Miami Beach hosts American Black Film Festival, opening with Crump documentary

Florida-based civil rights attorney Ben Crump, best known for taking on high-profile cases, like representing the families of Trayvon Martin and George Floyd, is now the focus of a new Netflix documentary. The movie, “Civil” was the opening film at the American Black Film Festival now through June 19 on Miami Beach.

The documentary, “Civil,” premieres on Juneteenth at the ABFF. Juneteenth commemorates the day (June 19, 1865) when Federal troops took control of the state of Texas, two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation into law in 1863. Texas was the last remaining Confederate state to ignore the new law which freed enslaved African-Americans.

South Florida will play host to a number of events commemorating Juneteenth.

Crump, opening the American Black Film Festival in Miami Beach, said the killing of Miami Gardens teen Trayvon Martin at the hands of George Zimmerman at a Central Florida apartment complex was a life-changing moment.

“It changed my life in making it easier for us to explain the fragility of how fragile life is for Black people in America, how if we’re not careful they will say it was completely insignificant, that we were just irrelevant,” Crump said.

Crump, known as “Black America’s attorney general,” said Martin’s death had a ripple effect.

“Trayvon did have an impact on George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery and Daunte Wright, all these cases where the police were held accountable, because without Trayvon’s Martin’s tragic killing raising the consciousness level of America we wouldn’t have (justice).”

Since he was nine, Crump said he knew he wanted to be a lawyer and fight for Black people like late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall did.

Born in Lumberton, North Carolina, his family ended up moving to South Florida, where he attended South Plantation High School.

Crump called the difference “night and day.”

“My dad still lives in Parkway,” he said. “South Florida is home.”

“Civil” gives viewers an inside look at his mission to raise Black voices and pulls back the curtain on Crump as a person.

“For us, showing his personality, his family, his personal trials, is a big part of creating the story and the picture of him as a whole person,” Nadia Hallgen, the director of “Civil,” said.

The American Black Film Festival, now in its 26th year, was founded in 1997 by Jeff Friday after he attended the Sundance Film Festival and noted its lack of diversity. He and advertising CEO Byron E. Lewis and film director and producer Warrington Hudlin launched what was known as the Acapulco Black Film Festival until the name was changed in 2002, providing a platform for Black filmmakers to connect, network, collaborate, and celebrate their work.

For the first five years of the festival, from 1997 to 2002, the festival was held in Acapulco then arrived in Miami in 2003.

The American Black Film Festival runs through June 19. View the complete schedule here.

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