You still have five days to enjoy and be a part of the 2009 17th Annual Pan African Film Festival (PAFF). Check out their Web site, select movies or panels and make it a point to be a part of African American film history.

From the very beginning, at its Opening Night Gala one senses the importance of the PAFF celebrating our achievements as filmmakers, telling the Black American/African story in our own voices. From honoring our past, and recognizing our future, to introducing us to the global consciousness of the Black experience, PAFF has set the stage like no other film festival to date.

Founded by Ayuko Babu, Ja’Net Dubois and Danny Glover the PAFF features film selections from 42 countries, and is the largest Black History Month event in the U.S.

It is an event Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa says he makes it a point to attend as well as other political dignitaries and Hollywood celebs.

This year the ever elegant Blair Underwood (“Dirty, Sexy Money”) hosted the Opening Night Gala that honored Marla Gibbs (“The Jefferson’s”) with its coveted Lifetime Achievement Award and Omar Benson Miller (“Miracle at St. Anna,” “The Express”) with the PAFF Canada Lee Award. California Assembly Speaker Karen Bass received the PAFF Community Service Award.
And the man who needs no introduction, who helped weave the very fabric of African American film history, Herb Jeffries, was also recognized by Babu for his outstanding support of the PAFF and young filmmakers.

The Opening Night Film, the highly acclaimed South African drama, “Jerusalema” which you can again see Sunday, Feb. 15 and Monday, Feb. 16 tells a story based on the true events, of a young man who had grand dreams as a young boy, but saw them dashed away because of poverty and his desire to make money by any means necessary. Using his street smarts, coupled with selective anti-social readings, he builds an empire out of the slums of Johannesburg. It’s a gangster story South African style with a very interesting ending.

On Wednesday, Feb. 11 the Centerpiece screening is another South African film entitled “Skin.” Imagine what it would be like to be born of two White parents, and you come out Black. Based on a true story and starring Sophie Okonedo (“The Secret Life of Bees”), “Skin” tells the story of a family trying to declare their daughter ‘White’ and the daughter determined to live her life, just as she is. It’s a very touching, well acted drama.

The Closing Night film is Charles Burnett’s “Relative Stranger” starring Eriq LaSalle, Michael Michele and Cicely Tyson. Burnett is an excellent filmmaker and this film promises to be one of his best. This Sunday, Feb. 15 screening is coupled with an after party immediately following the film.

The remaining panels include; Thursday, Feb. 12, Financial Seminar is designed to help you plan your financial future. And on Saturday, Feb. 14, Tough Real Estate Market: Mindset and Action is the Key will show you how to prosper in tough times. Also on Saturday, So, You’ve Finished Your Script, Now What? a great seminar that answers this question and much more. From showrunners to producers and directors, you’ll get first hand information that can lead you to success.

Keep in mind the 17th Annual Pan African Film Festival screenings have a new theater location; Culver Plaza Theatres, 9919 Washington Blvd., Culver City, CA 90232.

For all the panels, screening ticket prices and scheduled dates and times, visit the Web site www.paff.org or call (323) 295-1706. The Pan African Film Festival concludes Feb. 16. Don’t miss it, there’s something for everyone.

– Gail Choice can be contact at gailchoice@strictlyhollywood.com.