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Appearing at last year’s Plunge Culture and Creativity Conference, produced by Black Enterprise and Film Life, to screen her film Beyond the Lights; Writer/Director Gina Prince-Bythewood is an American Black Film Festival [ABFF] favorite, having mentored thespian winners of ABFF’s Star Project. After her recent movie Beyond the Lights was Oscar nominated for best original song thanks to the Diane Warren written/Rita Ora performed “Grateful,” Bythewood is now working on a pilot for Fox and Imagine based around the #BlackLivesMatter movement. “That’s my hope for my films: that people can go see it and see something to aspire to,” she says. “But also change the perception and see our humanity.”
Using art to combine activism and uplift the community has been the backbone of Bythewood’s work. Beginning her career as a writer working on television shows like A Different World, Felicity, and South Central, Bythewood’s passion is filmmaking. “I love making movies. It’s the only thing I want to do,” says the UCLA Film School graduate. “I want to entertain.”
Known for typically directing projects she pens, her 2000 film Love & Basketball starring Omar Epps and Sanaa Lathan is a cult classic, drawing gossipy whispers of sequel dreams. While her follow-up, 2008’s The Secret Life of Bees, stars Queen Latifah, Dakota Fanning, Jennifer Hudson, Alicia Keys, and Sophie Okonedo. Her most recent movie, Beyond the Lights, helped bring discussions of self-love and mental illness in the black community to not only the big screen, but also high schools across the country. “I hope that I can be an activist through my work. But I would never make a film that doesn’t have something to say,” she says. “I think we have an opportunity to have a platform and have a voice. We’ve got to use it in a positive way. I hope that all my films speak to somebody in a positive way. And I hope that all my films speak to somebody in some sort of way.”
Black Enterprise and Film Life present The 19th Annual American Black Film Festival June 11-June 14 in New York City. To register now and find out more visit ABFF.com. Join us at The American Black Film Festival, the largest gathering for film and TV enthusiasts.