BUFF bears no relation to the BUFF International Film Festival established in 1984 in Malmö, Sweden. The London-based organisation was initially created in partnership with organisations like The Screen.Biz (UK) and The Hip-Hop Association (USA) to mobilise and develop young, up and coming homegrown British urban talent in the independent film and TV sector. With offices in Greater London, the company has also devised projects including The Search for BUFF, a reality-TV-talent contest designed to find people who ‘look buff‘ who are then ‘appointed’ as ambassadors to promote the annual British Urban Film Festival. Filmed on location across the UK, the pilot was screened at the headquarters of ITV in London’s South Bank and made its Christmas Day broadcast debut on BEN Televisionin December 2005. The first series aired January–April 2006. The second series also aired on BEN Television from May to August 2007 in addition to the annual staging of the British Urban Film Festival – a unique event as it is the only one of its kind in the UK which is free to attend by the general public. Although the annual festival is free to attend, it does charge entry fees to film-makers who wish to submit their films in what is, according to Film London, ‘an important and emerging genre which is not otherwise seen regularly in the capital’s cinemas’. The Genesis Cinema in Whitechapel and The Oxford House in Bethnal Green are venues in London’s East End forming part of the 2008 festival. The Stratford Picturehouse Cinema in Newham forms part of the 2009 festival which is being supported by 3 London boroughs: Newham, Tower Hamlets and Redbridge. The 2009 festival is also notable for its screening of Disoriented Generation, a privately financed UK independent film co-produced by and starring actor Wil Johnson (who also appears in the short film Colour Blind also premiering at the festival).
The 2010 festival marked BUFF’s 5th anniversary with the screening of Sus, based on the original stageplay written by Barrie Keeffe and starring Clint Dyer (who also co-produced the movie), Rafe Spall (who went onto star in the BBC 2 drama series The Shadow Line), Ralph Brown (‘Withnail and I‘, Huge) and Anjela Lauren Smith (‘Babymother‘, 24 Hours in London). Other high-profile screenings included rare video footage of N-Dubz in ‘The Way We Were’ and ‘Bad Day’, starring Claire Goose, Robbie Gee and Sarah Harding.
April 2012 marked the festival’s return to television for the first time in five years with the launch of “BUFF Presents…” a strand of films previously screened at the British Urban Film Festival including ‘Drink, Drugs, & KFC‘ directed by actor Aml Ameen and ‘Before they were Dubz‘, a feature-length documentary which followed the UK Hip-Hop group N-Dubz when they first started out as teenagers over a decade ago. Directed by film journalist Jessie Grace Mellor, the documentary will have its broadcast premiere on Community Channel alongside other films including ‘The Holiday’, directed by Ida Akesson, and ‘Special Delivery’ directed by Geoff Searle. “BUFF Presents…” is slated to return for a second season in October 2012.
October 12, 2012 will mark the return of the British Urban Film Festival at London’s Trade Union Congress headquarters to be presented by actor Wil Johnson. The 2-day event (which is free to attend) will also host a 12-hour marathon of short films, documentaries, feature-length dramas plus Q&A sessions on October 13 at Oxford House in Bethnal Green.
January 2013 will mark another milestone when BUFF becomes the first film festival in the UK to screen a sample of its festival selections via the BBC iplayerplatform in conjunction with Community Channel.
March 2013 will mark the launch of the inaugural BUFF Spring Season. The concept brings together an array of film programming “online, on-air and in person” in conjunction with ITV, Grime Daily, Genesis Cinema and The British Blacklist.com.
