“Judas and the Black Messiah” has been named best film by the African American Film Critics Association (AAFCA), leading the list of winners at the 12th AAFCA awards with four awards, including accolades for stars Daniel Kaluuya and Dominique Fishback. Director Shaka King will also be honored with the breakout director prize.
“Serving alongside an all-Black producing team, “Judas and the Black Messiah” director Shaka King created a project that permanently enshrines pivotal Black Panther leader Fred Hampton as an American hero,” AAFCA President/Co-Founder Gil Robertson said in a statement announcing the winners. “Released against the backdrop of the present-day Black Lives Matter movement, the film’s message of commitment and sacrifice to social justice is empowering.”
Describing Kaluuya’s portrayal of the late Black Panther Party Chairman Fred Hampton as “literally on fire” and Fishback as “an actress to watch,” Robertson added, “our members are thrilled to award the film with our highest honor.”
Kaluuya, who has recently taken home the best supporting actor prize at the Golden Globes and Critics Choice Awards, previously won AAFCA’s best actor prize in 2017 for his work in Jordan Peele’s “Get Out.” Last year, “Queen & Slim,” in which Kaluuya also starred, earned the Impact award and a spot on AAFCA’s top 10 list.
Amazon’s “One Night in Miami” earned three prizes, with Regina King named best director, Kemp Powers winning best screenplay and the film’s stars (including Kingsley Ben-Adir, Eli Goree, Aldis Hodge and Leslie Odom Jr.) honored as best ensemble.
Rounding out the acting awards are Andra Day and the late Chadwick Boseman, who won best actress and actor, respectively.
“Andra Day was phenomenal as Billie Holiday,” Robertson said. “Director Lee Daniels has a terrific knack for bringing out the very best from his actors and Day is no exception as she delivered a performance that serves as an impressive launch to an acting career we feel has great promise. The members of AAFCA are excited to see even more of her range in the future.”
He continued: “In ‘Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,’ Chadwick Boseman again showcased a great understanding and execution of the acting craft. In what is the final performance of his career, he confirmed why he will forever be considered one of the best actors of his generation. AAFCA is tremendously pleased to honor him for this extraordinary performance.”
Robertson told Variety last month that AAFCA planned to honor Boseman during the ceremony, among other great talents lost this year, including the late Cicely Tyson.
“Everything that [Tyson] embodied and that she represented for women in general, but for Black women in particular, she will certainly be missed,” he said. “We recognized Chadwick for playing James Brown in ‘Get on Up’ many years ago, and he attended the show,” Robertson recalls. “It was always good energy whenever I encountered Chadwick — just a smile, a hug and good vibes.”
The complete list of AAFCA award winners are:
Best Picture: “Judas and the Black Messiah” (Warner Bros.)
Best Director: Regina King, “One Night In Miami” (Amazon Studios)
Best Actor: Chadwick Boseman, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” (Netflix)
Best Actress: Andra Day, “The United States vs. Billie Holiday” (Hulu)
Best Supporting Actor: Daniel Kaluuya, “Judas and the Black Messiah” (Warner Bros.)
Best Supporting Actress: Dominique Fishback, “Judas and the Black Messiah” (Warner Bros.)
Best Screenplay: Kemp Powers, “One Night in Miami” (Amazon Studios)
Best Ensemble: “One Night In Miami” (Amazon Studios)
Best Foreign Film: “Night of the Kings” (Neon)
Best Documentary: “All In: The Fight For Democracy” (Amazon Studios)
Best Animation: “Soul” (Pixar/Disney)
Best Short Film: “Two Distant Strangers”
Breakout Performance: Radha Blank “The 40-Year-Old Version” (Netflix)
Breakout Director: Shaka King “Judas and the Black Messiah” (Warner Bros.)
AAFCA — the world’s largest group of Black film critics, with members across the U.S., Europe, Africa and in the Caribbean — also revealed its top 10 films of the year. Following “Judas and the Black Messiah” are (in chronological order): “One Night In Miami,” “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” “Nomadland,” “Night of the Kings,” “American Skin,” “Da 5 Bloods,” “Minari,” “Miss Juneteenth” and “The United States Vs. Billie Holiday.”
“The common theme with all of our Top 10 Films this year is the grace of humanity,” Robertson explained. “All of these films spotlighted different circumstances that put the human spirit to a test.”
He added: “During a year when COVID-19 forced everyone on this planet to unite against a common threat to our health and well-being, these films spoke to the resilience and courage we all possess to overcome challenging odds. The AAFCA members were deeply heartened and inspired by these amazing stories as we also look forward to a return to “going to the movies” with our family and friends.”
During the event, AAFCA will also salute the previously announced special achievement honorees Mariah Carey (who will receive the Innovator Award), “Ma Rainey” director George C. Wolfe (the Salute to Excellence Award), Netflix (the Cinema Vanguard Award), and “All In: The Fight for Democracy” producer Stacey Abrams and filmmakers Lisa Cortés and Liz Garbus (the Stanley Kramer Award for Social Justice).
The 12th AAFCA Awards, sponsored by Nissan and Morgan Stanley, will take place virtually on Wed. April 7.