LOS ANGELES, CA-Representation through imagery of black people is a big deal for the African American Film Critics Association (AAFCA). That is why they put on their annual show every year to honor that concept. There were not too many major films in 2017 that realistically encompassed that theme. But the ones that did got it right.
That would include the sensational race horror flick Get Out, the real-life depiction of what happened at the Algiers Motel in the tense drama Detroit, and the funny adventure of Girls Trip. It is no wonder that these three films received top billing from AAFCA during its ninth annual parade of awardees at its signature event.
“We’re celebrating another year of excellence in cinema,” said African American Film Critics Association co-founder and President Gil L. Robertson IV. “Jordan Peele, with Get Out, it was an amazing commentary on race and contemporary issues involving race in this country. So, it’s such a thrill that we’re going to have an opportunity to celebrate that.”
The Oscar-nominated Get Out ran away with the program and took home honors for Best Picture, Best Director (Jordan Peele), Best Actor (Daniel Kaluuya) and Best Screenplay. Girls Trip, a comedic look at four black girlfriends out on the town during a getaway trip to Mardi Gras, was more than a surprise hit ($140 million worldwide) for the summer.
Made with a not-so-robust $19 million budget, Girls Trip formally introduced to the world a budding superstar in actress Tiffany Haddish, who picked up the Best Supporting Actress award. Haddish and the cast also won for Best Comedy. Perhaps the most understated film in 2017 has to be the socially-conscious and powerfully-engaging Detroit.
The Annapurna Pictures film was not a big winner at the box-office, but cinematically won over hearts of critics. The deaths of three black men following the raid of police during the Detroit riots in 1967, is a movie that unapologetically examines race and police brutality. The film picked up an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Independent Motion Picture.
It can add two AAFCA awards to its trophy case. Detroit, which stars John Boyega (Star Wars: The Last Jedi) and Algee Smith, won AAFCA awards for Best Ensemble and Best Song (It Ain’t Fair). The other notable winner on the night was Frances McDormand as Best Actress in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. This yearly event is not so much about the awardees as much it is about the celebration of black cinema, said Blue Kimble, star of TV One’s Media.
“It’s always an immensely big deal when we can always put our best foot forward to show that our work is a lot more than people know,” Kimble said. “We have to show what value we have, not just within the community or society, but definitely in the film industry and the impact of what we’re doing and what we’re transitioning in doing. It’s just great when everybody can come out and look amazing and resent to the fullest. This is a prime example of black excellence. I’m honored to be part of this. It’s a blessing we’re able to be here.”
For Tristan Mack Wilds (Shots Fired), the AAFCA awards means relevancy and appreciation.
“It’s our people celebrating our people,” Wilds said. “I always say we need to take time to really appreciate what we do as a culture and what we do as a people around the world. It’s amazing to see and be around such excellence in our culture and in our community. It’s amazing.”
Black Lives Matter Los Angeles organizer Dr. Melina Abdullah came out the well-attended event, which drew the likes of Courtney B. Vance, Paula Patton, Roselyn Sanchez, Laz Alonzo, Sheryl Lee Ralph and many others, for several reasons. Abdullah was on hand to pay homage to the artists being celebrated, but she also wanted to show her support for OneUnited Bank, a sponsor of the AAFCA awards.
“I’m here, one, to celebrate black creativity, black people telling our own stories, black people putting our stories on the screen, speaking for ourselves,” Abdullah said. “There’s an African proverb that [says] until the lion tells the story, the hunter will always be the hero. So, black artists are super important. I’m also here with OneUnited Bank, who’ve been a great supporter of Black Lives Matter. Last year during Black History Month, we announced a partnership. Since then, OneUnited Bank has been putting funds into what we call a reparations fund for the families of those who’ve been killed by police. So, they began with Wakiesha Wilson and establishing a college fund for her son. He was left without a mother after her murder, so we’re continuing to build together. That’s part of why I’m here.”
The direction in which black filmmaking is going now is an exciting time, said Robertson.
“Well, it’s definitely in a renaissance stage,” said Robertson. “With technology there’s a lot of new opportunities that filmmakers are taking advantage of. The studios are starting to recognize the common sense of investing in black projects. We’re just thrilled.”