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The association was founded in 2003 by Gil L. Robertson IV and Shawn Edwards. They met in New York City after a press junket and were both concerned with the lack of themed stories in the film industry from the African Diaspora. In several weeks, the two of them were supported by other colleagues in their plan to create an association of black film critics. They drafted the initial outline for the association while in Los Angeles. In December 2003, the African-American Film Critics Association officially announced the start of its organization and released its first "Top Ten List."
The association actively reviews cinema overall, but highlights films about the African-American experience. The AAFCA produces awareness for films with widespread appeal to the black community while stressing the importance of films produced, written, directed and starring people of African descent. Members also involve themselves in advocacy work for students interested in film journalism and criticism.
The organization gives out awards for a variety of categories. Best Feature Film, Best Documentary, Best Actress, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Director, Best Foreign Film, Best Screenplay, and Best Original Song. The AAFC also gives out an award for Special Achievement which has been received by Jamie Foxx, John Singleton, as well as Spike Lee.
Members of AAFCA are a geographically diverse range of journalists who cover every genre of film and represent numerous mediums such as television, radio broadcast, online, and print. Membership into the AAFCA is by invitation only with approval of the Board of Governors.
There are three classifications for membership in the AAFCA; active member, associate member, and student. An active member is one who writes regular film criticism for a medium with a minimum of 24 to qualify and must be based in the United States. Once accepted the active member must have a constant presence in the critique of commercial American films. An associate member is one who writes regular film coverage for a medium and must express their affiliation with an established media body by providing a written letter on company letterhead. Finally, a minimum of twelve samples of film critique is needed for consideration. A student member is one who is attending an accredited college or university and is majoring in journalism or broadcast media.
Panel discussions led by an AAFCA member are also offered by the association. One such panel is about the concept of diversity in modern films. It accentuates an understanding that each individual is special and different. The differences may run along lines of race, ethnicity, gender socio-economic status, physical abilities, sexual orientation, age, physical abilities, religious beliefs, political beliefs, or other ideologies. The panel explores the role cinema plays in understanding one another and to go beyond a simplistic message of tolerance to one of celebrating and acceptance of the plentiful dimensions of diversity in every person.
Another panel entitled "What Every Filmmaker Needs to Know about Film Critics", explores the important areas filmmakers must know when making a film. Film critics influence the success and failure of a film through their reviews so this panel attempts to help new filmmakers. It discusses the significance of plot lines and story narrative in films, the deliberations that must go into casting a film, and the crucial technical and imaginative elements filmmakers should reflect on before presenting their work to the public.
The final program offered by the AAFCA is the Junior Critic Program. Working with the historically black colleges and universities, the AAFCA selects four journalism students who demonstrate a talent and/or interest in film to cover a film promotional event as a working journalist. The selection process for the students is based on academic or department recommendations and an interview with an AAFCA member. The representative chaperones the selected student for the media event and then provides assistance with the final report.
In 2009, the big winner at the African American Film Critics Association was Precious: Based on the Novel "Push" by Sapphire. The adaption won best picture, best director, best screenplay, and best supporting actress. The film's star, Gabourey Sidibe, did not win best actress in favor of Nicole Beharie from American Violet. After the awards, Roger Friedman of The Hollywood Reporter reported the tally had been manipulated by the group's president, Gil Robertson IV. Friedman posed that Robertson was to receive a bribe in the form of a donation from the producers affiliated with American Violet.
The issue sparked infighting among the group leading to a splintering. Three founding members of the AAFCA--Shawn Edwards of FOX-TV, Wilson Morales of Blackfilm.com/AOL Blackvoices, and Mike Sargent WBAI-FM/Tor.com--have withdrawn and created a new group, the Black Film Critics Circle. The new group includes five other former AAFCA members and officially debuted in February 2010. In the founding announcement, the Black Film Critics Circle made known that they were going to "maintain the integrity of a true critics organization". In a statement released December 28, 2009 and signed by fifteen of the group's members, Robertson denied any accusations related to ballot tampering and wished any group wanting to further black film appreciation the best. The only evidence to the controversy on the AAFCA website is the inclusion that "Effective January 1, 2010, final tabulations for all AAFCA Award categories will be handled by Beverly Hills accountant W. Steven Temple"
|2003||The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King|
|2007||The Great Debaters|
|2008||The Dark Knight|
|2010||The Social Network|
|2011||The Tree of Life|
|2012||Zero Dark Thirty|
|2013||12 Years a Slave|
|2015||Straight Outta Compton|