February 20, 2024, 7:00 P.M.

Norris Cinema Theatre at the Frank Sinatra Hall, 3507 Trousdale Parkway, Los Angeles, CA 90007

Outside the Box [Office], USC African American Cinema Society (AACS),
and BET+, invite you and a guest to attend

A Special Theatrical Screening of the award-winning
MPI Original and BET Original film


Directed by SCA Alumna Kelley Kali
Written by Christine Swanson
Produced by Lana Link, Stacey Parks, and Rob Pfaltzgraff

Followed by a Q&A with Kelley Kali and Kemba Smith Pradia

7:00 P.M. on Tuesday, February 20th, 2024

Norris Cinema Theatre at the Frank Sinatra Hall
3507 Trousdale Parkway, Los Angeles, CA 90007



The feature-length film inspired by the work of criminal justice reform advocate Kemba Smith premieres on Thursday, February 22, only on BET+.

About Kemba

Based on the true story of Kemba Smith, Kemba follows the journey of a sheltered college student who falls in love with a man only to find out he isn't who he seems. When Kemba learns of her boyfriend Khalif's true identity as a drug kingpin, he turns abusive grooming strait-laced Kemba to overlook his illicit dealings. Though she never dealt or handled drugs, in a turn of events, she receives an outrageous sentence for her boyfriend's crimes placing her in the middle of the 'war on drugs." Never losing hope, her parents along with an attorney from the NAACP Legal Defense Fund launched a campaign for appeal and later clemency, harnessing the power of Black Civic organizations, sororities, celebrities, and lawmakers to help FREE KEMBA.

About the Guests

KELLEY KALI (Director, SCA Alumna)

Kelley Kali is a Los Angeles native, Howard University and University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts alumna, and has directed, written, and produced award-winning films in Belize, Haiti, China, and the US. Right out of Howard, Kelley received the opportunity to work at National Geographic Television and Film, where she gained TV experience that led her to become the only woman selected to direct the first creole dramatic TV series in the country of Belize, Noh Matta Wat. She later won the Paul Robeson Award for her work. She then had the opportunity to work with Ron Howard and Brian Grazer’s New Form to develop her web series The Discovery of Dit Dodson that went on to compete in top-tier festivals across the nation.

In 2018, Kelley wrote, directed, and produced Lalo’s House, which went on to win the 45th Annual Student Academy Award and was in consideration for the 91st Annual Academy Awards. Kelley also won the Directors Guild of America Student Filmmaker Award, the KCET Fine Cut Award, Shadow & Act’s Rising Award, the Programmers’ Award at the Oscar-qualifying Pan African Film Festival, the Jury Award at the Diversity in Cannes Showcase sponsored by Viola Davis and Julius Tennon’s JuVee Productions, and several others in the past few years. Her work has been featured at the American Black Film Festival with Kelley recognized as one of the top Emerging Directors and at the prestigious Telluride Film Festival. And in 2021, she was selected as a recipient of the Academy Gold Fellowship for Women. She directed, wrote, produced, and starred in the original feature film I’m Fine (Thanks for Asking), which was an early pick for narrative competition at the 2021 SXSW Film Festival. It went on to win Special Jury Recognition for Multi-hyphenate Storyteller (an award they created for her). The film sold to and is currently streaming on BET+ and BET Her as well as Showtime. It also sold to HBO Europe and currently stands at 95% on Rotten Tomatoes. Her most recent feature film Jagged Mind premiered on Hulu in June.

Kelley’s mission is to be a creator who addresses issues within marginalized communities by using the art of filmmaking to create dialogue and action towards positive change.


Kemba Smith Pradia went from college student to drug dealer’s girlfriend to domestic violence victim and in 1994 she was sentenced to 24 1/2 years in federal prison. Kemba’s case drew support from across the nation.

Often labeled the “poster child” for reversing a disturbing trend in the rise of lengthy sentences for first-time, non-violent drug offenders, Kemba’s story was featured on a variety of television shows and in several publications. The support prompted then President Clinton to commute her sentence in December 2000, after having served 6 1/2 years in prison.