On 2 May 2013 it was announced that the publisher-broadcaster Channel 4 would be hosting the opening three events of the 8th annual British Urban Film Festival at the company’s headquarters in Horseferry Road, Central London. In addition, the festival (5–9 September) was to be headlined by the UK premiere screenings of “Calloused Hands” starring Andre Royo from the HBO series “The Wire“, “Traveller” starring David Essex OBE, Jason Maza & Lois Winstone & the award-winning “Bloody Lip” written & directed by Adriel Leff. Coverage was hosted from Odeon West End in Leicester Square by actress Zawe Ashton (“Dreams of a Life“/”Fresh Meat (TV series)“). Actor Riz Ahmed (“The Reluctant Fundamentalist“/”Four Lions“/”Ill Manors“/”Shifty (film)“) was among the official festival ambassadors. On 25 December 2013 it was announced that Channel 4 will be hosting the opening 3 events of the 9th annual British Urban Film Festival in September 2014, ensuring that they “continue to seek out the very best creative voices. Voices that represent the diversity and cultural richness of contemporary British life.
2013 featured the inaugural BUFF screenplay competition. The three recipients were Jeff Nottingham for ‘Lost in Mozart’, Yvonne Ossei for ‘Face Up’, and Donna Marie Dowelled for ‘The Office’. There were live performances of all three winning screenplays at the Channel 4 headquarters at the end of the first day of the festival. The event was introduced by actress Shereen Miranda.” 
On 7 July 2014 it was announced that “The Trials of Muhammad Ali” was to premiere in the UK as part of the 2014 British Urban Film Festival. Two gala screenings were scheduled to take place at the Prince Charles Cinema in Leicester Square (4 September) and the Genesis Cinema in Whitechapel (7 September). It was also announced that the Sky Sports boxing pundit Spencer Fearon was to present the opening night gala in London’s West End. On 13 August 2014, it was announced that BUFF would screen two film festival selections for the first time on network television with the terrestrial premieres of “Driftwood” & “Sunny Boy” on Channel 4as part of the Shooting Gallery short film strand. Overnight figures (released on 26 August 2014) revealed that 120,000 viewers tuned in to the 25 August broadcast.
On 14 November 2014, it was announced that Channel 4 would be hosting the opening three events of the 10th British Urban Film Festival in 2015. On 21 November 2014, the inaugural BUFF Africa Season was officially launched at the headquarters of The Africa Channel International in Central London where it was announced at that BUFF will screen the world premiere of “Mum, Dad meet Sam” at the Genesis Cinema in Whitechapel on Saturday 6 December. The film stars Joseph Benjamin (actor), Afolabi Dasaolu (a.k.a. ‘ADOT’), Daniella Down, Helen Gold, Edith Nwekenta & Anthony Ofoegbu. BUFF Africa Season climaxes with the world premiere of ‘Maasai: 10th lost tribe of Israel’ (directed by Dante Montaganani) at Oxford House in Bethnal Green.
On 26 January 2015, it was announced that the BAFTA award-winning producer Damian Jones was appointed to the board of the British Urban Film Festival. On 2 March 2015, it was announced that the award-winning writers of Run Daniel Fajemisin-Duncan and Marlon Smith were appointed as script judges for the British Urban Film Festival. On 1 April 2015, it was announced that the first ever British Urban Film Festival awards (supported by Channel 4) will take place in London on Thursday 17 September. On 5 June 2015, it was announced that the award-winning film and TV producer Charlie Hanson was the latest industry figure appointed as a patron to the board of the British Urban Film Festival. On 21 August 2015, London Live will begin screening films previously shown by the British Urban Film Festival in a 2-year broadcast deal.
As part of the festival’s 10th anniversary in September 2015, Abrantee Boateng Capital Xtra & Larushka Ivan-Zadeh Metro will be hosting BUFF’s first ever awards ceremony at the Cinema Museum (London). The 2015 British Urban Film Festival will also screen 4 UK premieres at the Genesis Cinema in Whitechapel including “That Daughter’s Crazy” starring Rain Pryor, “Lapse of Honour” starring Lady Leshurr, Louis Emerick and Gary McDonald, Brash Young Turks starring Julian Gloverand “Invisible Men” starring Abrantee Boateng. On 8 October 2015, the festival announced the addition of 2 script judges and 8 new BUFF patrons including the BAFTA award-winning actor Adam Deacon, Femi Oyeniran and director Mo Ali.
