Cadillac Kicks Off ABFF with Spike Lee, Regina Hall

The American Black Film Festival is an annual event dedicated to supporting the work of emerging Black artists.

From left to right: LeToya Luckett, Tai Beauchamp and Regina Hall / SHERYL ESTRADA/ DIVERSITYINC

Cadillac, a brand of General Motors (No. 42 on the DiversityInc Top 50 Companies list), hosted a media luncheon Wednesday to kick off the 21st annual American Black Film Festival (ABFF) in Miami Beach, Fla.

ABFF is an annual event dedicated to showcasing and supporting the work of emerging Black artists to diversify the images and storytellers working in the entertainment industry. The first festival was held in June 1997.

The event is recognized as the nation's largest gathering of Black film and TV enthusiasts, with approximately 10,000 attendees.

Tonya Hallett is director of human resources at Cadillac, a presenting sponsor of ABFF. Hallett said Cadillac is a brand that decided to "really stand on the belief of helping young talent achieve their dreams."

"The new motto for Cadillac is to support those who 'Dare Greatly,' so that's what this festival is all about," she said.

Jeff Friday, founder of ABFF, said he "dared greatly" 21 years ago when he and his team "started this festival based on an idea."

At the luncheon, director Spike Lee, who Friday said supported ABFF from its inception, and Kenny Gravillis, co-founder and chief creative director at Gravillis Inc., talked about the concept of daring greatly career wise and taking risks.

Spike Lee and Kenny Gravillis / DIVERSITYINC

"A lot of times you do stuff you might not have thought was a risk at the time," Lee said about filmmaking.

He said only in retrospect do you realize that it was daring or risky.

Gravillis has designed posters for Lee's films including "Chi-Raq." He also designed the poster for Raoul Peck's documentary, "I am Not Your Negro," and said the film's distributor allowed him to take risks with his designs. Gravillis said he used big and bold lettering for the title.


"It was great that they were able to take that risk, per say," he said. "It made a lot of people feel uncomfortable. But I also feel like, that's a part of the work. That's what work should do."

Gravillis said "sometimes in projects you have to push it, and see what people decide."

Actress and ABFF 2017 ambassador Regina Hall, star of the upcoming film "Girls Trip," attended the luncheon moderated by media personality Tai Beauchamp, and recording artist and actress LeToya Luckett gave a performance.

DiversityInc spoke with Lee at the luncheon about his thoughts on film's role in society, the value of diversity and education.

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