Change is in the air for one of the country's most prominent black film festivals - The American Black Film Festival.
Festival director Jeff Friday officially confirmed a previously leaked story - via a letter sent out to festival supporters and alumni yesterday - that the festival will be moving from its current South Beach Miami location, to the mecca of independent cinema, New York City!
The move is already in effect, as the 2014 installment of the festival will take place in New York, marking the ABFF's 18th year.
"I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your support; without you, we would not stand today as one of the leading film festivals in the world," Friday said in the emailed letter, adding that Morris Chestnut would be 2014's ABFF celebrity ambassador.
The reasons for the move should be obvious. There's really no better location in the world for a film festival of ABFF's caliber and mission, to call home. Ideally, either of the coastal cities (LA or NYC) would make the most sense, and the festival did actually spend a brief period of time in the City of Angels.
After LA, New York is a film industry hot-bed, home to influential film production and distribution houses like The Weinstein Company and Focus Features (although Focus is currently undergoing a change of its own), as well as numerous TV shows and film shoots, both at the studio level and the plethora of indies mounting countless new productions on a regular basis.
New York is also an attraction itself, drawing some 50 million tourists a year from all over the world (including the USA), who are spending $35 to $40 billion in the city. And with convenient transportation connections to nearby Philadelphia, Washington, DC, New Jersey, Connecticut, and others make it a key port and centralized location.
Of course, I'd be remiss if I didn't also mention the city's diversity as an asset, where you'll find representation from almost every part of the African diaspora - people like me who've come to call New York home - despite how expensive a place it is to live.
This is obviously key to ABFF's position as a film festival that caters to members of that very same Diaspora.
"While Miami provided the ABFF with opportunities to realize some great achievements, New York is the #1 travel destination in the world - where over 3 million African Americans also happen to reside - and affords us tremendous potential for growth," Friday adds. "Those of us from nearby -- New Jersey, Philadelphia, Maryland and Washington D.C. -- will also have easier access. As we continue to shine the light on diverse stories, we need to offer broader audiences the chance to enjoy them. There's no better stage than New York, and we are excited about the move!"
And in consideration of this move, the festival is designing what Friday calls "a festival village" which will occupy the SVA Theatre and Metropolitan Pavilion - both in the Chelsea neighborhood in Manhattan.
As a New Yorker, I'm certainly pleased with this news. Certainly, I'm biased. For starters, it means that I won't have to travel to South Beach Miami anymore to attend the festival, saving me a trip! Although that's not the only reason.
ABFF 2014 is set for June 19-22 in its new New York City home. And when I say, New York-based Shadow & Act will be there to cover the festival next year, you can believe that we will!