On 27 January 2016, highlights of the British Urban Film Festival awards were broadcast on Sky (United Kingdom) and Freeview via Showcase TV. On 18 April 2016, the festival announced the appointment of Adeyinka Akinrinade as its new festival director succeeding Emmanuel Anyiam-Osigwe who was festival director from 2005 – 2015. On 25 April 2016, it was announced that the 2016 British Urban Film Festival will be hosted at Odeon Cinemas in Camden Town and Swiss Cottage from 14–20 September. On 9 May 2016, it was announced that actor Wil Johnson is to receive the highest honour at the 2016 British Urban Film Festival Awards on Sunday 18 September.
On 10 May 2016, it was announced that London Live will continue to screen films c/o the British Urban Film Festival free-to-air until 2018. On 16 May 2016, it was announced that Adam Deacon & Femi Oyeniran are to host the 2016 British Urban Film Festival Awards from Hilton Hotel Tower Bridge. It was also announced that Heather Small former lead singer of M People is to be the headline act. On 30 May 2016, the British Urban Film Festival came top of a global list of diverse film festivals worthy of attending in 2016. The festival came ahead of 4 American film festivals and was published on the website of Metro (British newspaper).
On 7 June 2016, it was announced that Colourful Radio signed an exclusive deal to provide live outside broadcasts of the BUFF 2016 press conference and Script Reading competition from Channel 4 headquarters. On 4 July 2016, it was announced that ‘To Dream’ is to open the 2016 British Urban Film Festival at the Odeon Cinemas in Camden Town. The film stars Ed Hayter, Freddie Thorp, Diana Vickers and Adam Deacon. On 14 July 2016, it was announced that BBC Films is to sponsor the BUFF Awards 2016 (in the “best emerging talent” category), the showpiece event in its annual British Urban Film Festival.
On 21 July 2016, it was announced that ‘Residential’, a London-based Yardie drama is to close the 2016 British Urban Film Festival at the Odeon Cinemas in Swiss Cottage. Former Radio 1 disc jockey Chris Goldfinger is amongst the movie’s producers. On 8 September 2016, it was announced that Trace Urban is to sponsor the BUFF Awards 2016 in the “best movie” category. It was also announced that Ghanaian hip hop star Fuse ODG is to attend the ceremony along with Trace CEO Olivier Laouchez to present the “best movie” award. On 7 November 2016, the festival announced the appointment of 4 new BUFF patrons and one new BUFF script judge. The line-up includes actors Arnold Oceng & Wil Johnson, award-winning director Jesse Quinones, award-winning producer Cass Pennant and producer/screenwriter Michelle Blake.
On 26 May 2017, the festival announced that telecommunications giant BT was to sponsor the 2017 British Urban Film Festival and Awards. The sponsorship also gives BT rights to share the broadcast of the BUFF Awards on BT.com, exclusive rights to host both events at BT Tower and the opportunity to screen films acquired from BUFF on the BT TV store platform.
It was also announced that the movie Free in Deed starring David Harewood is to open the BT British Urban Film Festival (6-12 September) at BT Tower on Wednesday 6 September. On 25 September 2017, it was announced that the British Urban Film Festival is to curate six short films (previously shown at BUFF) to be screened at the BAFTA-qualifying ASFF Aesthetica Short Film Festival in November. ASFF is showcased annually in York and marks the 3rd time in 4 years that BUFF has been invited to take part in the event as a festival partner. On 30 October 2017, it was announced that the British Urban Film Festival is to attend DBUFF (Da Bounce Urban Film Festival) for the first time in November. DBUFF is showcased annually in Amsterdam and is the Netherlands‘ premier urban film festival.
