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Pan African Film Festival continues promotion of African heritage

Today through Feb. 18 at Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza

Gregg Reese OW Contributor | 2/8/2019, midnight
February is here, and once again Black History Month emerges in our collective..

A world of cinematic excellence

Continuing north to the United States, we come to “Ali’s Comeback: The untold Story,” a documentary which examines the maneuvering of Black and White attorneys, businessmen, and politicians to allow deposed Heavyweight Champion Muhammad Ali to return to prize fighting and regaining the title wrongfully taken from him. “Armed” stars Mario Van Peebles as an ex-U.S. Marshall suffering from the after effects of a case gone wrong. The reappearance of a fellow lawman exacerbates this hallucinogenic mix of conspiracy, gunplay, PTSD and the rise of reactionary politics. This thriller includes Rocsi Diaz, Columbus Short, and Dionne Warwick, and political commentators Van Jones and Roland Martin. American contributions to the festival include ““Paul Laurence Dunbar: Beyond the Mask,” a documentary on the noted author, playwright, and poet whose career straddled the 19th and 20th centuries. Made over the course of eight years, it is a labor of love in conjunction with PBS, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Ohio Humanities Council in Dunbar’s native state. The festival would not be complete without a nod to America’s only original art form (with apologies to hip-hop/rap aficionados). “Blue Note Records: Beyond the Notes” traces the history of the label, started in 1939 by two German-Jewish jazz enthusiasts, that promoted some of the greatest practitioners of the idiom. The musiciansprofiled include John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Lou Donaldson, Herbie Hancock, Nora Jones, Thelonious Monk, Wayne Shorter, and Rudy Van Gelder. Further west from the country/continent of Australia comes the intriguing documentary “Whale Like Me,” which examines the complex relationship between man and the largest mammals on earth. Writing and directed by conservationist Malcolm Wright (incidentally the grandson of esteemed Novelist Richard Wright), the film grew out of the younger Wright’s vocation as a visual effects technician (“I, Robot,” “The Hunger Games,” “King Kong”). Eight years in the making, it follows him on a quest across 12 countries in a transformative experience, shedding light on the mutual evolution of both species.

Beyond the moving image

PAFF continues its pursuit of culture outside the realm of the moving image. Spilling out from the Rave Cinemas and into the mall, a variety of activities are available for festival goers. A potpourri of ethnic artifacts, crafts, jewelry, and items of interest are available for perusal throughout the shopping center. Spoken word, an oral tradition dating back to its origins in the Motherland, will again be presented on Saturday, Feb. 19 on the second level “Bridge” from 7 to 10PM. Admission is $15 in advance and $20 at the door. Of special interest is the PAFF Institute, comprising a series of discussions, lectures, and screenings on career advancement, entertainment and filmmaking, digital technology, financial literacy, home ownership, and other subjects. This year’s the Pan African Film Festival runs from Thursday, Feb. 7 through Monday, Feb. 18. For more information on these and other selections from PAFF, go to http://www.paff.org/.