Today, Kemba is a wife, mother, public speaker, advocate, consultant, and author of Poster Child. She has worked with senior officials at The White House, the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Members of Congress, and has led trainings for Federal and State Probation organizations across the country. Corporations such as Verizon, Traveler’s Foundation, Proctor and Gamble, Bank of America and Gulfstream have sponsored her speaking at events across the country. She has received numerous awards and recognitions for her courage and determination as a motivational speaker and advocate.

In 2019, Kemba was appointed to the Virginia Parole Board by Governor Ralph Northam and served for over two years. In January 2022, she involuntarily separated from the State due to the transition of a new gubernatorial administration. Prior to her appointment, she served on the Virginia Criminal Sentencing Commission and held the position of State Advocacy Campaigns Director with the ACLU of Virginia.

Currently, Kemba is an entrepreneur and consultant. She continues to serve on the Board of Directors for Virginia CARES and Drug Policy Alliance. She is also a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., the NAACP, the National Association of Black in Criminal Justice, and Co- convener of the Justice Roundtable.

Along with being an advocate for criminal justice reform, Kemba is the founder of her 501 (c) 3, The Kemba Smith Foundation. Ultimately, Kemba knows that there is a lesson in each experience in life, and she has embraced her experience, learned from it, and is now using that experience to teach others.

About the USC African American Cinema Society (AACS)

Founded by the late John Singleton, while still a working student, and David L. Watts , the African American Cinema Society is an evolving incubator of artists and creatives of all sorts interested in the entertainment business and industry. We host events/screenings on and off-campus with special guests and Q&As. Our organization receives invitations to world premieres from studios, such as Disney, Marvel, and Sony because of the life and legacy of our predecessors. AACS continues to be most proud of establishing networking and collaboration opportunities as well as industry internships to our SCA community from acceptance through graduation.

Vision: The purpose of this organization is to provide networking opportunities for people of color, encourage a support system across all disciplines of interest as it relates to entertainment, but especially inside the cinema school.

Mission: The mission of the African American Cinema Society is to highlight and promote art and artists who are invested in showcasing complex and sophisticated representations of blackness and the black diaspora. 

We collaborate with Black University of Southern California students to create an environment in which we can thrive. Whether it’s networking events, screenings, Q&A’s with industry professionals, or advocating for students, we are pride ourselves on embodying the change we wish to see.

The current presidents are Catelin Shane (Graduate Production MFA) and Isaiah Simon (undergraduate Writing BA).

@uscaacs on all social media

About Outside the Box [Office]

Outside the Box [Office] is a weekly showcase for upcoming releases highlighting world cinema, documentary and independent film titles. The series draws from around the globe to present movies that may challenge, inspire or simply entertain.

To view the calendar of screenings, click here

To SUBSCRIBE to our MAILING LIST for upcoming free screenings and events, e-mail the word "Subscribe" to:


Check-In & Reservations

This screening is free of charge and open to the public. A reservation confirmation will automatically be sent to your e-mail account upon successfully making an RSVP through this website. Doors will open at 6:30 P.M.

All SCA screenings are OVERBOOKED to ensure seating capacity in the theater, therefore seating is not guaranteed based on RSVPs. The RSVP list will be checked in on a first-come, first-served basis until the theater is full. Once the theater has reached capacity, we will no longer be able to admit guests, regardless of RSVP status.

Accessibility Needs

The School of Cinematic Arts is able to accommodate most accessibility requests, including closed captioning. To ensure that requests can be handled properly, please contact Alex Ago, SCA Director of Programming, with your accessibility needs:


On-campus parking at the University of Southern California is limited. We recommend buying a day pass for the Royal Street Structure, located at the intersection of Royal Street and W. Jefferson Blvd. Parking passes are $20/car. For more information about parking at USC, please visit USC Transportation Website:

Contact Information

Name: Alessandro Ago