On 4 January 2018, it was announced that the 2018 British Urban Film Festival was to take place in the summer for the first time in its history with the BUFF Awards opening the six-day event on Monday 4 June. The festival was to run 5–9 June. On 8 January 2018, Robert Nisbet (journalist) (from Sky News) interviewed Emmanuel Anyiam-Osigwe (founder of the British Urban Film Festival) to discuss the Golden Globes, Oprah Winfrey‘s ‘Time’s up’ speech, Mudbound and issues about diversity. On 6 February 2018, the BAFTA-recognised Aesthetica Short Film Festival announced that Emmanuel Anyiam-Osigwe (founder of the British Urban Film Festival) had been appointed to its jury panel.
On 8 February 2018, Emmanuel Anyiam-Osigwe introduced exclusive live coverage of the European premiere of Black Panther on Colourful Radio. Airing as part of the Colourful Drivetime show with Julie-Ann Ryan, the broadcast featured interviews on the black carpet with Isaac Tomiczek and Jo Eluka (from “Meet The Critics”), Joel Campbell (From “The Voice” newspaper) executive producer of Black Panther Nate Moore, Femi Oguns (agent to Letitia Wright) and leading cast members including Michael B Jordan, Letitia Wright, Andy Serkis and Lupita Nyong’o. On 28 February 2018, it was announced that the British Urban Film Festival is to release its first UK feature film on 5 June. Produced by Emmanuel Anyiam-Osigwe and directed by Clare Anyiam-Osigwe, “No Shade” is told through the prism of love, relationships, dating and marriage and provides a raw perspective on the issue of colourism and what happens when looking for love in the right place, goes wrong.
The film stars Adele Oni, Kadeem Pearse, Clare Anyiam-Osigwe, Algie Salmon-Fattahian, Sharea Samuels and Jade Asha. Also starring are Fred Lancaster, Lonyo Engele, Paula Masterton, Veronica Jean Trickett, Joel Grizzle, Chris Preddie OBE, Tenisha White, Zephryn Taitte, Justin Chinyere, Kele Le Roc and Judith Jacob. “No Shade” will open the 2018 British Urban Film Festival with a UK premiere screening at the Rio cinema in Dalston on 5 June. On 8 March 2018, the festival announced that director Amma Asante is to be honoured at the BUFF Awards in recognition for her film work as director of A United Kingdom (screened by the festival in October 2016) and also for her previous films Belle (produced by BUFF patron Damian Jones) and A Way of Life (produced by BUFF patron Charlie Hanson).
Asante will be the first female recipient of the award and the fourth individual to receive the honour following Ashley Walters last year, Wil Johnson in 2016 and Richard Pryor (posthumously) in 2015. Emmanuel Anyiam-Osigwe, CEO and founder of BUFF, said: “Having presented our very first honorary award to the daughter of Richard Pryor, I am delighted once again to present our most prestigious award to a woman whose name is synonymous with the film business and whose name is rightly celebrated all over the world. “In spite of what’s been said about Hollywood and the film business in general, it’s an exciting time to be black, British and female. BUFF has done more than most to celebrate black British female talent over the past 13 years.
From Isis Davis to Destiny Ekaragha, Candice Onyeama to Clare Anyiam-Osigwe BEM, the British Urban Film Festival has paved the way for these women and many others to showcase their creativity and to be recognised for their work. “We are delighted that Amma will accept this honour at the BUFF Awards on the 4th of June. We have a lot to thank Amma for”. The 2018 BUFF Awards take place in London on Monday 4 June at the Mile End Genesis Cinema. It was also announced that the movie Two Graves is to close the 2018 British Urban Film Festival at London’s Curzon Soho on 9 June. The film marks the directorial debut of writer Gary Young (who also wrote Harry Brown) and stars Cathy Tyson, Katie Jarvis, Dave Johns, Josh Herdman, David Hayman, Kedar Williams-Stirling, Danielle Harold, Neal Ward, Shantelle Rochester-Henry (who also serves as producer) and Vas Blackwood.
