PAFF brings the Diaspora to the screen

William Covington | 2/6/2013, 5 p.m.

Such is the force of the real-life fare being provided at PAFF.

PAFF is set to celebrate its 21st anniversary in grand style, with a string of highly anticipated films. The festival will kick off tonight with a star-studded opening-night gala at 6 p.m. at the headquarters of the Directors Guild of America, located at 7920 W. Sunset Blvd., with the Los Angeles premiere of the voodoo psycho thriller, "Vipaka," directed by Philippe Caland ("Boxing Helena") and starring Oscar winner Forest Whitaker and Anthony Mackie. The cast includes Sanaa Latham, Nicole Ari Parker and Mike Epps.

Set in New Orleans, an earnest life-coach/author, Thomas Carter (Mackie), is mysteriously abducted by a deranged client, Angel Sanchez, (Whitaker), who delves into Carter's teachings and uses his spiritual messages of karma and vipaka--that is, action and reaction--to terrorize him and his family for their past sins. Lathan plays Mackie's wife. "Vipaka" is a Buddhist term, which means the result of karma.

With the exception of the opening night, all PAFF screenings and panels will take place at the new Rave Cinemas at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza. (The theater is situated on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard between Marlton Avenue and Crenshaw Boulevard)
Herman James, an 81-year-old Jamaica-born actor and screenwriter, a friend to 82-year-old Trinidad-born actor-dancer-director-designer Geoffrey Holder, and whose uncle is Jamaica-born actor West Gale has been so impressed by PAFF that he has not missed a single festival in 21 years. He saw the "The War Witch" early.

"When I viewed 'The War Witch' I was captivated by the superb acting, and the screenwriting was so good it made me feel great about an industry that in the United States has shunned Blacks as actors and actresses, but internationally outside of Hollywood our work is appreciated and taken seriously," said James. "The movie told a story of how the valuable resources of Africa can cause hurt and pain as opposed to Africans uniting and benefiting from those resources."

James makes his pilgrimage from Pasadena once a year and says as long as the Lord allows him to wake up he will keep attending.

"Although I am no longer active in the industry, it brings happiness to my heart seeing the youth absorb the energy," says James. "After each showing, I sit back and take in the excitement of tomorrow's Spike Lees, John Singletons, Antoine Fuquas and Kasi Lemmons."

Karen Ross, author of "Black and White Media," is not so sanguine about the medium. She believes that "blackness" in film may have been permanently damaged by the stereotyping in the early 20th century. Even today, in entertainment ranging from inner-city dramas to sitcoms featuring a "token" Black actor, Ross does not find African American characters telling stories or exploring emotional states, but rather defining their servile place in American culture for the reassurance of White audiences.

PAFF Film Institute: Slavery in celluloid
Hollywood by Choice
By Gail Choice
OW Contributor

Sunday, Feb. 10 (3:15-5:15 p.m.) Rave Theatres

PANEL DISCUSSION: "Django Unchained: A Discussion on Slavery and the 150th Year Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation." What has been learned since the signing of this ground-breaking document that paved the way for African Americans to fight for freedom? A powerful discussion on slavery, media, entertainment and power. Featured panelists include: