Jussie Smollett (Empire), Jennia Frederique Aponte (Sacred Heart) and Erica Brnfre greet a surprised audience at the GIBFF when Brnfre presents the first-ever Kelechukwu Brnfre Vanguard Award to Aponte. Smollett is the Executive Producer of Aponte’s film, SACRED HEART. (Photo by Saidah Holt)

What a weekend! Three days, 40 films, 11 filmmakers and 10 awards. Whew!

The audiences at the 5th Annual Gary International Black Film Festival were treated to an unexpected surprise when, after three days of dynamic shorts, narrative and experimental film, the Closing Night event featured a touching tribute to GIBFF Director of Community Engagement, Kelechukwu Brnfre. Tears of remembrance turned to tears of joy when Brnfre’s widow, Erica Brnfre presented the first Annual Kelechukwu Brnfre Vanguard Award to Gary’s own Jennia Frederique Aponte for her film, SACRED HEART, capping of a jam packed weekend  that opened with Stanley Nelson’s BLACK PANTHER: VANGUARD OF THE REVOLUTION


Photo by Naomi Ishisaka

As Aponte was accepting the award, given to Gary natives who have shown exemplary vision in the arts and cinema, out walks SACRED HEART Executive Producer, Jussie Smollet (Empire).  The audience leaped to their feet! What a fitting surprise to our most powerful and engaging festival yet.  Smollett, Sol and Jennia Aponte and Closing Night Film director Nefertite Nguvu led a delightful talkback following the screening of SACRED HEART.

Along with announcing the Kelechukwu Brnfre Vanguard Award, the GIBFF issued 8 additional awards based on audience vote.

Best Youth Short – ONE NATION (USA 2015) – Dir. Anthony Hobbs
One_Nation_Movie_PosterA boy name Steven and his 5 friends (Jeffrey, Spice, Hope, Rose, and Brianna) are kids who decide that they need to give back to the members of the army returning home after fighting for freedom.
Best Student Film – A WALK TO SCHOOL (USA 2015) – Dir. Chaz Bottoms
A Walk To SchoolA young boy’s imaginary friend is a bad influence on him.
Best Narrative Short – SACRED HEART (USA 2015) – Dir. Sol Aponte
Sacred HeartWhen a beautiful woman suspects her millionaire husband is cheating, she escapes to Paris for revenge and meaningless sex, but finds much more instead.
Best Documentary Short – DIVIDED TIME (USA 2014)- Dir. William Feagins
dividedtime_poster07“Divided Time” captures the lives of nine fathers who share their experiences in parenthood and their pursuit of success in the music industry while being accountable to their families
Best Documentary Feature – NATHAN EAST: FOR THE RECORD (USA 2015) – Dir. Chris Gero
nathan-web (1)Nathan East For The Record is a documentary film that takes viewers behind-the-scenes as one of the most influential bass players in modern music recorded his debut solo album last year. His long-awaited solo album (released in March).
Best Narrative Feature – FORGIVENESS (USA 2015) – Dir. Hakim Khalfani
ForgivenessA beloved Pastor works to serve his ‘flock’ and save his 100 year old church. In his dedication and desire to do so, he crosses boundaries that are not to be crossed. Stars RICHARD T. JONES, Adam Lazarre-White, Robinne Lee, Maya Dunbar, Inny Clemons.
Best Narrative Comedy – NOLA CIRCUS (USA 2015)- Dir. Arnaud Bettan
Nola CircusNOLA CIRCUS chronicles the lives of the inhabitants of a black neighborhood in Algiers Point (New-Orleans), the lives that intercross around two barber shops facing each other on the main street. On one side there is Will, a black hairdresser who preaches against racial prejudices while having a secret affair with Nola, a young white woman who is dreaming of Broadway. On the other, there is Marvin, well known sex addict who’s having a passionate affair with Karen, a small time pot dealer. The tensions sharpen on the day when Denzel, Nola’s super protective brother starts sinking into the compulsive jealousy, the day when three Ku Klux Klan members show up at Will’s place to kidnap him.
Best Animated Feature – BATTLEDREAM CHRONICLE (Martinique 2015)- Dir. Alain Bidard
Meta Slider - YouTube - 54wNXI_7qiQIn 2100, the empire of Mortemonde colonized almost all the nations of the Earth and reduced their populations to slavery. Every slave is forced to collect 1000XP every month in Battledream, a video game where they can die for real. Only those who succeed are granted the right to live until the following month. Syanna, a young Martinican slave, refuses to keep living in this condition and decides to fight for her freedom…

The GIBFF humbly thanks our partners,  Indiana University Northwest and the Urban League of NWI. We are also grateful for our 2015 sponsors.

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