’s Education and Community Partnerships department, led by Leslie K. Johnson. Currently one of the most active theatre education programs in the country, CTG’s Education and Community Partnerships Department reached 19,920 students, teachers and community members throughout Southern California in the 2012-2013 season.
The department is dedicated to the development of artists, educators and young people’s skills and creativity through the exploration of theatre, its literature, art and imagination.
The inspiration for the AWMC was sparked in 2007 in Atlanta by Wilson’s long-time collaborators Kenny Leon and Todd Kreidler of True Colors Theatre Company. Modeled after Pittsburgh Public Theater’s annual Shakespeare Monologue and Scene contest, the AWMC utilizes performance tools and text analysis to help students explore the interior lives of August Wilson’s characters and study the social, economic and historical realities they inhabit. Funding for the national August Wilson Monologue Competition comes from Delta Airlines, Macy’s, Publix Supermarket Charities, Massey Charitable Trust, Bank of America, The Imlay Foundation and Kathleen Rios.
CTG maintained a long relationship with August Wilson, presenting seven of his plays. In addition to “Jitney,”King Hedley II” (Tony Award nomination for Best Play), “Gem of the Ocean” (world premiere production), “Radio Golf” (world premiere production) and “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone” at the Mark Taper Forum, CTG presented the Tony Award-nominated “Seven Guitars” at the Ahmanson Theatre and “Two Trains Running” and “The Piano Lesson” (1990 Pulitzer Prize) at the Doolittle Theatre in Hollywood.
More information on CTG’s August Wilson program can be found at

Sunday, September 22, 2013

'Muscle Shoals' Documentary Flexes Its Influence

The name Muscle Shoals isn’t a household name – yet!  But, anyone who is a music aficionado knows very well the significance of this influential music company.

A documentary aptly called, Muscle Shoals tells the story of a place filled with magic and music, legend and folklore, where the river is inhabited by a Native American spirit who has lured some of the greatest Rock and Roll and Soul legends of all time, and drawn from them some of the most uplifting, defiant, and important music ever created.  

In Muscle Shoals, Alabama, music runs through the hills, the river, and the spirit of the people.  It is a place where, even before the Civil Rights Movement really took shape, the color of one’s skin didn't matter inside the studio.  

The story of Rick Hall, who founded FAME Studios, is fascinating.  Overcoming crushing poverty and staggering tragedies, Hall is responsible for creating what came to be known as the "Muscle Shoals sound" and The Swampers, the house band at FAME that eventually left to start their own successful studio. 

The musicians and artists who waltzed through Muscle Shoals is like a who’s who.

Jimmy Cliff, Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin, Etta James, Alicia Keys, Wilson Pickett, The Rolling Stones, Bob Seger, Paul Simon, The Staple Singers, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Percy Sledge and countless other stars were all lured to the remote and mystical place in the backwoods of Alabama.

The documentary includes raw and candid interviews, inspiring music, live performances, and the magic of the milieu itself capture and convey this tale.  Interviewees include legendary musicians Gregg Allman, Bono, Clarence Carter, Jimmy Cliff, Aretha Franklin, Mick Jagger, Alicia Keys, Ed King, Keith Richards, Percy Sledge, and Steve Winwood and many others.

Muscle Shoals is directed by Greg 'Freddy" Camalier, edited by Richard Lowe, produced and executive produced by Stephen Badger and Greg "Freddy" Camalier.

I caught up with Camalier to talk about the doc.
DD: I totally loved this documentary. Why did you decide to bring this story to the big screen? 

GFC:  It really chose us more than it chose me.

DD: Did you always know about the town of Muscle Shoals?

GFC: We stumbled on the town by happenstance one night. We knew some of the music. But what we found blew us away. We started researching. We couldn’t believe the history that had gone on down there. I ccouldn’t believe this story had not been told.

DD: Describe the Muscle Shoals sound.

GFC: I describe it as very raw and living, breathing. I see the human quality of it. It’s a propulsive groove that is funky.

DD: What is the secret behind Muscle Shoals?

GFC:  I think it’s the human element. It’s the guys and how they approached music. You hear people’s souls not garbled up or hidden or processed. That’s part of it. That’s a complicated question. You feel the human spirit in that music.
DD: Are you a music fan? 

GFC: Yes. I love so many types of music. I don’t have one. So many genres. It’s not so much the genre.

DD: What’s in your IPOD right now?

GFC: obviously Muscle Shoals tracks. I mix it up with a bunch of other music. Citizen Cope, some funk, The Raw Contours, The White Stripes, Biz Markie, Alicia Keys, Brandy Carlisle, Candi Staton, Clarence Carter, Dylan, Aretha, Civil Wars.

DD: You directed and produced this doc.  Why did you think this was an important story to tell?

GFC: Because it’s such a massive story. It’s American history really. By the sheer magnitude and all the genres of music, there was a huge audience. Incredible characters.

DD: You have some great artists in this doc. Was there anyone you wanted to get, that you couldn’t get?

GFC: You feel bad because there were so many musicians. This is just a small spattering of the people who came out of Muscle Shoals. So many people who were part of the story. We couldn’t make the movie eight hours.

DD:  Why do you think Muscle Shoals has not received as much recognition as Motown?

GFC: Good question. It’s contribution is on par with all other musical stories. It’s been under the radar. After this is released, it will no longer be under the radar.

DD: What did you know about Muscle Shoals before deciding to do the documentary?

GFC: I knew only three artists. I knew Lynyrd Skynyrd, Duane Allman (The Allman Brothers) and Clarence Carter. That’s all I knew. I was familiar with other music, but I didn’t know it came from there.

DD: Were you surprised by anything you found out during interviews or at any time while putting this doc together?
GFC: All the time. I will be learning new things until the day I die.

DD: What I loved about the documentary was how the studio was colorblind.  I’d hate to think it was just because green was a more important color than black or white. Your thoughts?

GFC: I think in the beginning when we asked the question we were suspect. Then as we went on everyone was describing the same thing. By the time we got to the 15th we started to believe.  It was just these guys’ essence. They didn’t think in small terms. They were actualized people who thought color didn’t matter.

DD: How long did it take to pull this doc together?

GFC: About three and a half years. The average time is like nine years. You gotta get to all these people and you have to find the story as you go. Some people are hard to get a hold of. You gotta pull it all together. I feel fortunate.

DD: What are your thoughts about the music industry today?
GFC: Music today? I don’t know. It’s just rapidly changing. I don’t think the quality of digital is as good as analog. Everything about it is different.

Muscle Shoals opens nationwide, September 27. It has a running time of 111 minutes.