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"Blackbird" closes PAFF, heads to Outfest

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Oscars is around the corner. No, literally I just saw the setup in Hollywood. It's crazy. However, just like the NFL draft, it's never too early to talk about films getting the buzz for next year, especially when they feature the return of an Oscar winner and a movie picture that will have people talking.

The Pan African Film Festival is recently in the books, but not before Patrik-Ian Polk's "Blackbird" showcased memorable performances by Mo'Nique, Julian Walker, and Isiah Washington left not one, but two packed houses (playing in two theaters simultaneously) on their feet cheering. It's no wonder the film was selected the Bulleit Frontier Film of the festival.

The coming of age drama features Julian walker as Randy Rousseau, a choir boy with an angelic voice dealing with conflicting forces in his life, not least of which being confusion over his sexuality. With a sister missing and practically raising his mother who is devastated by her daughter's abduction, Randy struggles to come to grips with his sexuality while balancing his family pressures and religious beliefs.

"This is the first gay black coming of age book," said Polk "and I knew some day I'd make it into a movie." Spirit Award and Oscar winning actress Mo'Nique was also on hand to discuss her return to the big screen since her 2009 role in "Precious" that gained her worldwide notoriety as an actress. Along with her husband Sidney, they co-produced the film. She noted why the film's subject matter had a special connection to her. As a teenager, she befriended a group of gay young men at her school and the mutual acceptance created a lifelong bond of respect and admiration. "I embraced that community, because they embraced me."

Following the premiere, the cast, crew, press and lucky individuals got to party inside of the Crenshaw Baldwin Mall where they were treated to a live DJ, great food and libations courtesy of Bulleit Bourbon and Bulleit Whiskey served up masterfully by Bulleit's elite mixologist Natalia Castellanos. While the crowd partied to music from their youth and today (I am not about to date myself here), they also got to rub shoulders with the stars and filmmakers which was an added treat to all in attendance.

Blackbird's next stop is the 2014 Outfest Fustion LGBT people of Color Film Festival. Yes, it's a mouthful. Sponsored by HBO, the festival is in it's 11th year and will be held at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood from March 14-16. It's also LGBT community's only multicultural film festival. In 2012, Polk was a the Fusion Achievement honoree.

The Bulleit Frontier Film honor goes to the film showing exemplary achievements in groundbreaking and risk taking cinematography and storytelling.

To find out the latest on "Blackbird", check them out on twitter at @BLKBirdTheFilm

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