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At American Black Film Festival, director Tim Story, Anthony Anderson and more reflect on the loss of John Singleton

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Photo by Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic(MIAMI) — The American Black Film Festival was in full swing in Miami Thursday on its second day, with hundreds of black creatives, filmmakers and celebrities flocking to various events, screenings, panels and parties. However, many directors and talent agree, this year was noticeably different with the passing of critically-acclaimed director John Singleton.

In 2017, Singleton presented a Spotlight screening at ABFF for his then-new FX series, Snowfall. He continued his support of the festival by later attending the ABFF Honors in 2018. Even as Singleton's contributions to film and television continue to be a major highlight at ABFF, the director's good friends and colleagues say that Singleton was more than just a filmmaker.

"John was, is an innovator in film," Anthony Anderson told ABC radio. "The voice of the people the voice of a community."

"Look at what he was able to do his first shot out the gate with Boyz N the Hood and how that affected all of us as filmmakers, as actors and whatnot," Anderson continued. "And, you know, first I'd like to say it's just it's a sad loss, a devastating loss to the film community, to our community, to have a voice like John's that's no longer here with us."

Anderson, who starred in the Singleton-produced film Hustle and Flow, also praised Singleton's activism. In 1992, Singleton spoke passionately about the need to create safer communities for children in a Senate hearing called "Children at War: Violence and America’s Youth."

"Let's not forget that John was on Capitol Hill fighting for rights and, and battling Congress with issues," Anderson noted, recalling Singleton's speech. "And working with John and knowing John intimately — all I can say is a great man, a great humanitarian, and a great storyteller. That's why we do what we do. To tell authentic stories that have an effect and an effect on people."

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Singleton's impact also touched his fellow directors. Tim Story, who premiered his film Shaft at the ABBF Wednesday night, also opened up about his close connection to the director and the pressure he felt premiering the sequel to Singleton's 2000 Shaft film.

"My heart's broken because John and I talked about this movie, what I was doing before his passing," said Story. "And I was so ready for him to see it — there's footage of his movie inside of it."

"And my heart hurts on that," continued Story. "You know, he was a good friend. So look, bringing it's been daunting, but at the same time it's been a dream come true.

Like Story, Chris Robinson, who's also set to premiere his Netflix film, Beats, at the ABBF, also acknowledged the importance of Singleton's legacy.

"We're excited to bring [Beats] to ABFF, because this is a really important festival," Robinson said. "And John Singleton bringing his projects here is an example of that. This is actually my first time coming here so I was really excited that Netflix said, 'Hey, look let, let's bring the film here and premiere it before it comes on the screen.' So yeah, we're very honored to be here."

Singleton died at age 51 on April 29 in Los Angeles after suffering a stroke on April 17.

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