On 23 October, it was announced that No Shade secured a UK theatrical release in Odeon Cinemas on 2 November. In doing so, director Clare Anyiam-Osigwe became the sixth Black British female director in history to release a feature film in UK cinemas. On 30 November, the film was released theatrically by Artmattan Productions at the Cinema Village in New York. On 19 December, director Clare Anyiam-Osigwe was awarded her first major prize for No Shade, winning the women of colour filmmaker competition at the NY African Diaspora International Film Festival.
On 5 June 2019, it was announced that No Shade would be streaming on the Amazon Prime Video platform in both the U.S and the UK. It was also announced that the film is to be licensed non-exclusively to MX Player, one of the biggest OTT platforms in India. The license also covers the other SAARC territories of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
On 10 June 2019, the founder and Chairman of the British Urban Film Festival, Emmanuel Anyiam-Osigwe, was announced as 1 of 5 standout inductees in the inaugural Britflix Power 100 – an annual list of the 100 most powerful and influential independent film and TV figures. Ranked no.91, Anyiam-Osigwe came 9 places above Elliot Grove, the founder of the Raindance Film Festival
On 4 July 2019, the British Urban Film Festival announced that actor, writer, producer and director Noel Clarke is to receive the BUFF honorary award for his 20+ year career in film and television.
In a statement, Clarke said “I’m honoured to be receiving this award from the British Urban Film Festival. It’s not every day that you get honoured by your film peers and so to be joining an elite list of recipients including people that I count as friends including Wil Johnson and Ashley Walters is all the more satisfying. Thank you BUFF.”
BUFF Chairman Emmanuel Anyiam-Osigwe said: “In accepting this year’s highest honour, Noel joins an illustrious list of recipients including Richard Pryor, Wil Johnson, Ashley Walters and Amma Asante who have enriched the British Urban Film Festival with their talent, their spirit and their supreme work ethic. The UK owes Noel Clarke a huge debt of gratitude for single handedly kickstarting a revolution in the UK film industry. The British Urban Film Festival would not be the beacon that it is if it wasn’t for Noel Clarke. As an actor, his performances continue to leave an indelible mark on audiences and critics far and wide. As a Black British producer, he is one of a rare breed who has grossed multiple million pound plus movies at the box office. As a writer and director, his vision is the mark of a true genius. As a student of the business, Noel continues to be an inspiration to me and to millions of people.”
This year’s BUFF Awards ceremony is taking place at Met Film School in Ealing Studios. This year’s renewal of the week-long British Urban Film Festival precedes the ceremony, beginning Sunday the 1st of September.
On 5 July 2019, the British Urban Film Festival was announced as a new partner festival for the Iris Prize LGBT+ Film Festival. In a statement, Festival chair, broadcaster and journalist Andrew Pierce said: “The UK is hugely diverse and we are committed to making sure that our programme represents the true nature of our LGBT+ population. Therefore, I’m delighted that the British Urban Film Festival (BUFF) is joining the Iris Family – this partnership is a reminder that diversity starts at home. BUFF has established itself in London as a global platform and this year they will be celebrating their 14th festival with a programme of 52 films, which will also include a special Iris programme featuring the work of Iris Prize winner, Dee Rees.”
On 7 September 2019, the 5th annual BUFF awards were held at Met Film School, Ealing Studios and hosted by radio personality Linda Egwuekwe & the actor & filmmaker Femi Oyeniran. Awards were handed out in 7 categories including best short film (sponsored by Met Film School) and won by ‘Smack Edd’ (directed by Greg Hall); best actress (won by Terry Pheto for ‘Faces’); best actor (won by Aki Omoshaybi for ‘Faces’); best documentary (won by director Richard Etienne for ‘The ID Project: My Dominica Story); best live script (presented by HBO and won by Jo Southwell for ‘Loyalty’, Eno Enefiok for ‘Asylum’, Malcolm J Solomon for ‘Raped); best feature film (won by director Joseph A. Adesunloye for ‘Faces’). Noel Clarke was presented with the BUFF honorary award for 20 years outstanding contribution to film and television. He received the accolade from actors Ashley Walters and Wil Johnson.