The 16th Annual Pan African Film Festival is now at an end for 2008 and gearing up to prepare for 2009’s festival. In a word the PAFF was excellent. It covered the gamut from film to live performances, art and music.
There is hope for the future of Black/African American cinema. Men and women of all ages are adding their voices and vision to an art form that breaks down cultural barriers, educates and entertains. The variety of films attests to the ingenuity, creativity and passion of these filmmakers.
Not only were filmmakers able to showcase their films, but they were given the opportunity to learn from the experts. From securing financing to that all important script filmmakers learned the ins and outs of making their creativity work for them through panel discussions and one on one with individuals willing to share information, their experiences and eventual success. The Rise of the Black Studio was one such panel.
Jeff Clanagan, of Codeblack Entertainment, Will Packer of Rainforest Films, and Roger Bobb of Tyler Perry Studios were on hand to discuss the growth and importance of black owned and black run studios.
You may not be familiar with the name Codeblack Entertainment, but if you purchase DVD’s with black content, just look on the back of the box and there you will see the name Codeblack Entertainment. After a very successful career in the music industry and as a concert promoter, Clanagan moved on to producing music videos and eventually turned those videos into feature length movies that went straight to DVD. His success landed him in the studio system, and after his success as an executive producer, he decided to use his accumulated knowledge and create his own company.
Codeblack Entertainment is a leader in urban entertainment targeting the sophisticated urban generation, CBE has determined it will produce and acquire the most compelling content for its niche and will distribute content through various media channels, both on-line and off-line. The channels will include but not limited to: theatrical, exhibition, television exploitation, home video (DVD).
Will Packer is basking in the glory of the success of “This Christmas” a film he produced through his company Rainforest Films, this off the heels of the successful movie “Stomp the Yard.” Packer has proven box office success with its black-themed, family oriented movies and sees no end in sight for black films and box office success. However, Packer says “while I’m still committed to telling great African-American stories, I’ve become interested in branching out and making films for a larger audience,” Packer says, “I just want to keep going, no matter what.”
Roger Bobb is Supervising Producer of “Tyler Perry’s House of Payne,” which is an extremely successful network syndicated show. Bobb also produced such films as “Diary of a Mad Black Woman” and co-produced most of Perry’s outstanding films. Obviously no stranger to filmmaking Bobb sees a bright future for black cinema because, thanks in part to Tyler Perry, the black audience, has been identified and once and for all proves that Blacks are willing to pay to see quality entertainment.
One of the highlights of this year’s festival was the recognition and honoring of one of cinemas true black pioneers, Herb Jeffries, the first black singing cowboy from the Black Cast film genre. Jefferies, a mentally robust senior citizen spoke of his career, and hope for the future in the opening night ceremony. Still as handsome as ever, Jeffries even serenaded the audience.
Each year the PAFF awards filmmakers that best exemplify its mission and purpose. The PAFF Vision Award went to “Namibia: The Struggle for Liberation” written and directed by Charles Burnett. This riveting film chronicled the tragic history and eventual liberation of this South African country. Best Feature Competition went to “Poor Boy’s Game” directed by Clement Virgo, a powerful story of hate, redemption and salvation in a boxing ring. The Oscar Micheaux Award Competition, and Audience Favorite: Feature went to “Something is Killing Tate” directed by Leon Lozano, it tells the story of young man bent on self-destruction, who is finally forced to face his demons, thereby saving his own life.